TORONTO–Ontario’s Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s budget includes a 10-year, $130-billion infrastructure push, generated by supermarket beer sales and selling off 60 percent of Hydro One.
“This will be one of the largest infrastructure investments in Canada since the Last Spike was driven, completing the Canadian Pacific Railway,” Sousa told the legislature, according to media reports.
“Right now, gridlock is choking our growth potential. This is not a ‘Toronto traffic’ problem – everyone from Bowmanville to Brampton to Burlington knows how hard it is to get across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in rush hour,” he added.
According to Sousa, gridlock costs about $11-billion per year in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA) alone. He said his 10-year plan should create about 110,000 jobs.
The government is spending $11.9 billion on infrastructure in 2015-16 alone, planning for various highway upgrades and for expansions to transit projects in the GTHA and to municipal public transit in communities across the province.
In comparison, the 2015 budget increases projected dedicated funds by $2.6 billion, to $31.5 billion, available over 10 years for public transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure projects across Ontario. About $16 billion will be invested in transit projects in the GTHA and about $15 billion will be invested in transportation and other priority infrastructure projects outside the GTHA.
The budget also mentions the government will dedicate 7.5 cents of the existing provincial gasoline tax to public transit and transportation infrastructure priorities, starting in 2014-15. This is above the existing gas-tax funding provided to municipalities, with no increase to the current tax rate. They will also re-purpose revenues from the existing Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) charged on the current provincial taxes on gasoline and road diesel across the province.
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