Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says her government will not hike the HST, raise gas taxes or increase personal income taxes to pay for transit expansion in the Greater Toronto Area.
Wynne made the announcement Thursday at a news conference held inside the kitchen of a private family home in Toronto, touting the move as a way to protect "middle-income earners."
"We need investments in transit, but whatever we do has to be fair," said Wynne. "I’m not going to ask the people in North Bay to pay for transit in the GTA."
The news comes as the minority Liberals get ready to present a budget that will require opposition support to pass and avoid triggering a provincial election.
While Thursday's announcement ruled out what tools Wynne would use, she did not specify which ones she would consider, saying only there will be more details in the budget, which is expected to come in the next few weeks.
Gridlock on roads and overcrowding on public transit in the Greater Toronto Area is a pressing concern, with estimates that congestion is costing the region billions a year.
Wynne has said the province needs dedicated revenue tools to pay for transit expansion in the GTA and the Toronto Region Board of Trade has suggested a mix of revenue tools that includes fuel taxes, parking levies and toll lanes.
Board of Trade president Carol Wilding issued a statement Thursday expressing frustration that Wynne will no longer consider what it believes could potentially be important sources for transit money. Wilding was also critical the Liberals and other parties for not being clear on what revenue tools they support.
"We can no longer defer the tough decisions on how to address our region’s lack of mobility," said Wilding's statement. "We have heard from all three provincial parties on what they won’t do. But simply saying no is no longer an option."
Wynne said she's announcing what her government is not doing because the Progressive Conservatives have been trying to score points by claiming the Liberals would hike taxes to fund transit.
Wynne dismissed suggestions she was trying to secure NDP support for the budget by saying she won't hike taxes on the middle class.
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson responded quickly to Wynne's announcement by tweeting: "one can never believe a Liberal promising to not raise your taxes. Remember (Dalton) McGuinty and his HST."