Kitchener-Waterloo

ONTARIO BUDGET 2018 | Liberals promise $11 billion for K-W high speed rail link

With the Liberals' new budget promising $11 billion for a Toronto-Windsor high speed rail system, Kitchener's mayor says he's "pleased" with the "transit connectivity commitment."

Kitchener mayor says he's pleased with Ontario's new budget because of 'transit-connectivity' funds

Ontario's new budget includes $11 billion for a high-speed rail, running from Toronto to Windsor with a stop in Waterloo Region. (CBC)
With Ontario's budget pledging $20.3 billion in new spending over the next three years, Berry Vrbanovic, mayor of Kitchener says he's "very pleased" to see an $11 billion commitment toward building a Toronto-Windsor high speed rail line that would include a stop in Waterloo Region.

"It's a huge vote of confidence in this region and plays into growing Ontario's economy for tech and innovation companies that are looking to grow or expand into the region," said Vrbanovic. 

"The issue of transit connectivity is what comes up most significantly in much of our economic development work," he told CBC. 

Liberal MPP Kathryn McGarry said the single largest project in the new budget will be this high-speed rail line. 

"I'm very excited for that," she told CBC. "This is a project that can look to see $20 billion worth of economic activity — due to high speed rail." 

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic says transit-connectivity is a significant concern for Waterloo region when it comes to economic development. (@DaveJaworsky/Twitter)

"It really shows the government's commitment to increasing transit options, in particular, in southwestern Ontario," said McGarry.

'Shiny objects'

But Michael Harris, Progressive Conservative MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga, is skeptical that the Liberals will deliver on this promise. 

"The Liberals will say and do anything with your money ahead of an election, to do what's best for them, and that's all that is," Harris said.   

"We heard talk of this high-speed rail during the last election... they're putting shiny objects in front of people." 

Harris said the region was promised in 2007 they would see "all-day, two-way" GO trains by 2014. 

"Heck, it's 2018 and frankly, we have no better service at all," he said.

"It's unbelievable that only one year after promising consecutive balanced budgets, the Wynne Liberals have come out ahead of an election with yet another deficit budget," said Harris.  

McGarry said the Liberals are still committed to having "all-day, two-way" GO. But with a new schedule: 2025. 

"That's a longstanding commitment," she said. "In this budget, we do see that we will continue the work needed to get this line fully served. 

McGarry said that includes "unlocking the corridor to provide express-rail service and electrifying that line." 

More services, more deficits

Finance Minister Charles Sousa delivered the province's new budget at Queen's Park, on Wednesday late afternoon. The 2018 budget includes: 

  • $800 million over the first two years for drug and dental coverage for workers without benefits. 
  • $1 billion over three years for the senior's "Healthy Home Program," including a $750 annual benefit for those 75 and over who still live at home. 
  • $2.2 billion for free daycare for children age 2.5 years to Kindergarten (program begins in 2020) 
  • $575 million for free prescription drugs for all seniors 

Read more about the 2018 Ontario provincial budget's key facts and figures.

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