Liberals question NDP's commitment to high-speed rail

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne says her party is the only one dedicated to making high-speed rail a reality.

'We cannot wait anymore. We have to get on this,' Wynne says during Waterloo stop

Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, centre, says her party is the only one that will make high-speed rail a reality in southern Ontario. She made the remarks Tuesday while speaking in Waterloo, joined by candidates Steven Del Duca, left, and Kathryn McGarry, right. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

The Liberals are the only party that will make sure high-speed rail happens, Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday.

The NDP platform doesn't include any mention of high-speed rail, she said during a morning stop in Waterloo.

Instead, she said, the NDP's plan cuts $33 million in funding being spent on environmental assessments for the project.

Wynne said the Progressive Conservatives do not have any plan for high-speed rail.

"We know that Doug Ford lacks such a plan. He's just not exactly a details kind of guy," she said.

"There has to be a credible and realistic plan," to get high-speed rail built, she said.

When Ford was in Kitchener in April, he said they would do the environmental assessment for high-speed rail.

A spokesperson for Ford on Tuesday noted while Wynne is promising $11 billion for the project, there is nothing in her budget that accounts for this funding.

NDP to continue with EAs

In releasing its southwestern Ontario platform Tuesday morning, the NDPs said they understand the need for "fast and reliable passenger rail service along a dedicated corridor through the southwest."

It noted the NDP will continue with the environmental assessments and said building "fast rail will only be successful if communities on the corridor are willing partners and see the benefits from these investments and that prime farmland is protected."

The NDP promised to focus on filling the gaps in intercity passenger services, which includes working with Metrolinx, Via Rail and urban transit.

In Kitchener at an announcement about the southwestern Ontario platform, Waterloo candidate Catherine Fife said Wynne was "doing some fearmongering" about the platform.

"On page 94 of the NDP fully costed, fully transparent platform, we say very clearly that the NDP has carried this budgetline forward for high-speed rail through the baseline program expense, which means that the NDP will continue to fund the progress," Fife said.

"We're going to be inclusive in the process of ensuring that high-speed rail actually happens and if you don't include the other communities across this entire rail system, they'll feel excluded and they'll fight that high-speed rail."

'This is about the economy'

Speaking at tech company Eleven-x, Wynne said high-speed rail is a "game changer" for southern Ontario to connect communities between Windsor, London, Waterloo region and Toronto.

"We cannot wait anymore. We have to get on this," Wynne said, noting she hears from tech companies in Waterloo region that there is a need for better transportation options.

"This is about the economy. The people here at Eleven-x routinely go into Toronto for one-hour meetings," she said. If they're spending two hours in traffic both ways, "that doesn't add up."

She said the corridor between London, Waterloo region and Toronto, there's a tech ecosystem that rivals Silicon Valley.

"We can't take that for granted. We can't just assume that will grow without support," she said.

Can't afford to not move forward

Cambridge Liberal candidate Kathryn McGarry, who served as transportation minister prior to the election, said high-speed rail will connect seven million people.

"This is the spark that will ignite southwestern Ontario's next economic boom," she said.

McGarry said the NDP "wiped out the funding for high-speed rail" and said the NDP have "always been cagey on high-speed rail."

"Their platform shows exactly what they would do on high-speed rail, or rather, what they would not do. Their platform doesn't even mention high-speed rail once," she said.

"They owe the people of this region an explanation," McGarry said. "We cannot afford for these projects to fall behind by a year or two."