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Provincial NDP Leader Andrea Horwath won’t commit to building high-speed rail running between Toronto and Windsor – a key Liberal pledge aimed at riding-rich Southwestern Ontario.
During a Thursday swing through the region, the New Democrat boss stopped short of matching the political promise of Premier Kathleen Wynne: that the Grits promise to build, not just study, the potentially transformative project.
There’s widespread cynicism about the Liberal pledge – they’ve made similar ones before – and that’s not lost on the NDP, Horwath said.
“I know they’ve made the announcement for, I think, two elections now but really nothing’s happened,” Horwath said Thursday. “But I guess they’re starting to do some of the initial planning and research.
“And certainly, when we form a government in 2018, we’ll be following up with that (research). There’s no doubt about it.”
Horwath won’t commit to construction before a key study, dubbed an environmental assessment, is done.
The Liberals have removed any equivocation from their political promise.
In a June interview with The Free Press, London North Centre MP Deb Matthews – the deputy premier – was clear on the party’s commitment to build it.
“It’s no longer if we’re going to build it. It’s how,” Matthews said. “We’re moving forward on this.”
Asked to make it even clearer – if re-elected, will the Liberals build high-speed rail from Toronto to at least London, if not farther west? – Matthews said: “Yes. . . . High-speed rail will be coming to London and then on to Windsor after that.
“The first phase is (Toronto’s) Union Station to Pearson Airport to Guelph to Kitchener-Waterloo to London.”
Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, also stopped short of matching that political promise.
During a recent swing through the area, Brown’s support was tepid.
“I do think (high-speed rail) is valuable, I do think it’s a worthy goal and under this Liberal government it will never happen,” he said.
“What I will commit to is making sure that we actually get shovels in the ground, that we spend our infrastructure dollars wisely. . . . What I promise you is that we’ll get better value for infrastructure.”
The Liberals have committed $15 million on an environmental-assessment study for the rail line that would go as fast as 250 kilometres an hour. At that speed, a London-Toronto trip would be less than an hour, bringing the Forest City within the commuter orbit of Canada’s largest city.
Such a project could entice people to leave Toronto for other Southwestern Ontario communities, without having to leave their jobs. That would ease the population pressure that creates gridlocked traffic and other issues in Toronto.
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