Planes, trains and automobiles need infrastucture

By MPP Toby Barrett

Canada was not built by people who were afraid to take on challenges. Imagine our country without the TransCanada Highway or Canadian Pacific Railway or pipelines, or infrastructure for water and sewer. And today continued upgrades to rail, sea and road links remain vital to our agri-business, manufacturing and primary industries. Sadly, over the past few years wasteful spending has held infrastructure spending ransom.

Infrastructure augments strong rural communities. And sound infrastructure decisions create a long-term return on investment, stimulate productivity and economic competitiveness and lastly, maximize tax assessment values and tax base growth.

Ontario spends something like $12 billion a year on capital projects. We are also aware of the multi millions of dollars of waste taking place because of a lack of oversight, lack of accountability and lack of transparency. Government should be explaining why it can’t re-prioritize a portion of this $12 billion, rather than increasing the HST or searching for other so-called revenue tools. A portion of the existing gas tax must be returned to rural Ontario – whether we have public transit or not. And the last thing we need is the government proposal for a 10 cent tax on a litre of fuel.

Just before Christmas, I tabled three Order Paper questions about Trillium Rail in Norfolk, the Caledonia bridge and the proposed Hagersville bypass.

Once a vital catalyst in building towns, rail is still important in attracting and maintaining  industries that deal in bulk commodities. Haldimand’s Hagersville subdivision line into Nanticoke continues to see regular traffic, but the former Trillium Rail from St. Thomas to Delhi is on life support. Trillium ceased to operate on this line late last year. Canadian National, which owns it, is currently seeking companies to operate it as a short line. In Delhi, Trillium brings in raw material for fertilizer, helping to keep the costs down for area farmers. To lose it would be a travesty.

The Argyle Street bridge in Caledonia is an area landmark, and has been on the Ministry of Transportation’s to-do list since 2002. Construction is still one to three years away and the province has yet to release a specific start date.

A few miles down the road, a cure hasn’t been found for the long proposed Highway 6 truck bypass at Hagersville.

And then there are other projects being ignored across the riding including unsafe intersections, or roads lined with potholes.

Dunnville Airport has recently closed to make way for industrial wind turbines. This airport had become a vital economic development tool for the town’s tourism industry. While the RCAF No. 6 Museum still exists, it is now a flying museum that has been grounded. Planes can no longer fly in and out – a major hit to the area’s cultural and business economy.

In the Ontario Legislature we are presently debating government legislation that that talks about the importance of a 10-year infrastructure strategy and a 10-year plan. We need a long-term vision for Ontario’s infrastructure woes to support job creation, economic growth while incorporating design excellence. It’s vital to keep in mind that any long-term plan will require a partnership of all three levels of government.

And most importantly, we must subtract political interference from the planning and building of projects vital to Ontario.