TORONTO, ON – Investment in a long-term infrastructure plan and research and development for autonomous vehicles will be part of the Ontario Liberal’s 2017 provincial budget which the provincial governement unveiled on Thursday.
While the 2017 Ontario Budget includes many of the highway infrastructure plans from last year’s budget like the 10-year infrastructure plan, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced plans to create a long-term infrastructure plan by the end of 2017 that would detail the province’s existing infrastructure portfolio, outlining anticipated needs and proposes strategies for all of Ontario infrastructure plans.
In addition, the province has announced it is investing $80 million over five years to create the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network, in partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence. This network will focus on the economic potential of autonomous vehicles and help the province’s transportation systems and infrastructure adapt to autonomous technology.
The investment will aid industry-led autonomous vehicle research and development and allocate sites across Ontario to develop, test and validate new technology. The investment will also see the creation of a demonstration zone for autonomous vehicle technology in Stratford.
As the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA) is involved in many stakeholder efforts in both Canada and the U.S. on the issue of autonomous vehicles, the association says it looks forward to working with provincial officials on navigating the operational, infrastructure and regulatory considerations related to highly automated vehicles in Ontario.
Additionally, the OTA and the Canadian Trucking Association (CTA) lauded the provinces commitment in promoting stronger trade relations with the U.S., as the budget indicates Ontario will establish a Premier’s Committee on Ontario- U.S. Economic and Trade Relations and support the federal government’s attempts to create a positive dialogue with partner in the U.S. ahead of further discussions between the two regarding possible changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The OTA is also looking into the potential impacts, if any, the industry will face due to the further expansion of the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) program. The 2017 budget will see the program lower the eligibility threshold from one megawatt to 500 kilowatts for specific manufacturing and industrial sectors, which includes greenhouse gases.
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