A high-speed train and a deal with docs

THE SPEC­TA­TOR’S VIEW

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - Howard El­liott

Say what you like about On­tario’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment. But you can’t ar­gue they’re go­ing qui­etly into the night. Quite the op­po­site. Af­ter sig­nif­i­cant steps about re­duc­ing hy­dro rates and launch­ing limited phar­ma­care, the Wynne gov­ern­ment an­nounced two more sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ments in re­cent days.

One, they will build a high-speed rail link be­tween Toronto and Wind­sor. And two, they have made sig­nif­i­cant progress ne­go­ti­at­ing with On­tario’s doc­tors, and a pro­posal that in­cludes send­ing fu­ture dis­putes to bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion will go be­fore On­tario Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers in June. Let’s deal with the most sig­nif­i­cant first. No one can cred­i­bly ar­gue that a high-speed rail link through south­west­ern On­tario to the U.S. bor­der isn’t needed, or isn’t a good idea. It’s been talked about for decades, but skep­ti­cism about cost kept it in the idea stage. Dal­ton McGuinty and Quebec’s then-premier Jean Charest ac­tu­ally an­nounced a link all the way from Montreal to Wind­sor, and the idea had broad sup­port. But Stephen Harper didn’t like it and as he was prime min­is­ter at time the idea died qui­etly.

Some will ar­gue the same thing about this an­nounce­ment. It’s just about the elec­tion, about buy­ing votes. Maybe. But it comes at a time when the chances of it ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing are bet­ter than they have ever been. In­stead of hav­ing a fed­eral gov­ern­ment with no in­ter­est in mod­ern­iz­ing tran­sit, we have a leader and gov­ern­ment with a stated com­mit­ment to sup­port projects ex­actly like this. And thanks to the re­cent cre­ation of the Canada In­fras­truc­ture Bank, in­tended to hook pri­vate sec­tor in­vest­ment to strate­gic gov­ern­ment in­vest­ment, the ideal ve­hi­cle ex­ists. This is the right time, and it’s over­due as any­one who suf­fers through the 401 cor­ri­dor traf­fic bot­tle­neck knows.

The trip from Toronto to Wind­sor — two hours aboard a 250-km/h train in­stead of the cur­rent four hours. Trains would start at Union Sta­tion, stop at Pear­son air­port, Kitch­ener-Water­loo, Guelph, Lon­don, Chatham and Wind­sor. Ben­e­fits: Less pres­sure on the con­gested 401; air travel ca­pac­ity freed up by re­duc­ing the need for short-haul flights; in­cen­tive pro­vided for re­gional tran­sit links.

The news about doc­tors was some­what over­shad­owed. But it is im­por­tant. It is past time for doc­tors and the gov­ern­ment to smooth out their dif­fer­ences. Bind­ing ar­bi­tra­tion isn’t a per­fect so­lu­tion, but it’s bet­ter than the sta­tus quo and it’s what doc­tors wanted.

Will any of this im­prove Lib­eral for­tunes? A new poll by Cam­paign Re­search sug­gests the gov­ern­ment has sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved its stand­ing, and could be back in con­tention thanks to hy­dro rate cuts and phar­ma­care. Th­ese new de­vel­op­ments may also help, but re­gard­less they’re both good news for On­tario.

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