New Infrastructure minister weighs in on issues affecting the Southwest

The MPP for Lambton-Kent Middlesex, Monte McNaughton, has some big decisions as minister of infrastructure, including whether to move forward on high speed rail service in Southwestern Ontario and whether to support Bus Rapid Transit for London.

Monte McNaughton offers limited support for high-speed rail and London’s transit issues

Infrastructure minister Monte McNaughton faces several big issues affecting Southwestern Ontario, including high speed rail, public transit and median barriers on Highway 401. (CBC News)

The MPP for Lambton-Kent Middlesex, Monte McNaughton, has some big decisions to make as he takes on his new role as minister of infrastructure  in Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government.

They include:

  • High speed rail for Southern Ontario
  • Transit improvements for London
  • Barriers on the 401 between London and Windsor

High Speed Rail

In an interview with CBC's London Morning program Wednesday, McNaughton said the Ford government will continue the work begun by the previous Liberal government on high speed rail from Toronto to Windsor.

However, McNaughton did not commit to the completion of the project.

He said the new government will continue to fund the environment assessment, but he quickly added: "We'll see what the final reports say."

The minister said there are obvious regional economic and social benefits to high speed rail, which would come with a "substantial price tag."

"I have also said there needs to be some more consultation, whether it's with more local municipal partners in the cities and the small towns, as well as the agriculture community … so we'll be working through these."

Transit funding for London

McNaughton acknowledged that the premier promised during the election campaign to invest $170-million in public transit improvements for London. But McNaughton did not say whether the money would be specifically earmarked for the controversial Bus Rapid Transit project.

"This is early days in the new government and I have said we'll work very, very closely with the city of London and there's just a whole list of thousands of requests right across the province."

He added: "There will be announcements in the days and weeks ahead and it's early days on this file."

Barriers on the 401

The minister said installing barriers on the section of Highway 401 between London and Windsor known as 'Carnage Alley' is a "very important project, obviously."

"We know tragically, the loss of lives through that area … and MPP Rick Nicholls, MPP Jeff Yurek, Bob Bailey a number of others have been strong advocates on that specific project.  Again, this will be something that the Minister of Transportation will look at very early on his mandate."

Doug Ford is sworn in as premier of Ontario as Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell looks on during a ceremony at Queen's Park in Toronto on Friday, June 29, 2018. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

Relationship with Ford

McNaughton said has a "great relationship" with the premier. "And I'm ecstatic for our region."

The minister said Southwestern Ontario was not well served by the previous Liberal government.

"Quite frankly, I think Southwestern Ontario was neglected by the former government. We lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in Ontario, many in the Southwest."

McNaughton said there are a lot of priorities for the new government and "a lot of asks (are) already coming in."

But, he cautioned, he's taking it one day at a time.