When Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne looks for a source of funds to expand transit, she might find an ally across the legislature floor – newly-minted New Democrat MPP Percy Hatfield.
Mr. Hatfield, who was sworn in Wednesday as the member for Windsor Tecumseh, said his constituents may “buy in to” a plan to dedicate revenue to transportation infrastructure, provided they see the benefits.
“If it’s something fair, if part of that money is going to flow back to Windsor and we’re going to have better roads in Windsor or a better public transit system in Windsor, then perhaps that’s something you can sell, something that the public will buy into,” he said at Queen’s Park.
Mr. Hatfield said new levies would be a “hard sell” if they are used exclusively to fund projects in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. Ms. Wynne has said that, if taxes are put in place across the province, the money will be distributed everywhere, with new roads, bridges or transit lines built in every region of Ontario.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has opposed Ms. Wynne’s push, arguing against paying for transit with new taxes on individuals.
“The people of this province are already very hard pressed in terms of their household budget,” she said. “And so we don’t want to see any particular initiatives that put a bigger burden on them.”
Her office also tried to clarify Mr. Hatfield’s comments. In an email, Ms. Horwath’s spokeswoman said that, when Mr. Hatfield said Windsorites might support “something fair” to fund roads and transit, he was actually referring to raising money by eliminating some corporate tax credits, not through new taxes or tolls.
This spring, provincial transit agency Metrolinx recommended hikes to the HST, development charges and gas tax, plus a commercial parking levy, to raise the roughly $2-billion per year needed for transit expansion. The government is currently reviewing the proposal. It is not clear when Ms. Wynne will table legislation to bring in a revenue stream.
A former CBC broadcaster and city councillor, Mr. Hatfield also sat on the board of Windsor’s public transportation agency. He won Windsor Tecumseh, which was vacated earlier this year by former Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan, in a landslide on Aug. 1.
Also sworn in Wednesday morning was Peggy Sattler, who captured London West for the NDP in a convincing, nine-point victory. She and Mr. Hatfield took their oaths of office in front of friends and family in a Queen’s Park committee room.
Ms. Horwath also responded to accusations NDP candidate Adam Giambrone, who carried the party banner in Scarborough-Guildwood, won the party’s nomination unfairly. Some NDPers have alleged that a group of people who voted at Mr. Giambrone’s nomination meeting were not on a list of party members in the riding provided the previous day.
Ms. Horwath said she was confident the party had dealt with the allegations.
“We get complaints of all kinds from all kinds of different members, from all kinds of different ridings and it’s the responsibility of the party to deal with those issues, and I’m confident that they have the capacity to do that,” she said.
Liberal Mitzie Hunter, who defeated Mr. Giambrone, is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday, as is Progressive Conservative Doug Holyday.
John Fraser, who kept former premier Dalton McGuinty’s Ottawa South constituency in the Liberal fold, will have his ceremony Friday.