By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 0 Comments
TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s not afraid to fight an election and…
TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne says she’s not afraid to fight an election and make transit infrastructure — as well as the politically toxic taxes and levies that would likely go with it — a major part of her platform.
“I’m prepared to go to an election at any point and have the importance of infrastructure be a central part of my campaign,” she said Tuesday in Belleville, Ont.
Infrastructure means different things in different parts of the province, from municipal roads and bridges to building public transit in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Wynne said.
But everyone has a vested interest in finding new ways to fund those improvements, she said.
“We have to build transit in order to be able to grow the economy, and growing the economy in the GTHA is integral to growing the economy across the province,” Wynne said.
“So I’m quite prepared to say that it is necessary for us to build transit going forward, it’s necessary to do it in an incremental way and we need revenue streams in order to do that.”
Metrolinx, the provincial transportation agency, has laid out 11 ways to help pay for transit improvements in the Toronto-Hamilton region, including a hike in the sales tax, tolls on 400-series highways and a half-cent-a-litre tax on gasoline.
That means everyone in Ontario could end up paying for those projects, even if they don’t use the system.
Other options include a hike in property taxes, a new payroll tax, parking levies, a new charge for every kilometre a vehicle travels and allowing drivers to pay to use high-occupancy vehicle lanes even if they have no passengers.
All the revenues would be dedicated to public transit projects, with 25 per cent carved out for municipalities in the area to spend on local transit and transportation projects, the agency said.
Metrolinx, which released the short list Tuesday, will make its final recommendations to the Ontario government by June.
About $2 billion a year is needed to fund public transit improvements in the area, said Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig.
The proposed measures may be unpopular with voters, but Ontario can’t afford to wait any longer, he said. People want action and governments must respond.
“Going forward with a slow approach in dealing with our congestion challenge isn’t going to be a sustainable path for us,” McCuaig said.
“People are impatient for results. They want to see these kinds of issues dealt with.”
People are willing to pay more to build transit, Wynne said during an earlier stop in Peterborough.
“If the question is, ‘Do we want to have the right infrastructure in place … so that goods and people can move around the GTHA?’ The answer is yes. Everyone wants that,” she said.
Not Toronto’s tax-allergic mayor. Rob Ford reacted the way many drivers likely did when they heard the recommendations: pretending to vomit.
“People aren’t ready for new taxes yet, they just aren’t,” he said. “So I can’t support any of these new taxes.”
Ford’s reaction is “unfortunate,” Wynne said.
“I think this is a very important conversation because the reality is, there’s not a mayor or councillor in the GTHA — or, I would suggest, in any urban centre around Ontario — who doesn’t believe that we need more dollars for infrastructure and transit.”
But municipalities outside the Toronto region aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of paying for its transit projects either, according to Allan O’Dette, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve heard that,” he said. “I’ve heard that comment from many.”
There’s also a “concern” between the 416 and 905 areas about who pays, he said.
Transportation Minister Glen Murray said the government will wait for the final report before making any decisions about raising taxes or levies.
Although the federal government administers the harmonized sales tax, there is the possibility of collecting a regional sales tax, rather than spreading out the tax burden across the province, he said.
“I would think that if there is revenue being generated from outside the GTHA, then I think in reasonable equity, you would see that money going into the communities outside the GTHA,” Murray said in an interview.
Opposition Leader Tim Hudak left the door open to new tolls, taxes or levies if the Progressive Conservatives form the next government.
“Here’s the bottom line: any kind of new tolls or taxes should be your last resort, not your first instinct, and we need to be very, very cautious about Liberal politicians who look all too eager to grab more money,” he said.
No matter what measures are implemented — whether it be road tolls or a new tax — they will likely be permanent, though they may need to be recalibrated periodically, said McCuaig.
“The need for investment doesn’t stop at the next-wave projects,” he said.
By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 8:42 PM - 0 Comments
TORONTO – The prospect of a spring election drew closer Tuesday as Ontario’s opposition…
TORONTO – The prospect of a spring election drew closer Tuesday as Ontario’s opposition leaders took a hard line on the governing Liberals’ agenda for the new legislative session.
Rookie Premier Kathleen Wynne’s throne speech promised to make the minority parliament work by embracing ideas the opposition parties could support after a bitterly divisive fall session.
But the Progressive Conservatives made it clear they weren’t interested in hugging it out.
The only way to rescue the province from financial ruin is to “change the team,” said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak, adding that his party will vote against the speech.
“I just think the approach that says, a little bit of PC, a little bit of NDP and a whole lot of Dalton McGuinty isn’t going to get us out of this mess,” he said.
“What I heard today was Premier Wynne deciding to entrench the McGuinty agenda that brought us the biggest jobs and debt crisis that we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”
The New Democrats will vote for the throne speech and stave off an election for now, said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
But that support will disappear if her list of demands aren’t in the spring budget, she said.
“I’ve been pretty clear. The expectations are not outrageous, they’re not unachievable,” Horwath said.
“They’re things that I need to see in the budget. That’s it.”
It’s the clearest sign yet that Ontario could be plunged in an election this spring, unless the Liberals can persuade one of the parties to support their fiscal plan.
The speech laid out their blueprint for the new legislative session, promising to pay down Ontario’s $12-billion deficit while building a “fair society” that leaves no one behind.
It also promised to work collaboratively with the opposition parties “in the spirit of renewed co-operation” to get things done.
Wynne expressed hope that her overtures would encourage the opposition parties to work out their differences.
“I think that there is lots for both opposition parties to work with us on,” she said. “I hope that they’re able to see that.”
Improving homecare and tackling youth unemployment are issues that all three parties can get behind, she said.
“Those are things that really are not partisan issues,” Wynne said. “Those are concerns of the people of the province.”
The Liberals also promised in the speech to keep a close eye on corporate taxes, work with public sector workers on wage talks and give local residents more say in whether they get a wind farm, gas plant or casino.
They plan to restrain spending to one per cent below gross domestic product once the budget is balanced in 2017-18 — something the Liberals believed the Tories would support.
They also said they’d “evaluate corporate tax compliance,” which the NDP wanted.
The Liberals also reached out to the opposition parties on the Employer Health Tax, saying they’d consider raising the exemption threshold.
Currently, businesses don’t have to pay the tax on the first $400,000 of payroll, but the NDP wanted to end the exemption for businesses with payrolls over $5 million.
The Liberals promised to tackle youth and aboriginal unemployment, while making efforts to give people with disabilities better access to jobs. The government will also contribute $50 million to a new venture capital fund to give small- and medium-sized businesses a leg up, the speech said.
At the same time, they’ll let people on social assistance keep more of their earnings when they work.
As for the Liberals’ rocky relationship with labour groups and teachers angry over imposed contracts, the government will “build a sustainable model for wage negotiations” that will respect collective bargaining, the speech stated.
“It will show its respect for teachers, support staff, principals and school boards,” Lt. Gov. David Onley said as he read the speech.
Union leaders said there are ongoing talks about bringing back extracurricular activities, but their members are looking for something more concrete.
“I didn’t hear anything in particular in the throne speech that gave me any other sense of encouragement or hope,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario.
The Liberals said they’d make transit, roads and bridges a priority, hinting that improving such infrastructure may require politically unpopular levies.
Provincially funded Metrolinx is musing about charging commuters for parking at their GO Transit stations — something the Liberals promised they wouldn’t do last year when they hiked licence and registration fees.
But Wynne said it’s too early to say which “revenue tools” should be used.
Municipalities should have a say in it, as well as a voice in their regional development, the speech said.
“So that local populations are involved from the beginning if there is going to be a gas plant or a casino or a wind plant or a quarry in their hometown,” Onley read.
By macleans.ca - Monday, January 14, 2013 at 10:28 AM - 0 Comments
On Dalton McGuinty’s response to the tragic Newtown shooting
Canada is not the United States.
It shouldn’t be necessary to make such an obvious observation. But with the premier of Canada’s largest province apparently overlooking this fact, it seems worth repeating.
In one of his final policy moves before retiring later this month, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty recently announced a “locked-door policy” for all 4,000 publicly funded elementary schools in the province; and a $10-million fund to pay for new security systems so school visitors can be “buzzed in.” This in response to the horrific shooting of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last December.
“In the aftermath of that tragic event that unfolded in the U.S., I think there’s an important question that we need to ask ourselves: are we taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of our kids at school?” McGuinty said in making the announcement. Continue…
Special Outside the Queensway poll: Because we can't resist a bout of aggressively uninformed leadership speculation
By kadyomalley - Friday, March 6, 2009 at 3:39 PM - 62 Comments