Liberals promise high speed rail in Kitchener within 10 years

Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray says his Liberal government will deliver high speed rail service connecting Toronto, Kitchener and London within 10 years.

Rail line would link Toronto, Pearson, Kitchener and London

Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray says his Liberal government will deliver high speed rail service connecting Toronto, Pearson International Airport, Kitchener and London within 10 years.

“What we would be looking at is a very limited number of stops, because the speed that these trains travel at don’t allow frequent stops. So you’d be looking at central London, central Kitchener,” Murray told host Craig Norris on The Morning Edition Tuesday. 

He said there was discussion around putting a stop at Pearson Airport with the high speed train ultimately ending up in downtown Toronto.

“The business community, investment community in communities like Kitchener and London want to be able to get to Pearson in half an hour or 40 minutes. They need that to keep their investments,” said Murray.

His comments come after Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a $29-billion plan on Monday to build new transit and transportation infrastructure in the province over the next decade. Many of the details of that plan are due to be spelled out in a budget that is expected to be tabled within a month's time.

“It fits well within the $29 billion the premier announced,” said Murray. “We have enough money in the budget to meet this commitment in the next ten-year cycle.” 

Murray said he was going to expand on the cost of high speed rail during a speaking tour in Kitchener and London.

“We looked at difference between the cost of just running a traditional rail service versus what’s called high speed rail, and the value created by that is so much greater for the additional investment, that it just makes that much more sense,” said Murray.

The new commitment comes after the Liberals pledged to implement all-day two-way GO train service between Kitchener and Toronto. It has also committed to doubling train frequencies in the morning and evening between the two cities and shortening the travel time.

Taxes will go up

Wynne said Monday she would divide $29 billion into two dedicated funds: $15 billion to build public transit in the Toronto-Hamilton area and $14 billion for transportation infrastructure – including roads and bridges – in the rest of the province.

Instead of hiking fuel taxes, Wynne said she would detour the provincial portion of the gas tax – about $1.2 billion annually – to the two funds rather than the main government coffers.

Municipalities would still get the two cents per litre – about $320 million – they currently receive for transit projects, she said.

Some of the money will come from re-routing about $1.3 billion a year in gas taxes,  Wynne said. The remainder will be raised through debt, including so-called green bonds, and new "revenue tools" that will be kept under wraps until the budget is tabled.

Murray hinted at what those new revenue tools could be in his interview with The Morning Edition.

“We are going to raise taxes, we’ve been quite clear about that,” said Murray.

“There’s going to be no increase in gas tax, or no increase in sales tax, we’re not going to be increasing taxes on.. middle income earners, but you cannot get back to building the kinds of transit and transportation infrastructure we used to build in the 50s and 60s unless there’s some modest new revenue with the addition of some creative and dynamic innovative ideas and financing." 

Ontario's portion of the HST that's collected on gas taxes, which amounts to about $130 million a year, would also be re-directed to the funds, according to Wynne.

The fiscal plan could make or break the minority Liberals, who need at least one of the opposition parties to support it if they want to avoid an election.

"We need a partner to put our plan in place," Wynne said in a lunch speech to the Toronto Regional Board of Trade.

"That partner could be the Progressive Conservatives, it could be the NDP or if necessary, the voting public."

With files from The Canadian Press


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