Ontario PC Leader tries to turn the tables on the provincial Liberals

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Ontario PC Leader Patrick Brown wouldn’t commit to continuing a high-speed rail project that would link London to Toronto if his party wins the next election.

“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,” Brown said Tuesday at a campaign-style stop in St. Thomas .

“What I will commit to is that we actually get shovels in the ground, that we spend our infrastructure dollars wisely.”

In May, the Liberal government announced it’s beginning early design work for a high-speed rail line between Windsor and Toronto.

The province said it will spend $15 million on an environmental assessment of the project that would cost an estimated $20 billion.

The province hopes to have the first high speed rail line between London and Toronto running by 2025. The London to Windsor connection would follow by 2031.

But the surprise spring announcement is hitting a sour note with Brown, who said the Liberals are only raising the high speed rail discussion to attract votes.

“The last election, the Liberals promised a study on high-speed rail. It didn’t happen and now they’re doing it again,” he said.

“If you re-elect the Liberals, you’ll be talking about to for another 20 years.”

Brown, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Premier Kathleen Wynne are touring the province this summer as parties prepare for the election, scheduled to be held June 7, 2018.

Brown pointed to the Grits’ mismanagement of the infrastructure portfolio as a major barrier to big-ticket projects like high-speed rail.

“Maybe if we weren’t . . . replacing the 403 every two years instead of every 15 years we would have funding available for great projects like high speed rail,” he said.

Under the Liberal government’s plan, the high speed trains would travel up to 250 km/h, cutting the roughly four-hour commute from Windsor to Toronto in half. Proposed stops along the route include Chatham, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph and Pearson International Airport, the country’s busiest aviation hub.

The project is touted as a major economic booster because the Windsor to Toronto corridor is home to seven million people and makes up 50 per cent of Ontario’s GDP.

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