A Modern Transportation System for Waterloo Region

Only Ontario Liberals Will Build High-Speed Rail


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Pvqqpooaxdvsvo2z1526408502

Did you know that the Ontario Liberals are the only political party with a real commitment to building High Speed Rail linking the Waterloo Region with Toronto?  Hard to believe, but it’s true!

Last March’s Liberal budget confirmed the commitment to allocate $11 billion to delivering high speed rail service to this region by 2025. Making this happen will be critical for the future of Waterloo — to moving people quickly and efficiently between our city and Toronto, to attracting new business investments, to reducing our carbon footprint and to securing for this region and for Canada our place as “Silicon Valley North.”

The Liberal commitment to vastly improving rail transit along the Toronto–Waterloo corridor is very strong:

  • - In 2014, the province purchased 52 kilometers of track between Kitchener and Georgetown — at a cost of $76 million — clearing a major hurdle towards delivering two-way, all-day service.
  • - Last December, Ontario issued a Request for Bids to develop terms of reference for the environmental assessment of the high speed rail project. The contract has now been awarded, and work on the first phase of the environment assessment is underway.
  • - The government has allocated $101 million over three years to support the assessment, planning, and preliminary design for the Toronto–Windsor corridor.
  • - Construction on the Hwy 401 Rail Tunnel Project needed to increase service on the Kitchener line is beginning this spring, while track improvements to support two-way, all-day rail service between Kitchener and Georgetown continue.   

All of this activity is real; it is taking us on the fastest track possible to getting real spades in the ground and to actually delivering high-speed rail service connecting citizens to the Toronto Pearson Airport and to Union Station by 2025. Citizens across Waterloo tell me how excited they are about this important, game changing project.

But what have the other political parties competing in this election had to say about this vital project? In two words: not much. 

The NDP’s nearly 100-page platform document talks a good line about expanding two-way GO service to this area, including high-speed rail.  BUT when it comes to their Fiscal Plan (buried at the back of the document), it shows absolutely NO plan to allocate funds to making good on this promise. 

From Conservative leader Doug Ford, the messages about what a PC government would do for intercity transit are, if anything, less clear.  What we do know is that he has pledged to cut $6 billion in provincial program spending, while also cancelling prospects for new provincial revenues from cap-and-trade and the foreign buyers’ tax.  While it’s true that in the heat of the May 5 leaders’ debate, Ford announced  that he would put $5 billion towards transit improvements, the fact is that his numbers simply don’t add up. So, when Ford goes shopping for the program cuts that are at the top of his list of campaign promises, we can be pretty sure that he’s going to come after the transit projects he has previously shown so little interest in.    

In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to having a personal passion for seeing high-speed, two-way rail service come to our city. In my former role as chief of staff for the city of Kitchener, I initiated, developed, and led the advocacy for this project. That we’ve come so far in making this vital transit service a reality speaks to my understanding of the need to collaborate with decision-makers in all levels of government to advance what I know is a critical need for our citizens. 

What a fully developed network of fast and frequent rail service to Southwestern Ontario means to me is that the number of car trips between the GTA and our communities will be reduced significantly, while the stress and time waste drivers are currently enduring will be cut drastically. Not only will our commuters be spared hours of sitting in traffic jams on the 401, but I and my family  like everyone else in this area — will reap the rewards from reduced car-generated pollution.

Whether there are 5 million fewer cars on the road, or simply a lot fewer cars, the environmental benefits will be very large. You just need to think that one million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) reduced — a fraction of what is expected through high speed rail — is the equivalent to the impact of planting 25 million seedlings for over 10 years or eliminating 2 million barrels of oil. 

To me, that’s a great deal. It is also a good part of the reason why I want to be part of a government that has listened to the people of Waterloo and is responding with the drive and dollars needed to meet our transit needs.

Dorothy

Dorothy McCabe
Waterloo - Ontario Liberal Party