Wynne says Liberals will stay the course on transit funding
'If we miss this opportunity, then we do the people of Ontario an injustice,' premier says
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says her minority government will stay the course in its bid to develop new revenue tools to fund public transit, despite vocal objections from the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats.
“People absolutely understand that these are investments that must be made for future generations,” Wynne told 500 party members and observers at the Liberal convention in Hamilton, Ont., on Saturday.
“If we miss this opportunity, then we do the people of Ontario an injustice,” she said.
Her government has tapped a 13-member advisory panel to get feedback on the funding on a set of revenue tools recommended by Metrolinx, the provincial agency responsible for transit planning in the greater Toronto and Hamilton areas.
Some of those suggestions included a possible one-per-cent hike in HST, a regional, five-cent-a-litre gas tax and an annual business parking levy.
The panel is slated to report back to the provincial government by mid-December.
Both opposition parties have said they would vote against new taxes for new transit in the Toronto and Hamilton areas. Analysts say the issue could trigger an election, which is expected to come as soon as the spring.
The NDP has said it wants money for transit to come from the elimination of certain tax breaks for corporations.
“There’s a lot there that could be used for revenue and there’s other revenue tools that we could use that aren’t going to impact the people of Ontario in their own pocket,” said the NDP's Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek.
Wynne, who replaced outgoing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in February after she won the Liberal leadership, said she isn’t sure whether the public transit file will end up being the big-ticket issue in the next campaign.
Transit isn’t the only focus of the Liberals' weekend convention. Wynne encouraged her party to avoid a negative tone in the next provincial election campaign, and said her party intends to set targets for each sector of the economy to make sure there are proper supports in place to help expand the workforce and to make businesses grow.
"We cannot slash our way to success," she said. "We are investing in people. We are investing in infrastructure and we are supporting businesses by creating an innovative and dynamic environment where everyone can succeed."
With files from The Canadian Press