Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is promising to cancel four new light rail lines and kibosh the electrification of the GO regional rail network, redirecting the funds into building subways and all-day, two-way commuter trains.
Mr. Hudak said Friday that, if he was elected after the June 12 provincial vote, he would pull the plug on the planned Sheppard and Finch LRTs in Toronto, as well as the light-rail projects in Hamilton and Mississauga. He would not cancel Toronto’s Eglinton LRT, which is under construction.
The Tory leader said the LRT projects and GO electrification, part of Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne’s $29-billion transit expansion plan, are simply a sign that the Grits are promising too much and not getting anything done.
“When you look at what Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals want to do, it’s a huge laundry list. But the only thing that gets done is the list gets longer and no projects get built,” Mr. Hudak said, standing on a terrace overlooking the tracks at Union Station. “I think it’s time that we were honest with commuters and said ‘you’ve got to set priorities, you can’t be all things to all people.’ So we’ve set ours.”
Mr. Hudak is pledging to start phasing in all-day, two-way service on all lines by next year and to increase the number of express trains. Mr. Hudak said he would also extend rush hour service – when trains run more frequently – to 9 in the morning and 8 in the evening, and that he would get wi-fi installed on trains.
Mr. Hudak said his transit-building priority is a new “east-west express subway” that would run south of Bloor Street in Toronto to take pressure off the overcrowded Yonge line. He also pledged to extend the Sheppard subway east to meet up with the planned extension of the Bloor-Danforth line to Scarborough Centre.
The PCs have previously pledged to scrap LRTs in favour of subways, but this was the first time they spelled out exactly which lines would be killed.
“If I have a choice between taking out more lanes or actually improving our highways and building underground, I’ll take improving our highways and building underground with subways any day,” Mr. Hudak said. “That’ll make your commute faster. Ripping up the lanes to put in rail down streets? That’s actually going to slow you down.”
The Eglinton LRT is the only line currently under construction. Sheppard and Finch are supposed to be the next to be built, under the current Liberal plan, while Mississauga and Hamilton are still in the planning and design phase.
The Liberals have long promised all-day, two-way service on every GO line, but have never been specific on when it would be implemented.
Touring through Sarnia, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath provided more clarity to her plan to reduce electricity bills Friday.
Ms. Horwath announced she would merge the IESO, OPG, Hydro One and the Ontario Power Authority into one entity in a move to reduce the cost of hydro. She’d also see CEO salaries for the power agencies capped at two times the premier’s pay and create a direct trading agency for energy exports, similar to ones in Quebec and Manitoba.
Standing in picturesque Blue Water Bridge Park, Ms. Horwath used the opportunity to fire shots at her opposition.
“This mess started with the Conservatives when they began to deregulate and privatize our electricity system and the Liberals simply continued that wrong-headed path,” she said.
“Liberals, let’s face it, they’re a scandal-ridden, wasteful government that has become out of touch with Ontarians and that people tell me they simply don’t trust anymore.”
The NDP leader was met by a small crowd of anti-wind farm protesters outside the local pub when she arrived Thursday night. Before spending a few minutes slinging pints behind the bar, Ms. Horwath assured the protesters her party was sensitive to their concerns. She wouldn’t do away with contracts already in place, but said the Liberal party mishandled the process of placing wind farms.
“We do believe that there needs to be a process put in place that respects local communities and engages them in the siting process,” she said.
“That is not what we have now in Ontario and as a result it’s unfortunate because I think most people overall have a sense of support for bringing renewables onto the grid.”
Ms. Wynne said Friday a Liberal government would expand the powers of nurses and nurse practitioners to do more tasks currently done only by doctors.
Registered nurses would see their abilities expanded to include prescribing a wide range of medications, such as those for skin conditions, while nurse practitioners would be allowed to order a range of tests such as CT scans, she said.
“It’s about letting nurses work to the full scope of their practice — that their capacity and their education is used fully in the system,” she said at a Toronto rehab hospital.
Prescriptions for narcotic drugs would still be handled only by physicians, she said.
With files from The Canadian Press