Kitchener-Waterloo·In Depth

Regional chair hopes 2-way, all-day GO trains on province's mind for budget

Region of Waterloo Chair Karen Redman says she hopes the provincial budget mentions the region, and specifically two-way, all-day GO trains.

Regional officials have demonstrated 'this is an area that's worth investing in,' Redman says

The Progressive Conservative government is set to table its budget Thursday afternoon. Regional officials will be watching to see if there's any mention of local investments, including two-way, all-day GO train service. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

Regional Chair Karen Redman says she hopes Waterloo region gets a mention in the provincial budget Thursday and she hopes it involves two-way, all-day GO trains.

Redman says she's mentioned to Premier Doug Ford, and has promoted through advocacy work at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), that the region will be an economic driver for the economic recovery of the province.

"I think they've heard that. So I'm hoping that all of the work that we've done on Connect the Corridor so that all-day, two-way GO would either receive funding or at least a high-five," Redman said in an interview.

Connect the Corridor is an advocacy project between the region, City of Toronto and municipalities in between, along with businesses, to see two-way, all-day GO trains between Kitchener and Toronto.

Redman says the region is located in a central part of the province and it has high-tech and medical technology businesses as well as food processors and automotive companies that will help the province rebound post-COVID. She noted many local businesses also pivoted early on in the pandemic to create personal protective equipment, ventilators or technology to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

"I think we've continued to demonstrate to the province that this is an area that's worth investing in, so I'm hoping that we get mentioned," Redman said. "I would love if they announced two-way, all-day GO. They may or may not. They have a lot of priorities, too."

Invest in health, education: Lindo

Kitchener Centre NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo says she too would like to see two-way, all-day GO trains in the budget.

She says even though this budget will no doubt be dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the province needs to consider what life will be like post-pandemic.

"If we're not asking for the investments that we need to thrive, to have our economy locally thrive, then I think we're doing a disservice for the people of the region. So, I do hope that we're going to start seeing trends around real investment," Lindo said.

Lindo also wants to see the Progressive Conservative government invest in health care, specifically mentioning the need for more personal support workers and better pay for them.

She says the education system also needs more funding and she'd like to cap class sizes at 15. While Waterloo region's schools have not seen massive outbreaks of COVID-19, Lindo says she's worried that when winter arrives and classes don't spend as much time outside as they are currently, that the virus could spread more easily.

"It's about prevention," she said. "I'm still getting notes from teachers about classrooms just not having enough room to physically distance. And I know I'm getting phone calls from parents that are also worried and making a choice to take their kids out of the classroom just in case."

Laura Mae Lindo is the NDP MPP for Kitchener Centre. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Get spending under control: Karahalios

Green Party of Ontario Leader and Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner has also called for a cap of 15 students per classroom. He released seven priorities he said the government should focus on in the budget.

He also called for funding to improve COVID-19 contact tracing and lab capacity for testing. He said $1.8 million should be allocated to hire more nurses and health-care workers at long-term care homes, as well as calls for funding for supportive housing, mental health services, small businesses and environmental initiatives. 

Belinda Karahalios is the MPP for Cambridge who now sits as an independent after she was removed from the Progressive Conservative caucus in the summer for voting against a government motion. She says the government needs to get spending "under control."

"The Ford government was spending more than the prior Liberal government even prior to COVID, and they continue to spend more even if you remove non-COVID specific spending from the budget," she said Thursday morning on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition.

She says the province is facing the largest deficit in its history and there needs to be "a path to balance in this budget and I'm really curious to see what that's going to look like without increasing taxes."

Cambridge MPP Belinda Karahalios is seen here speaking at a panel on CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition in June 2019. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Karahalios says she's hearing from dance studios, retail shops and small businesses that want things to "get back to normal." She says people are worried about future shutdowns due to the virus.

"Business owners in the riding of Cambridge are saying, 'This can't happen in our region, I can't survive a second lockdown. I just want to get back to work. I just want to make money. I have a family to support,'" Karahalios said. "I've been very vocal about these things because I want to do my part to help protect our business community because, by and large, they're doing everything that they can to ensure that they're conducting business in a safe way."

Listen to the full interview with MPP Belinda Karahalios, where she discusses the budget and starting a new political party:

Budget must support most vulnerable

Ultimately, Lindo says she wants to see the budget invest in people. That includes addressing the needs of people on Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.

"My office has been inundated with phone calls from people that they're struggling," she said.

"I do hope that we see a shift in this budget to actually providing the most vulnerable with the support that they need."

She added that the budget really needs to look at the future and what will come after the pandemic.

"I hope this doesn't become, 'Well, because we're in a pandemic, this is the budget.' But a budget with vision, you know, something that makes us feel hopeful and shows us that we matter and that the government is going to invest in us," she said.

"That's the kind of thing that ends up boosting the economy as well, right? Because investments are there upstream, making sure that we have everything that we need as soon as we get the vaccine and we're on the other side of this."

Minister of Finance Rod Phillips is scheduled to deliver the provincial budget just after 4 p.m. Thursday.

With files from CBC Kitchener-Waterloo's The Morning Edition

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