THREE YEARS ago, the Conservative government in the Province of Ontario dumped financial responsibility for GO Transit on local authorities under a deal that saw it taking on funding of education. It also scrapped subsidies for Toronto Transit Commission. Now it has had second thoughts.

The province intends to restore funding to GO Transit by assuming 75% of the costs now paid by Toronto and other municipalities, a move that would also benefit TTC. Not only that, but it would also invest in the expansion of GO commuter services. The measures form part of a wide-ranging transport development programme outlined on September 26 by Premier Mike Harris, who promised that Ontario will spend C$3bn over the next decade on public transit and transport infrastructure.

The municipalities were simply not able to afford to expand GO services and maintain the infrastructure while subsidising operations, which this year will cost C$196m just for GO. Crucial to the Harris plan is a C$3bn contribution from federal government, which has yet to endorse the scheme.

Although the province would take on all capital expenditure, including some expansion of service, the private sector will be encouraged to invest in several proposed projects such as a line to Pearson International Airport and a new network of light rail lines in greater Toronto. The plan will also provide about C$1·1bn in financial assistance for cash-strapped TTC, which is seeking to expand the city’s subway network while facing an urgent need for C$3·8bn in the next decade to renew infrastructure and replace rolling stock.

  • A study published on October 12 by the Canadian Urban Transit Association suggests that C$13·6bn must be spent on public transport in Canada in the next five years to maintain services and keep pace with growth.