A high-speed train and a deal with docs
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
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.