Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario set to spend $13.5 billion on transport, health and education

Ontario's opposition NDP party agreed on May 21 to back the governing Liberals' Budget for 2013, averting an election and clearing the way for plans for infrastructure spending to move ahead.

May 22, 2013   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario’s opposition NDP party agreed on May 21 to back the governing Liberals’ Budget for 2013, averting an election and clearing the way for plans for infrastructure spending to move ahead.

Premier Kathleen Wynne’s minority government presented the budget on May 2, but it has taken weeks for the NDP to negotiate its support.

The budget as tabled promised to spend $13.5 billion in 2013-14 on infrastructure in “the most critical areas,” namely transportation, health care and education. Over the next three years it will spend more than $35 billion.

These announcements were prefaced with the government pointing out that investments in infrastructure are critical to nurturing business and investment in the province at a time when the world faces continued global economic uncertainty.

The government justifies its spending plans by pointing out: “The Conference Board of Canada recently found that each $100 million of public infrastructure investment in Ontario boosts GDP by $114 million, particularly in the construction and manufacturing sectors.”

In transportation, the government intends to add tolls to build more high-occupancy vehicle (HOV/HOT) lanes on sections of Highways 401, 404, 410 and 427 in the Greater Toronto Area. It is also converting some of these to toll lanes: carpooling drivers could continue to use the lanes free, but solo drivers would have to pay a toll.

Also in the GTA, the government said it will proceed with the planned extension of Highway 427 to Major Mackenzie Drive in York Region. Construction will begin in 2016 and will include three interchanges, nine bridges and protection for a future transitway and stations along the west side.

Among other highway projects, the government will proceed with extending Highway 407 east through Durham Region to connect with Highway 35/115 in Clarington, and in Ottawa it intends to widen Highway 417.

The government also said it will create a “New Infrastructure Fund” of $100 million for 2013-14 for roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure in small, rural and Northern municipalities. The fund will be in addition to the Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative.

In public transit, the province is funding 96 transit systems serving 127 communities through the gas tax transfer. The funding includes $600 million for Ottawa’s light rail, $300 million for Waterloo’s rapid transit, and $870 million to help extend the Yonge-University-Spadina subway in Toronto and Vaughan. Through Metrolinx the province is supporting projects just getting under way such as the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown light rail project in Toronto, 34 kilometres of planned dedicated rapid transit bus lanes in York Region, and rail service between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Union Station. The province also said it plans to increase spending on GO Transit over the next 10 years.

In the health sector the province will provide $3.5 billion over three years to support 19 major hospital projects under construction and more than 30 that are in the planning stages. Projects include building new hospitals in Oakville, Kingston, Hamilton and Vaughan.

For construction spending in the education sector, the government plans to provide $3.6 billion to build or renovate almost 90 schools and help build facilities for full-day kindergartens to be available by September 2014.

Post-secondary facilities will receive more than $800 million for 20 projects, including a school of architecture at Laurentian University.

To read the Ontario Budget presented May 3, click here.

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