Liberals’ $11B pledge for high speed rail highlights long list of major infrastructure promises

Spending plan also includes new money for hospitals, schools, broadband internet

High speed trains at a maintenance station in Wuhan, China. The Liberal government wants to bring similar 200 km/h trains to Ontario. (The Associated Press)

The Liberal government is committing $182 billion to infrastructure projects over the next 10 years, including a major pledge towards the construction of Canada’s first high speed rail line.

The 2018 pre-election budget is promising an $11 billion “initial investment” to support construction of the long-discussed high speed rail connection that would link Toronto to Windsor, reducing travel times by as much as 60 per cent.

The funding is likely contingent on the Wynne government winning the June election and implementing the budget.

The proposed high speed line would include seven stops: Windsor, Chatham, London, Kitchener, Guelph and Toronto’s Union Station, with a connection to Pearson International Airport.

However, Ontario has not yet determined a price tag or timeline for the project, so it remains unclear how much of the line could be built with $11 billion, and when it might be operational.

The line is planned to open with a connection from Toronto to London, with the second phase reaching Windsor to be built sometime after.

The high speed line is projected to contribute “over” $20 billion in economic benefits to Ontario annually, according to the Ministry of Finance.

While the Liberals have focused on the expansions to social services included in the budget, Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the long-term commitments to infrastructure will benefit young Ontarians as well.

“These are important things for them too,” Sousa said. “That is the legacy we leave for future generations, making them more competitive.”

The total suite of infrastructure investments is forecast to support around 140,000 jobs per year.

Finance Minister Charles Sousa says the infrastructure spending will support 140,000 jobs annually. (John Rieti/CBC)

Transit and transportation

Under the new budget, the province’s total commitment to transit would rise to $79 billion in 2018-19, up from $56 billion last year.

In addition to high speed rail funding, the province is also promising $8.3 billion towards public transit infrastructure in the upcoming fiscal year.

Specific recipients of that funding have not been finalized, but contenders are expected to include Toronto’s relief line and Yonge North subways; Toronto’s Waterfront transit network; Durham’s rapid bus transit; Mississauga’s rapid transit along Dundas Street; and Brampton’s rapid transit along Queen Street.

The Wynne government would also invest $25 billion over 10 years to improve Ontario’s highways if the budget is passed following the election.

‘A good budget for the city of Toronto’

Mayor John Tory said: “In overall terms, a good budget for the city of Toronto.”

He applauded the province’s transit funding pledge, as well as a transit integration “game-changer.”

“I’ve had numerous conversations with Premiere Wynne and her ministers about the need to integrate regional and local transit systems under one fare so that riders are able to go to work and to school and back home again conveniently, efficiently and affordably ,” Tory said.

“I’m deeply gratified that Premiere Wynne listened and, under the plan in the budget, transit users in the 416 will soon be able to get on GO Transit and, eventually, SmartTrack for a TTC fare,” he added.

Tory also applauded funding commitments to mental health and housing.

Hospitals and schools

The budget also includes a 10 year, $19 billion commitment towards infrastructure projects at a variety of hospitals around the province.

The money will fund the redevelopment of Ottawa Hospital’s civic campus; an expansion of the emergency department at South Bruce Grey Health Centre; and the redevelopment of Lakeridge Health’s Bowmanville site.

Other recipients include Sick Kids, The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Scarborough and Rouge Hospital, and North York General Hospital.

While specific projects have been identified at each of the hospitals, the Liberals have not stipulated exactly how much each organization will receive over the next decade.

Another $16 billion of capital grants has been pledged to public education, including the construction of new schools and additional renovations.

A half-billion for digital infrastructure

The Liberals are also promising to expand broadband internet connectivity in Northern Ontario and rural communities with a $500 million investment over the next three years.

That includes $71 million to improve cellular service in eastern Ontario and $20 million to support a “low earth orbit” satellite, which would beam down internet services to rural and remote parts of the province.

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