Caroline Mulroney is Ontario Minister of Transportation, Minister of Francophone Affairs and MPP for York-Simcoe
In its editorial published Dec. 3, The Globe and Mail has joined a growing list of those calling on the federal government to spend on public transit to help with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the wake of the federal government’s last fiscal update, which promised up to $100-billion for investments with current and future value, The Globe has urged the federal government to use those funds to make big investments in public transit. Not only will that help people get back to work, but it will help address the congestion problems plaguing our major cities and help improve “an essential service” relied on by millions.
Our government could not agree more with those statements.
Public transit is critical. It’s efficient, affordable and during this pandemic we’ve seen exactly how important it is as so many of our front-line and essential workers have relied on public transit to get to and from work.
That’s why our government is investing billions to improve local transit across the province and build the infrastructure we need to prepare for the huge population growth expected over the next three decades.
That includes our $28.5-billion new subway plan for the Greater Toronto Area that Premier Ford unveiled in April, 2019. Together, the Ontario Line, Yonge North subway extension, Eglinton Crosstown West extension and Scarborough subway extension comprise the most ambitious subway expansion plan in Canadian history.
These four nationally significant projects will bring rapid transit to new neighbourhoods, relieving overcrowding on existing lines, slashing commutes and improving connectivity across the region’s transit network. They will also allow us to deliver more housing and dynamic, mixed-use transit-oriented communities that will put more services within walking distance of people’s homes and public transit.
And just as importantly, these projects will create jobs, boost productivity and strengthen our economic competitiveness – something that is more essential than ever as our province recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction of these four projects alone will support up to 20,000 jobs.
In addition to our historic transit expansion plan, we are also taking steps to get shovels in the ground faster on major infrastructure projects across Ontario so we can create the jobs and realize the economic benefits sooner. We’ve already made legislative and regulatory changes to speed up our subway projects, and I recently had the honour of introducing new legislation that will help accelerate other provincial transit projects as well.
By investing in transit, we are doing more than just building infrastructure. We are setting the conditions that allow the people, businesses and communities of Ontario to emerge from this pandemic equipped to meet the demands of the future.
Our municipal partners agree that our plan is the right one for the GTA. We concluded the historic Ontario-Toronto transit partnership in November, 2019, and the Ontario-York Region transit partnership with respect to the Yonge North subway extension in May, 2020, which indicate our agreement on the four priority transit lines.
Our plan will strengthen Ontario and Canada for the years to come. But we cannot do it alone. We need all levels of government to step up to the plate and provide the funding support and certainty we need to deliver for the people of Ontario and for all of Canada. Together with our municipal partners, we have repeatedly called on the government of Canada to provide a minimum 40-per-cent contribution toward the capital cost of all four of our nationally significant subway projects. To date, we have not received this commitment.
We have worked together well before, most recently on the federal and provincial partnership that will see up to $4-billion in unprecedented, urgently needed assistance provided to municipalities. That includes up to $2-billion to support struggling municipal transit systems, which is in addition to the millions in funding we provided to help them implement enhanced cleaning measures.
But we need continued federal support to keep making the kind of investments that will help us recover from COVID-19 and grow to a stronger, more connected future. On behalf of the people of the GTA and across Ontario, I again urge our federal counterparts to come to the table and provide the funding for transit that our region so desperately needs.
It’s time for us all to come together and focus on recovery and looking to the future. We can’t be satisfied with simply regaining what’s been lost. We must make this province and country the best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.
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