Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne won’t back down on dedicated revenue streams to pay for transit expansion in budget talks with the New Democratic Party.
Ms. Wynne is scheduled to sit down with NDP Leader Andrea Horwath Wednesday afternoon to try and hammer out a deal that will allow the minority Liberals to pass their budget and avoid an election.
But the Premier made clear that her transit-building plans won’t be up for negotiation.
The Liberals are planning to bring in new revenue tools – likely to include a combination of tolls, taxes or levies – to build new subways, light rail lines and dedicated busways across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. The first new tool, new traffic lanes that would allow motorists to by-pass congestion on Toronto expressways for a toll, was included in the budget. Ms. Horwath has demanded the Liberals drop the idea from the fiscal plan.
Ms. Wynne said she will not do anything that would slow down the new transit lines, which include a subway from Don Mills to downtown Toronto and LRTs in Mississauga and Hamilton.
“Am I going to back off on a dedicated revenue stream for transit? No. We need to build transit in the GTHA and we need dedicated revenue streams in order to do that,” she said Wednesday morning at Queen’s Park.
She left the door open to granting Ms. Horwath’s other requests.
“I need to talk to her about what she means on some of the other measures and I look forward to that,” she said.
Finance Minister Charles Sousa has already included several NDP-friendly measures in the budget – including a 15 per cent cut to car insurance premiums and four new programs to get jobs for young people. But Ms. Horwath has made several more demands, including ombudsman oversight of the health care system and creating an independent budget watchdog.
With the Progressive Conservatives vowing to vote against the budget, Ms. Wynne’s minority government must secure Ms. Horwath’s support to get it passed.