The Ford government introduced its 2022 Budget on April 28. As the Ontario legislature was dissolved one week later due to the upcoming provincial election, the budget was not debated or passed. However, it does represent the election platform of the Ford government, and presumably will be re-introduced if the Progressive Conservatives win the election.
In the transportation area, the Budget has few surprises and largely represents a restatement of previous commitments. Key items include:
- Highways, highways, highways. Although more funds are to be expended to public transit, it is clear that this government’s top priority is highways. A total of $25.1B over 10 years is slated for “planning and/or construction of highway expansion and rehabilitation projects” across the province, including the construction of new Highway 413, new Bradford Bypass and widening of numerous other highways across Ontario. No cost breakdown is given for these projects. (Independent experts have estimated a construction cost of $8 – 10B for Highway 413).
- Other driver benefits. These include removal of tolls on Highways 412 and 418, removal of license fees, 5.7c/l reduction in gas tax from July – December, 2022, and changes in auto insurance rules to give consumers more choice and reduce fraud.
- $61B to public transit over 10 years. The cited projects are well known and have been costed out. The key committed projects are GO Expansion (see posting on this website January 13, 2022 for details) and the 4 GTA subway projects (Ontario Line, Yonge North, Scarborough and Eglinton West). All these projects are moving forward.
- GO Milton improvements not funded. Despite a federal commitment of up to $500M (50%), the Budget was silent on provincial matching funding to convert this busy line to all-day two-way service.
- Transit Oriented Communities (TOC). Agreements have been signed to build TOCs at 7 stations on the Ontario Line and the Yonge North Subway Extension to provide new funding sources for the province for construction.
- New GTA Projects. Continued planning on Sheppard East subway extension and on Eglinton Crosstown West extension to Pearson Airport.
- Discussion of three extension projects for GO Transit:
- London, where the province is “proceeding with planning work and investment for track improvements to support implementation of faster and more frequent service” (no details).
- Niagara, where the province “continues to work with rail partners” (no details).
- Northeastern Passenger Rail. $75M to support corridor, fleet and station upgrades for service between Toronto and Timmins, with a rail connection to Cochrane. Although this is a good start, we note that this is insufficient to cover the full capital cost of $150M – $230M, as cited in the Updated Initial Business Case.
- Shortline railways absent. There was no discussion in the Budget on preserving shortline railways, such as the Barrie-Collingwood or Orangeville-Brampton lines.
- Coach Refurbishing. $280M for funding to refurbish 150 GO Transit bi-level coaches in Thunder Bay and North Bay.
- References to the GGH Transportation Plan with 100+ actions and to the Northern Task Force that will “inform the government of the most important local needs”.
As readers know, Transport Action Ontario is deeply involved in most of these projects and will continue to closely monitor, support or oppose them, regardless of who wins the upcoming election.