Ontario budget 2016: Jim Watson pleased light rail, 2017 included

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's pleased the provincial government mentions stage two of its light rail plan and 2017 celebrations in its 2016 budget.

Still no specific funding commitment for stage two of Ottawa LRT project, no mention of extensions

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's pleased the 2016 Ontario budget specifically mentions phase two of the city's light rail plan, even though there's no specific dollar promise along with it. (CBC)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says he's pleased the provincial government included the next stage of its light rail plan and 2017 celebrations in the 2016 budget.

In a news conference at Ottawa City Hall after the budget was tabled, Watson said he was happy to see the $2.5 billion plan to extend phase one of Ottawa's light rail system mentioned, even though there was no specific funding announcement.

"Budget numbers tend not to be specific, it tends to be a pretty general document. The specifics come when we put in the applications within the next 12 to 18 months," he said.

"We've started to do some preliminary work on phase two… I have no reason to doubt the province will not be there with the full $1 billion request that we have for phase two and I share the same opinion with respect to the federal government's contribution."

Ottawa South MPP John Fraser told CBC Ottawa's All in a Day after the budget was tabled the Liberals are committed to phase two and he's one of the local MPPs who's working on getting money for extensions that are also on the table.

"I'm hopeful as well that we can work on rail east [to Trim Road], I'm a very big supporter of that, and obviously south to the airport, which we didn't see in the budget," he said.

"It's something Ottawa MPPs are continuing to work on and I think we're looking forward to a partnership with both the city and the federal government."

Ontario's 150th celebration matches Canada's

Watson had said Wednesday he wanted money for transit, infrastructure and Canada's 150th birthday celebrations in 2017 in the budget.

On Thursday, he said he likes that the budget includes Ontario's 150th birthday celebrations in 2017, which matches Canada's 150th birthday and all the events he is working to bring to the capital that year.

"They specifically make reference to partnering with municipalities for their program and as you can expect, Ottawa will be one of the first at the table to pitch our programs and seek funding for 2017 initiatives," he said.

"Ottawa has the momentum and we've had very good discussions with various ministers who are responsible for Ontario 150. We look forward to an announcement sometime within the next month and a half here in Ottawa."

Waton singled out $52 million for two new schools and four school retrofits in the city, $1.5 million for the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre on Bronson Avenue and an unspecified amount of money for "new interdisciplinary creativity incubators" at La Cité collégiale as other positives for the city in the budget.

Community and Protective Services committee chair Diane Deans said the day before the budget was released that she wants to see legislation to help cities better enforce taxi regulations, saying it's not necessarily a financial item but is important given the popularity of ride-hailing service Uber.

Neither taxis nor Uber were mentioned in the budget.

Road improvements

Other budget items that deal with Ottawa or eastern Ontario-specific issues include:

  • Widening Highway 417 in Ottawa between Maitland and Island Park Drive starting in 2016, then from Highway 416 to Maitland Avenue starting in 2019.
  • Adding noise barriers to Highway 417 in Ottawa and "improvements at the Bronson Avenue interchange" starting in 2018.
  • Widening nine unspecified kilometres of County Road 17 in Prescott and Russell counties starting in 2019.
  • $2 million more for settlement of Syrian refugees. Ottawa Public Health said earlier this month it would ask the province for cash to help with the cost of caring for Syrian refugees.