407 ETR and Economics‏

Explaining Economics to the masses can cause a sudden bout of narcolepsy (a sleeping disorder where by you frequently fall asleep) however, understanding the correlation to our quality of life is important. Economists have some major challenges in today’s society to ensure the data collected helps Regulators keep financial markets operating fairly. The challenges Economists face, affect our Regulator’s ability to write policy to regulate behavior that benefits it’s citizenry. Economics is a social science that invokes polarized opinions.  Numbers and facts don’t lie, but how the data is reported can be questionable.  The challenge is opinions influence how data is interpreted. Economics is subjective to public opinion. Public opinion can be manipulated by what our experts tell us. Our experts personal feelings, tastes and opinions enter into the equation of economics. Depending on the school of thought our experts come from will be how they influence public opinion based on their interpretation of the data collected.  In a nutshell, Economists struggle with the data they are given and that affects our everyday life.  This is the simplest explanation on economics I can give you. Got it? Now that we have that basic understanding of Economics out of the way, I hope you are still awake for what this has to do with 407 ETR and the recent phenomenon of pensions investing in toll roads.

As some of you may know, our CPP is the proud owner of 40% of the toll road, 407 ETR.  407 ETR’s business model is new and untested in our market but, if SNC Lavalin sells it’s 16.8% share in the toll road, our CPP will be first in line to scoop it up. It appears our CPP is not the only taxpayer funded pension lining up to purchase shares in this new toll road business model. OMERS (serves Ontario government employees) and OTTP (servos Ontario teachers) are lining up to buy toll roads in Australia. A part of me is suspicious that if Premier Wynne is successful in starting Ontario’s promised Pension Plan that you can almost make a wager that it will be heavily invested in these type of infrastructure projects.
The complaints against 407 ETR are numerous.  Just say the name 407 ETR and it invokes a negative reaction to almost anyone you speak to. However, there is a huge push by our experts to talk about this new toll road in a positive light.  Given that public opinion is being influenced by this “environmentally friendly philosophy”, it’s easy to understand why experts would tout this new tolling method as a good thing because they are trying to “save the environment”.
Is investing our pensions into these type of infrastructure projects a way of manipulating public opinion? Our experts desperately want these “environmentally friendly” projects to succeed. Toll road models like 407 ETR claim to be better for the environment but the problem is that there isn’t enough data to prove that. The data we have on driving habits is concrete. We know how many vehicles are registered.  We know how many vehicle kilometers are traveled every year.  We even know what type of vehicles drive those kilometers. The trend is that the numbers increase year after year. There is no decrease in the numbers, despite our experts hopes and desires to curb people from driving vehicles. This punitive approach to get people out of their cars has left a bad taste and could potentially backfire.  All the good that has been accomplished by environmental policies could be lost because people feel that greed is at the core of these new toll roads, NOT the betterment of the environment.
Who really benefits from toll roads like 407 ETR? Depending on who you talk to you, the answers vary.  The numbers don’t lie. The amount of money being made by 407 ETR can’t be denied. The numbers on driving habits don’t lie.  They have not decreased, they have increased. I will let the Economists fight over what that means, but I think a strong case can be made that 407 ETR’s new tolling method did nothing for society as a whole and we should be very concerned about our pensions being so heavily invested in these types of infrastructure projects.

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One Response to “407 ETR and Economics‏”

  1. D Murphy says:

    Has anyone addressed this issue to the Newspapers?
    I am sure Pre-pensioners and pensioners alike, would love to be informed, just where their hard earn money is actually going and what they, the Liberals are funding,with total ruthelessness and disregard to public knowledge, it would appear that the Liberal party has some hidden agendas and we all have to tollerate what ever they decide?
    Polically WRONG! The population should be informed, after all, this is supposed to be a Democracy with a Democratic choice in Canada!???
    Have a good day!

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