BOWMANVILLE – If you build it they will GO.
Doug Ford posed for the cameras in a dream field of a construction site and pledged Friday to expand GO Transit train service to this burgeoning community 80 kilometers east of Toronto if he is re-elected on June 2.
The Progressive Conservative leader said he would spend $730 million to add four GO Transit stations to Durham Region, expanding the two-way, all-day commuter train service here.
“The fact is, the people of Bowmanville are frustrated. Like too many people in Oshawa and Whitby and Ajax, they feel cut off,” Ford said against the background of ten construction workers with hard hats and a front loader.
‘They are tired of waiting. Well folks, the wait is over.”
But Liberal leader Steven Del Duca, who served as transport secretary under former Prime Minister Kathleen Wynne, said the delay in expanding GO train service is Ford’s fault.
Del Duca pointed out that he approved the extension to Bowmanville on June 20, 2016, and that construction would begin in 2019 with the 2023-24 timetable.
It was originally announced in 2008 by Liberal Prime Minister Dalton McGuinty as part of a transit initiative known as the Big Move.
But after Ford’s Tories overthrew Wynne’s Liberals in the June 2018 election, the project fell by the wayside.
Andrea Horwath’s new Democrats noted that they have also advocated expanding GO train service here with the promise highlighted on their election platform.
Horwath will campaign in Bowmanville on Saturday.
Under the Tory plan, there would be new GO train stations at Thornton’s Corners East and Ritson Road in Oshawa, then another in Courtice before ending up in Bowmanville. There would be a train every 15 minutes.
With a gasoline price of $2 a liter in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the highest price in history, Ford is under pressure to bolster public transportation for commuters.
The Tory leader noted that if he wins next month’s election, the provincial portion of the July 1 gasoline tax will fall by 5.7 cents per liter for the next six months.
But Ford has resisted Del Duca’s temporary plan to cut the cost of public transportation in Ontario to $1.
The Liberal leader’s “buck-a-ride provincial” would apply to all GO and TTC tariffs, costing the Treasury at least $1 billion annually by the time it expires in 2024.
Currently, a GO bus fare from Bowmanville to Union Station in Toronto costs about $13.
That means a commuter here would save $24 a day under Del Duca’s proposed subsidy.
But Ford did not accept the liberal promise.
“Steven Del Duca will tell you that you have to choose between highway construction and transit,” he said, noting that the Liberals are opposing the 60-kilometer-long Highway 413 between Milton and Vaughan and the 10.2 km-long Bradford. Bypass connecting Highways 400 and 404.
“Everything you need to know about Del Duca and the Liberals can be summed up in one simple fact. The list of highways they want to cut is longer than the list of highways they want to build.”
The Liberals, New Democrats and Greens are opposing those new highways because of environmental concerns.
Highway 413 would cover some 810 acres of farmland — including 162 acres of protected greenbelt land — and intersect 85 waterways.
The Bradford Bypass bisects 27 waterways and the environmentally sensitive Holland Marsh lands, affecting approximately 39 hectares of wildlife habitat and 11 hectares of wetlands.
Meanwhile, McGuinty, whose government launched the 800,000-acre Greenbelt in 2005 to protect a huge swath of land surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area, is returning to the hustings.
The former prime minister, who has remained on the political sidelines since his departure in 2013, will come forward on Saturday in Ottawa-Vanier to help Liberal MPP Lucille Collard.
McGuinty, who has steered clear of the 2014 and 2018 election races, will kick off Collard’s campaign at 12:30 p.m. with a speech to her supporters.
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