The Globe and Mail reports today that Premier Dalton McGuinty has pledged $17.5 billion for transit projects across the GTA and Hamilton.
According to the article, the pledge includes two rapid-transit lines for Hamilton, as well as a number of improvements and expansions of Toronto's subway.
The province has committed to funding two-thirds of the total cost of the projects, with the remainder earmarked to come from the federal government.
This is great news for Hamilton. Hamilton needs better transit but has trouble finding adequate funds for it. The prospect of better transit in Hamilton without the requirement of investment at a municipal level is tantalizing.
Critics, however, say the pledge is cynical electioneering, a promise likely to be broken by a premier they accuse of breaking past promises, including the pledge not to raise taxes and McGuinty's subsequent introduction of a health care premium (Raise the Hammer noted the reason McGuinty introduced the premium in a recent article).
I find the criticisms about "broken promises" interesting. It's always unpleasant when governments raise taxes. However, the Harris-Eves Conservative government left the province with a massive deficit.
It seems unlikely that McGuinty would make the politically risky move to renege on campaign promises and anger the electorate simply because he has a perverse love of making Ontarians suffer. Instead, it is more plausible that McGuinty acted the way he did in order to avoid financial ruin as the result of the Conservative government's mismanagement of, and deception about, Ontario's finances.
Now that provincial coffers are recovering from the Harris years, McGuinty clearly believes it's time to reward the voters - and his own electoral chances - by spreading around a little love.
Starting with public transit is an excellent idea and one in which McGuinty places himself firmly on the right side of public opinion and environmental necessity.
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