Ontario Liberals pledge to build, repair schools with $10 billion from scrapping Highway 413
Ontario's school repair backlog last estimated at more than $16 billion
An Ontario Liberal government would spend $10 billion to build and repair schools if elected in June, with the party pledging to fund the promise by cancelling the planned Highway 413.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that as he has travelled the province during the past two years, he has heard from teachers and families about schools being in states of disrepair.
"I've heard the stories about schools in this province of ours where the windows in the classrooms don't open and close properly, where the ventilation systems are so outdated that it's embarrassing, where in sweltering heat, there is no relief, when in bitter cold, there is no relief," he said in announcing the plan Wednesday as the election campaign began.
The Liberals say their capital schools plan would build 200 more schools, repair, upgrade and rebuild another 4,500, and carry out renovations to ensure new ventilation systems in every school that needs them.
The party said it would allocate the $10 billion to be spent over five or six years, and it would be in addition to $14 billion over 10 years that has already been budgeted.
The Progressive Conservatives, who are seeking re-election, have not provided an overall cost estimate for the planned Highway 413 around the Greater Toronto Area, but the Liberals oppose it, saying it will destroy farmland and won't save commuters much time. Independent estimates have pegged the cost at up to $10 billion.
The school repair backlog has been pegged in recent years around $16 billion, a number that the NDP largely blames on previous Liberal governments.
"No matter what the Liberals say now, they had 15 years to address our crumbling schools and they didn't," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.
"They left this province with $15.9 billion of school repair backlogs, so I don't know how anybody can trust what they say now when for 15 years, they didn't prioritize ... the quality of repair of our kids' schools."
The Liberals closed hundreds of schools, Horwath and Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford both said.
"The backlog of repairs ... tripled under the Liberals," Ford said. "All he does is talk and talk, wants to set up all these committees and studies. We're building $14 billion of new schools. We're catching up on the backlog of good state of repair."
Del Duca said if the Liberals form government after this election, "we will not be closing any schools."