Premier Kathleen Wynne announced Wednesday that an advisory panel will review the options for funding transit expansion in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, a move that did little to impress the Opposition.
Ahead of a morning press conference, Wynne got a bird’s-eye view of the traffic congestion that plagues the GTHA, when she took a flight over the region.
Wynne said the flight has reinforced her desire to improve the transit options in the region, so that people can get where they need to go.
"The way traffic is moving and the way congestion has grown over the decades, we have a responsibility to do something about that," Wynne said.
The government has created a 13-member advisory panel, which will be chaired by Dr. Anne Golden and will consult with the public about funding suggestions that Metrolinx has put forward.
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.
Metrolinx is a provincial government agency that is tasked with planning transit improvements in the GTHA.
Wynne said the panel would help "take us to that next step," when it comes to improving transit in the region.
The premier said the panel members will be consulting with the public about the options Metrolinx laid out, but also consider "other possibilities." They will consider what funding options are most appropriate and which ones are the fairest.
"We want to find a balanced way forward, that is what we’re asking this panel to do," she said.
The panel is supposed to report back to the government by mid-December.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak was critical that the government was creating a panel to review the options, rather than making decisions themselves.
“"I guess this is another study group, wrapped in a committee, buried in a panel,” Hudak said Wednesday.
"When you call 13 political appointees to study this, that's Liberal job creation I guess."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party couldn’t support funding transit on the backs of workers, when the government is giving tax breaks to companies.
"I don't believe that the government's plans to dig into the pockets of everyday families who are already feeling the pinch is going to be a successful strategy," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"The only way transit is going to get built is if it's paid for in a fair and balanced way."
Tories push government on Scarborough subway
Inside the legislature, Hudak confronted the premier about her government’s plans for expanding the subway system further into Scarborough.
The Opposition leader wanted to know whether the government would support a plan endorsed by Toronto City Council, or whether it would move ahead with alternate proposal that was recently announced by Transportation Minister Glen Murray.
Murray’s plan would extend the subway to the Scarborough Town Centre, short of the extension to Sheppard Avenue that the city wants to see.
The premier said the government is focused on projects that are fully funded.
"We are building a funded line, there is money on the table, and the plans that are coming forward from the member opposite and from the city, quite frankly, at this point…are not funded," Wynne said.
"There is $1.4 billion that we are going to use to build a subway…if there is more money that the leader of the Opposition knows about, then we should hear about that."