Ontario needs a dedicated fund for roads and bridges, Premier Kathleen Wynne said Monday as she hinted at new tolls or taxes to pay for badly-needed repairs and upgrading.
While people in the Toronto-Hamilton area may face road tolls or some other kind of levy to help fund public transit and ease road congestion, municipalities in other parts of the province can't afford to repair roads and bridges, said Wynne.
"The discussion around new revenue tools has been specific to transit at this point, but we need to find a way to create dedicated revenue streams for roads and bridges, i.e. a fund that would allow us to continue to work with municipalities to make sure those infrastructure needs are met," she said.
"The fact is whether we find those dedicated funds within the revenue that exists right now or whether there's a new revenue stream as I'm talking about vis-a-vis transit, I'm very aware that infrastructure is a challenge for us."
Wynne has talked about the need for what she calls new revenue tools — road tolls or some kind of tax — for transit improvements in southern Ontario, but this was her first hint that taxpayers in other regions could also face new charges.
"There are tolls, there are taxes, there are fees, there are a whole lot of names, words for these mechanisms," she said. "Tools is the word that's being used, and I'm not using it as a euphemism. I'm using it as a catchphrase for all the different ways that we can raise new revenue."
'The reality is a lot of that infrastructure in municipalities is aging, so those roads and bridges have to be dealt with.' —Premier Kathleen Wynne
Wynne said there would have to be some new way to help municipalities pay to repair infrastructure that in many cases is up to a half-century old.
"The reality is a lot of that infrastructure in municipalities is aging, so those roads and bridges have to be dealt with," she said. "We need to be cognizant of the infrastructure revenue across the province. In the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area that translates largely into transit funding, but beyond the GTHA it's about that broader transportation network."
The New Democrats, who have opposed new taxes or road tolls to pay for public transit improvements, said the government should close corporate tax loopholes before imposing tolls or a new tax.
"Everyday families in Ontario cannot afford more Liberal taxes that hurt their family budgets," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Wynne warned "another generation of transit building" would be lost if the government followed the NDP's advice and did not look for new revenue streams.