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Ontario vows to build more transit
with 2015 budget

Today, Thursday, April 23, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa released the province’s 2015 budget, which, the Government of Ontario says, “makes possible an unprecedented investment in infrastructure to support economic growth and new jobs.”

According to a government news release, “The budget acts on the government’s commitment to finding more innovative ways to grow the economy while maintaining the vital public services that families and communities rely on. This includes unlocking the value of provincial assets to support the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history.”

Just last week, Ontario moved ahead with its plan to “unlock the value of certain public assets”. This refers to the government’s proposal to sell some of its stake in Hydro One and to licence supermarkets and other grocers to sell beer, among other initiatives. The net gain from this provides Ontario with about $4 billion, which will go to the Trillium Trust where, the government explains in a news release, “every dollar is set to build new transit and other priority infrastructure projects through Moving Ontario Forward.”

Minister Sousa says the 2015 budget continues and expands on Ontario’s plan “to make an unprecedented investment of more than $130 billion in public infrastructure over 10 years”.

This includes:

  • increasing the funds it’s dedicated to the Moving Ontario Forward plan by $2.6 billion for a total of $31.5 billion over 10 years — about $16 billion in transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton. The increase results from a higher target from the Province’s asset optimization plan, accelerates priority projects and enables new projects to come on stream.; and
  • investing another $11.9 billion in 2015-16 on infrastructure such as roads, bridges, public transit, water systems, hospitals and schools.

So what projects can we expect to see in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton?


The chart lists the projects that are

  1. part of the Moving Ontario Forward Plan and that Ontario intends to fund entirely on its own;
  2. other projects with elements that the plan will fund but also require another funding partner to support other elements; and
  3. projects that would only proceed with another funding partner on board.

Projects in category 1 — entirely funded by Ontario — include:

Projects in category 2 — with some elements funded by Ontario — include:

  • Regional express rail service on the Stouffville line — an environmental assessment and design would start in 2015 - 2016, with construction likely to start in 2016 - 2017;
  • Regional express rail service on the Kitchener line — an environmental assessment, design and construction would start in 2015 - 2016; and
  • Central system upgrades, including vehicles, rails and facilities.

(Regional express rail services on the Stouffville and Kitchener lines require more funding partners to incorporate elements of the SmartTrack plan, which was a key plank in Mayor John Tory’s electoral campaign platform.)

Projects in category 3 — which would only proceed with partner funding in place — include:

The total Ontario contribution would be $16 billion over ten years. To complete all projects in the list, the province would require another $5.2 billion dollars from other funding partners, likely the federal or municipal governments.

Most of these projects are fairly well known, but what does “Hamilton rapid transit” mean? Is it the long-wished-for light rail transit line? The Hamilton Spectator’s Matthew van Dongen explains:

“Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca will announce in the coming weeks what’s in store for rapid transit funding in Hamilton - and the mayor is betting LRT will be a part of it.

“The new provincial budget shows ‘Hamilton rapid transit’ will be funded from a priority pot of $16 billion over 10 years, with a tentative funding timeline of 2018 through 2024…

“City council controversially asked for $811 million for light rail — along with $302 million for express buses and a garage, despite fears the province might only fund the latter.

“The budget doesn’t say how much cash the city will receive, or for what project.

“But Mayor Fred Eisenberger said Thursday night the city is in line for a ‘higher-order, visionary investment.’

“Eisenberger said he talked to Del Duca and local Liberal MPP Ted McMeekin on budget day, but added he doesn’t have advance knowledge of the announcement.

“‘But my sense of it is an element of LRT will be included in (the announcement),’ he said, adding he wouldn’t rule out the idea of receiving money for both projects. ‘Everything that I’m hoping for could very well land within the transit envelope.’

“McMeekin refused to preview the announcement, but promised ‘very good things are going to be happening for Hamilton.’”

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