Ontario’s election watch approaches red alert
Queen’s Park has been bracing for a possible springtime election for months, and now we know what might cause it: new fees for public transit. The Star reports that provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath is threatening to topple Kathleen Wynne’s government if the Liberal premier tries to include “new taxes, tolls or fees that hit middle-class families” in Ontario’s next budget. The move is clearly aimed at the Liberal party’s ongoing attempts to implement new “revenue tools” to pay for new public-transit projects in the Greater Toronto Area. Without, at minimum, increasing the gas tax and tapping the HST for a few million a year, it’s likely that Queen’s Park will have difficulty delivering on Metrolinx’s commitment to build, among other things, a new relief subway line for east-end Toronto commuters.
Presumably Horwath would have no trouble bringing Tim Hudak and his provincial Conservatives on-side; they have no love for new taxes, and they want an election. Wynne’s position is especially difficult because her own government apparatus has produced two separate reports in favour of tax hikes and fees for Toronto public transit—one of them from Metrolinx and the other from an official advisory panel. And so Wynne’s choice, apparently, is either to ignore advice and possibly inflame her left-leaning, urban-dwelling base, or to risk going to the polls in a few months. She has already said that she’d choose the latter.