Horwath says city could use LRT cash for other transit
NDP leader says she’d be unhappy if council killed LRT, but said it’s up to council to decide priorities
Andrea Horwath says she would give Hamilton city council $1 billion for any transit project — not just LRT — if she is elected premier on June 7.
The NDP leader and Hamilton Centre MPP said while she would personally prefer to see an LRT system in Hamilton, she said an NDP government wouldn’t force city council to build it. Instead, she says that council could use the $1 billion earmarked for LRT on any transit-related project.
“The reality is, the province shouldn’t be deciding what municipalities choose to do with their transit systems,” she said. “I would cry; I would be unhappy; it would make me sad, because I’m a supporter of the LRT and always have been — but it’s important to acknowledge that the municipal order of government has these responsibilities in terms of envisioning the transit projects for their cities.”
The bombshell comment sets up a sharp contrast between the three major party leaders when it comes to the divisive subject of LRT.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government has agreed to pay for the
$1-billion LRT line, but the cash would be revoked if council voted to kill the project. PC Leader Doug Ford has said that Hamilton could keep the $1 billion in LRT money to spend on general infrastructure, even if council decides to switch gears and abandon the project.
Horwath’s promise, made at an editorial board meeting at The Spectator on Thursday afternoon, sees Horwath staking out a middle ground. The surprise announcement has the potential to anger some NDP stalwarts, many of whom are LRT advocates, but also to woo voters who are unsure about the massive transit project.
Horwath says she has faith that Hamilton councillors would take into account the years of planning and the millions of dollars that have already been poured into LRT — including the expropriation of homes along the planned route — when making their decision.
“I would hope that the municipal decision-makers would be responsible in terms of switching tracks — pardon the pun,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the premier’s responsibility to dictate that local decision-making. You have to draw the line and acknowledge that these folks get elected at the local level to make the local decisions.”
In her 50-minute conversation with the editorial board, Horwath also touched on the following issues (edited for space and clarity):
On why the NDP didn’t launch an internal investigation into MPPs Paul Miller and Monique Taylor after harassment allegations were levelled against them:
“My understanding is that there was an offer to have an independent investigation, but that’s something the parties needed to
agree to in terms of the complainants, and they preferred to go through the other avenues — which is the grievance procedure, as well as the Human Rights Tribunal. My understanding from the HR department was that they made that offer, but it was not something that the complainants wanted to pursue.”
On whether the NDP can shake the spectre of a Bob Rae government:
“It’s not 1990 anymore. There are many people who will be voting in this election who weren’t even alive when Bob Rae formed a government, and I’m no Bob Rae. I have a different vision, a different set of values, and I won’t be switching to be a Liberal any time soon.”
On corporate tax increases:
“We’ve seen the Liberal government reduce corporate taxes over the past number of years, and so we’re going to reverse the cuts. In the second year (of our term), we’re going to go up one point, to 12.5 per cent. In the third year, we’re going to go to 13 per cent,
and we’re going to stick there.
“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years building relationships with the business community, and I started that work here as a downtown councillor. One of the things they’ve told me from day one is that business is pretty nimble, but ‘We can’t change things on a dime. So if the government’s going to make changes, you’ve got to give us enough notice to incorporate those changes into our business plans, our forecast, so we can adapt. Because we can adapt to anything — but you’ve got to give us notice. We don’t want shocks, and we don’t want surprises.’”
On her plan to offer universal dental care:
“I believe, and I think many people would agree, that this uncertainty is going to be with us for awhile. We don’t know where it’s going to land, and in the meantime, we’ve got people making terrible decisions about putting off their dental care. Every three minutes, someone goes to a hospital, an emergency ward, or a doctor’s office, to get pain in their mouth dealt with. Why?
Because they know they don’t have to pull out a credit card to pay for their visit.”
On how her party can maintain its momentum until the June 7 election:
“I want to stay focused on what I believe is my most important task, which is to show the people of Ontario that they don’t have to keep bouncing back and forth between Liberals and Conservatives. After 25 years, families are feeling the squeeze, folks are not feeling like they’re getting ahead, people are struggling still. My focus is to tell those folks that it doesn’t have to be that way, and show them there’s an option for change for the better.”
Editor’s note: The Spec extended invitations to three major party leaders for a one-on-one interview or an editorial board meeting. Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne sat down for an interview with the Spec earlier this week. Doug Ford’s campaign has not responded to the Spec’s request.
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath at The Spectator editorial board meeting on Thursday.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath visited St. Catharines’ Via Rail station on Thursday to talk about GO expansion.