Erin O’Toole pledges support for subways and rail projects, acknowledges Conservative platform offers no new cash – The Globe and Mail

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole waves as he gets off his bus at a campaign announcement in Whitby, Ont., on Sept. 11, 2021.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

Standing in front of the Whitby GO station Saturday, Erin O’Toole promised to expand commuter rail, build more subways and support an ambitious new passenger rail line between Toronto and Quebec City – yet he later acknowledged his platform offers no new money to pay for any of it.

The Conservative Leader said the Liberal government has allotted billions of dollars for infrastructure spending yet has fallen behind on timelines to deliver. He said a Conservative government would take those budgeted pledges and ensure projects get built.

Mr. O’Toole said the Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau has not met its targets, citing reports by Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux.

“Mr. Trudeau has allocated funds that are there. He only gets barely half of the funds deployed to build transit,” he said. “As someone who has taken transit here in the GTA, I will get it built. The money is in large part allocated in the framework over the next decade, but unless you get a government that can actually deliver, it’s not going to get projects done. We will get the money out the door and shovels in the ground.”

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Mr. O’Toole spent a second consecutive day in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area ahead of a planned visit to British Columbia later Saturday. Voters in the dozens of ridings that circle Toronto’s core are often key to determining which party ultimately forms government. Mr. O’Toole’s message since the back-to-back leaders’ debates earlier this week is that he represents a “new” Conservative party. He has also said that if his party wins, he would be the first prime minister from the GTA.

His Saturday announcement promised to prioritize four Toronto subway projects, including the all-new Ontario Line subway project, the Yonge North Subway Extension to Markham and Richmond Hill, the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Eglinton Crosstown West light-rail extension in Etobicoke and Mississauga.

Mr. O’Toole also promised in a news release Saturday to support planned expansion of Ontario’s GO commuter rail, which would lead to increased service in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

In addition, the party endorsed a project to expand VIA Rail service between Quebec City and Toronto.

“Conservatives are further committed to delivering the VIA Rail high frequency rail project with planned service from Toronto to Peterborough, Smith Falls, Ottawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivieres, and Quebec City,” the party says.

The VIA Rail project proposes to build new passenger rail lines between Quebec City and Toronto so that its trains no longer have to share tracks with freight traffic, which causes delays and limits the number of trips that can be offered.

The estimated cost of VIA’s proposal has varied from about $6-billion to as high as $12-billion. The Liberals have said they support the project and have funded some initial work, but the full cost of the project has not yet appeared in a federal budget.

The Conservative Party mentioned the VIA project in Saturday’s news release, but it is not mentioned in the party’s election platform.

The platform does include a pledge to shut down the Liberal-created Canada Infrastructure Bank, which has yet to allocate most of its $35-billion budget. The bank has a mandate to partner with large private sector investors, like pension funds, to invest in large Canadian projects. The Conservative Party has pointed to this pool of funds as an example of existing federal dollars that can be shifted to priority projects.


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