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Kathleen Wynne wants green bonds, gas tax to fund transit 20:37

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Monday that the Liberal government will dedicate $15 billion over the next ten years toward transit and transportation in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, a fund that will include money for rapid transit in Hamilton

According to the plan, proceeds from the dedicated fund being created for the GTHA would help build the next set of priority projects included in Metrolinx's regional transportation plan.

'This project is critical to the health of Hamilton's economy. But, the devil is in the details.'- Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie

That list of priority projects includes rapid transit in Hamilton, the 14km Hamilton LRT line (the B-Line) proposed to run from McMaster University to Eastgate Square running through downtown.

The premier did not mention Hamilton in her presention, but Hamilton is included in material provided as part of the announcement. However, her announcement did not give any details on the amount of money the province will invest, or exactly what project would be funded. The listing of Hamilton's project stated only "rapid transit, leaving open the door that something other than LRT would be funded.

Wynne stated that the plan will be fleshed out in the Spring budget. Hamilton councillors are looking for full capital funding for the $800 million project from Queen's Park.

‎Wynne, who spoke at the Toronto Region Board of Trade, said that she will dedicate 7.5 cents of the gas tax and the HST on fuel tax -- more than $1.3 billion -- to build transit, roads, highways and bridges in the GTHA.

New developments

The premier also promised that this plan could be rolled out without raising taxes on gas or personal income taxes on low- to middle-income earners.

Brian McHattie, city councillor and Hamilton mayor hopeful was pleased with the news.

"I congratulate Primer Wynne for staying on the program. She's always been a big supporter of the LRT, " said McHattie.

Following this announcement, the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Light Rail Transit's task force is set to hold an emergency meeting on April 23 to discuss the new developments.

City council is asking the province for 100 per cent funding of the B-Line project which they estimate will attract 130,000 people to the area by 2031.

"This project is critical to the health of Hamilton's economy," said McHattie. "But, the devil is in the details."

However city councillor and former provincial minister of transportation Brad Clark, who is also running for mayor, feels differently.

The councillor does not think that it possible for the city to receive the full amount for the B-Line. He projects that the province will finance the project but will ask the municipal government for one-third of the cost — too high a price for the city.

Manage expectations

"Everyone can still win, we just can't aspire too high. We have to manage our expectations," said Clark. "Premier Wynne has realized that her predecessor over-promised and she's doing what she can with a finite amount of money."

There are other measures the province can take when it comes to this allotted funding according to Clark. The councillor favours adding more frequent trains and busses to existing routes and upgrading existing infrastructure.

"This is a positive improvement at a fraction of the cost. We don't need rail lines. What we need is infrastructure," said Clark.