Despite an earlier pledge during Premier Doug Ford’s election campaign to fund expansion of Kitchener-Toronto GO train service, the provincial government has been largely silent recently concerning public transit.
In the wake of $1.4 billion in cuts to Ontario’s transit budget, many public transit projects have been stalled or left on the cutting room floor.
Since Ford took office, the provincial government has focused on restructuring Ontario’s finances to deal with the deficits left by the previous Liberal government. While making budget cuts and removing programs such as the carbon tax will save the province money in the short term, projects that would develop valuable infrastructure have been swept aside.
Compared to an earlier 2018 budget, the fall economic plan released by Ford’s government cut $1.4 billion in transit infrastructure without mention of which projects will be losing out on funding. These cuts could hinder development of the planned two-way all-day GO train between Kitchener and Toronto and lead to delays for light rail projects across Ontario.
During the Nov. 22 meeting of Ontario’s Legislative Assembly, MPP Catherine Fife of Waterloo raised concerns that terms such as “GO transit” and the “regional express rail” were absent from the fall economic plan.
While questioning Minister of Transportation Jeff Yurek, Fife inquired into the status of the promised service: “Before the election, the Premier promised to deliver two-way, all-day GO service to Kitchener as quickly as possible, but since the election we have heard nothing … When will the minister deliver two-way, all-day GO service to Kitchener? They have waited long enough.”
Yurek responded, saying “this is an issue the whole House agrees upon,” and for MPPs to “Stay tuned; that’s all I can tell the members opposite.”
Meanwhile, a new report from Metrolinx last week indicated that all-day GO trains between Toronto and Waterloo Region might not become reality until 2030.
Ford has directly expressed support for extending the Scarborough subway, though the province has been notably silent about other transit projects recently.
The absence of funding from the government of Ontario does put the two-way all-day GO expansion in a precarious position, though the project could face other challenges during construction. According to an NDP media release, developing the GO train service would require “significant infrastructure investments,” including bridges for road and water crossings, new tracks and a tunnel under Highway 401 in Toronto.
Cuts to the transit budget could also halt progress in expanding GO train service from Toronto to Grimsby, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls, as well as light rail construction in Ottawa. Construction was set to begin on Ottawa’s proposed light rail system in 2019, but without a proposed $1 billion in funds from Queen’s Park, the city would have to finance the project without help from the province.