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Doug Ford pledges $82B for public transit and highways over the next decade
March 11, 2022
Robert Benzie

Premier Doug Ford is hoping the road to re-election will be paved through the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

In a campaign-style announcement Thursday exactly 12 weeks before the June 2 election, Ford unveiled an ambitious “Connecting the GGH” transportation plan touting $82 billion in new public transit and highways over the next decade.

“Friends, we’re building Ontario, because we cannot allow the inaction of past governments to hold back the families, workers, and businesses of this province any longer,” Ford said in Woodbridge as he released the 65-page proposal.

“A province that is growing as fast as ours needs the transportation infrastructure to support it,” the premier said, behind a provincial sign reading “Future Site of Highway 413.”

Most of the key elements of the plan have been previously announced, including the 15.6 km Ontario Line subway connecting Ontario Place and the Ontario Science Centre and the controversial 60 km Highway 413 linking Milton to Vaughan.

The Ministry of Transportation released new modelling that projects the proposed Highway 413 would reduce an eastbound 89-minute commute from Highway 401 to Highway 400 to 59 minutes -- a 30-minute saving.

That could be a 32-minute saving if travelling westbound, the ministry said.

But the previous Liberal government of premier Kathleen Wynne scrapped that highway scheme -- which would raze 2,000 acres of farmland, pave over 400 acres of greenbelt land, and cut through 85 waterways -- because it would only save 30 to 60 seconds per commute.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath dismissed the Progressive Conservatives’ announcement as electioneering.

“The really colourful map with all the lines on it is really just ... another Ford gimmick,” said Horwath, who has promised to scrap Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass if she becomes premier in June.

Liberal house Leader John Fraser said the Conservatives “should be actually using that money for schools (and) for health care, which is going to need to be built up more after this pandemic.”

Green Leader Mike Schreiner warned “Ford’s transportation plan is going to pave over our children’s future -- the bottom line is Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass are financial and climate disasters.”

But Jan De Silva, president and CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade, said it was “a big step forward in building the kind of integrated, globally competitive system that will be critical to our economic recovery” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the new plan, Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney it is full steam ahead with roadworks projects that are still in the design and development stage.

“We’re building new highways, like Highway 413 and Bradford Bypass, because without them, already intense gridlock will more than triple within as many decades,” Mulroney wrote, referring to the 16.2 km bypass connecting Highways 400 and 404.

“We’re expanding regional passenger rail services, spanning all corners of the region, delivering on our mandate of two-way, all-day, 15-minute (GO Train) service,” she said.

“We’re also moving ahead with the largest program of subway builds in Canadian history to connect new communities, make more jobs available to more people, and make getting around easier and more convenient.”

Thursday’s plan includes a proposed transit loop connecting the yet-to-be-built Ontario Line to Pearson International Airport and Richmond Hill Centre by about 2051. There is no price tag for such a project.

The Union-Pearson Express, launched by Wynne in 2015, would continue.

By 2051 -- beyond the TTC subway expansion, Eglinton Crosstown, Hurontario, Hamilton, and Finch West LRT lines -- there could be a new east-west line between Burlington and Oshawa, north of Toronto.

Mindful that successive governments of all political stripes have pledged unrealized transportation proposals over the past few decades, Mulroney conceded “our plan is an evergreen, living document that will continuously evolve, be updated and improved to be responsive to the needs of people and businesses.”

While the Conservative government still has not divulged the cost of Highway 413 or the Bradford Bypass, respected forensic accountant Charles Smedmor has calculated the tally could be $10.4 billion.