Where Investing in Transit Can Take Us

Earlier today, Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke to the Toronto Region Board of Trade about the need to make investments in transit.

By Premier Kathleen Wynne

The first subway line in Toronto opened in 1954, the year after I was born. I still remember riding the subway with my grandmother as a little girl. I was wearing my white gloves because it was a special occasion. Everyone was so excited, so proud.

Today, in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the average commute time is 82 minutes a day. Gridlock is a major issue affecting our province’s productivity.

This is not just an issue of commute times for people in one region. Congestion in the GTHA hurts farmers who want to move food through the region quickly, truck drivers trying to get to the US border, tourists trying to visit and countless families who want to move from one side of the city to the other, without getting stuck in endless traffic

Fixing transportation infrastructure will improve our lifestyle and our economy. It will also have a positive impact on our tourism, our natural environment and on the health of the millions of people who call this region home.

That’s why I know we have to move forward on this conversation.

But I don’t want anyone to think that transit or the GTHA is getting unfair attention or disproportionate investment.

And so it’s important to note that for the past 20 years, transit investment in Ontario has lagged well behind the funding we have put into the province’s road network, our bridges and underpasses.

That part of our transportation puzzle has received hundreds of millions a year; and in the past nine years, billions.

In contrast, there have been several years in that time period when the provincial government’s capital expenditure on transit was exactly zero.

There is a pressing need for change. That is not up for debate.

But when I listen to the rhetoric around transportation investment, I believe some politicians have made a short-sighted decision to avoid real solutions.

I know improving our daily commute is not about scoring political points. It’s about ensuring Ontario’s success. And that is my core responsibility as the Premier of this province.

People are ready to get moving. But to develop real momentum we have to change the way we talk about these investments.

We need to bring excitement back to the discussion of transportation infrastructure, and where it can take us, our children and grandchildren.

We have to talk about what we DO want. We want every part of this province to move quickly, safely and efficiently so that we can all benefit.

When it comes down to it, transportation investments will need tens of billions of dollars over the next twenty years. Our whole provincial budget each year is about $125B. 

And our spending on programs including education and health care is already tightly constrained, the lowest of any province.

We need to find dedicated revenue for these projects, because the money cannot be found elsewhere.

I  believe that any new funds must be directly tied to a measurable result. People need to know what they are paying for; they need to see where the money is going.

Whether the need is for new transit in the GTHA, light-rail lines in Ottawa, bridge repairs in Kenora or highway refurbishing in Huron County, we need to get this done.

We need to get Ontario moving.

So I will keep talking about what we can achieve for this great province. I will focus on the positive impact we can make through smart, fair investment.

But I need your help. Let’s tap into the desire for a safer drives, a better commute, cleaner air, a stronger economy. I know the will is there.  I know the support exists. And progress will be made.

Together we can get this done.