Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives say the province shouldn’t be raising taxes to improve transit, but should instead look at changing its spending priorities to find the money to build new projects.
In a new discussion paper, the Tories lay out their alternative strategy for relieving gridlock in Ontario’s cities, which would involve creating a trust fund that would provide $2 billion for projects each year.
The Tories say that some of that money could come from the province’s annual spending on capital projects, while additional funds could be obtained through the sale of “surplus lands and excess provincial buildings.” They would also favour having pension funds buy partial ownership of government-owned businesses, including Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One.
"We'll lay out more details about where we're going to find savings, but we've put a lot on the table including freezing the implementation of full day kindergarten," PC Leader Tim Hudak said Thursday.
In terms of selling off property, the Tories say the province could get rid of buildings in downtown Toronto and shift the operations they house to nearby cities and suburbs.
Hudak said the Liquor Control Board of Ontario headquarters and the Ontario Power Generation head office are two such buildings that could be sold.
PCs favour 'substantial' transit expansion
The Tories’ vision for how to fund transit improvements differs sharply from what the governing Liberals have been talking about.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she is willing to campaign on the issue of revenue tools, which the Liberals say are necessary to fund transit.
On Thursday, Transportation Minister Glen Murray released a statement saying that the Liberals are “having an honest conversation” with Ontarians about what is required to improve transit.
"Tim Hudak has been clear, his expensive plan will mean deep cuts to Ontario's education and health-care budgets, including full-day kindergarten and hospital expansions," said Murray.
In terms of specific goals for public transit and infrastructure improvements, the Tories say they "believe in a substantial expansion of public transit," which includes expansion of Toronto’s existing subway system.
But they also want to see selected highways widened and expanded in a bid "to get people moving again."
The Tories have issued more than a dozen such discussion papers over the past two years, laying out alternative proposals they would pursue if leading the government. But so far, the minority Liberals have hung onto power and the PCs have not had a chance to test their ideas with voters.
At the moment, the Liberals hold 49 of the 107 seats in the provincial legislature, compared to the 37 seats held by the Progressive Conservatives. The New Democrats hold 20 seats.
One seat remains vacant following the retirement of Liberal MPP Kim Craitor from the legislature in September.