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Municipal leaders raise key Ontario provincial election issues

May 29, 2014
By Sean Pearce

For the most part, municipal politicians are staying out of the back-and-forth on the provincial campaign trail, but, that being said, they do have some areas of concern they’d like to see Ontario’s government address, regardless of who is at the helm after June 12.

York is one of the fastest growing regions across Canada and is dedicated to building communities that are complete and sustainable, regional chairperson Bill Fisch said, explaining continued investments in transit and transportation infrastructure will be critical as it grows to 1.5 million people over the next two decades, listing the extension of the Yonge Street subway up to Richmond Hill, the Bradford bypass and the completion of the Hwy. 404 extension to Georgina as being among the most important projects to alleviate congestion and keep people moving.

On top of that, Fisch cites greater housing diversity, including affordable and social options, and focusing resources toward fostering strong economic development and vitality as being key priorities as well.

He went on to stress the need for innovative environmental technologies and approaches and conservation efforts aimed at protecting, enhancing and acquiring woodlands.

Plentiful parks and greenspaces are important legacies to leave for future generations to enjoy, Fisch added.

The Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario, which counts the top elected officials in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan amongst its ranks, also recently released its list of the main issues it wants to hear addressed amid this provincial election. It listed gridlock, the arbitration system, jobs and housing as the top four concerns.

So how do the three sitting parties’ plans propose to address these issues?

Transit and transportation

Ontario Liberal Party

Premier Kathleen Wynne and her governing Liberals have pledged an investment program valued at more than $130 million intended to expand the province’s transit and transportation infrastructure, while also building and growing hospitals, schools, colleges and universities. In terms of specific projects impacting York Region, the Liberals propose an investment of $15 billion for various transit projects in the GTHA, including the electrification of GO Transit’s rail lines and the implementation of all-day, two-way service on the various rail corridors, including the Barrie line up to the East Gwillimbury GO station. The Grits also plan to spend an additional $14 billion on projects outside of the GTHA.

Progressive Conservative Party

PC Leader Tim Hudak and his party vow to fix congestion in the GTA by putting the provincial government in charge of all rail-based transit and major highways to better connect Toronto with the communities that surround it. This can be done without raising taxes by taking advantage of the annual $12-billion capital budget, allotting future budget surpluses for infrastructure, increasing the role of the private sector and using the funds found in the proposed Ontario Transportation Trust, according to the party. In addition to a new east-west subway, the PCs also pledge to expand GO Transit service, add more rush hour rail service and implement all-day, two-way train service in the GTHA.

Ontario New Democratic Party

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and her party will create a dedicated fund of $29 billion, spread over the next decade, specifically for transit and transportation projects across Ontario and will start flowing the funds right away. The NDP also pledges to boost transit investment by about $250 million for key projects, prioritize the TTC downtown relief line, which has been cited as a key component in making the Yonge Street subway extension north to Richmond Hill a reality, and widening 60 kilometres of highways across the province every year.

Social housing


The Liberals have a section of their plan dedicated to community sustainability and a component of that pledges to amend the building code to permit wood-frame buildings up to six storeys, which experts say could improve housing affordability, to encourage the construction of more mid-rise, mixed-use buildings.


The NDP says it will protect Ontario tenants by helping municipalities enforce building standards and maintenance rules to ensure landlords live up to their responsibilities.

Job creation


The Liberals propose a six-part, 10-year jobs and investment plan that aims to boost spending on education, training and transitioning to work, develop a youth jobs strategy, put more money toward transportation and infrastructure, foster a more dynamic and innovative business climate, support small business and manage the public finances responsibly. They’re also promising to complete the implementation of full-day kindergarten, maintain the 30-per-cent tuition grant, create a 10-year, $2.5-billion jobs and prosperity fund, establish a 10-year, $130-billion infrastructure plan and keep the tax rate for businesses competitive, while also balancing the books by 2017-18.


The PCs list a number of measures to transform Ontario into what they’ve called “A Jobs Powerhouse”. These include cutting corporate welfare and reducing business taxes by 30 per cent, increasing opportunities in the skilled trades, reducing energy costs, eliminating unnecessary rules and regulations, reducing taxes on families, competing for skilled immigrants, permitting Ontario and Canadian pension plans to invest in government-owned businesses, relieving congestion on our roads and strengthening the link between post-secondary institutions and jobs.


The NDP says it will establish a job creation tax credit equal to 10 per cent of an employee’s salary, up to a maximum of $5,000, gradually reduce the small business tax rate to 3 per cent and attract new jobs in the manufacturing sector by rewarding firms that invest in buildings, machinery and/or equipment, all with an eye toward bolstering employment. The party further plans to assist individuals aged 55 to 64 get back in the workforce and would like to create an emerging industries fund meant to support the province’s high-tech and creative sectors.



The Liberals want to build smart, livable communities, while also working to preserve farmland and ecologically sensitive lands and protect water resources. They further pledge to expand the outer boundary of the greenbelt over the next six years and establish a farms forever program that would support the agricultural sector and encourage more local food.


The PC plan mentions the environment under its pledge to slash red tape and reduce the regulatory burden for Ontario’s agricultural, construction, cultural and manufacturing industries. It says it will ensure the mandates of conservation authorities are balancing the needs of the economy and the environment. However, it does mention the environment, along with public safety and consumer protection, are areas where regulations belong.


The NDP includes in its plan a revolving fund that would give homeowners loans to perform energy efficient retrofits of their homes and install solar panels that would be paid back through the energy savings. The party also proposes to commit $2 million annually to ensure adequate public consultation and environmental assessments on future pipeline projects.

Emergency services arbitration awards


The PC plan proposes an across-the-board, two-year pay freeze for all public servants that will also apply to the more than 4,000 public sector collective bargaining agreements. The move will save $1 billion per year, the party says, and also puts forward that those in charge of settling government contract disputes should be required to compare the wages for public sector employees against their private sector counterparts while considering what taxpayers can reasonably afford.