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MPP Harris hansard re. All-Day Two-Way GO to/from Kitchener

December 15, 2017

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO

Thursday 7 December 2017

Private Members’ Public Business

GO Transit

Mr. Michael Harris: I am here, proud to actually join with my colleague from Kitchener–Waterloo in calling for our area Liberal neighbour representatives and their government to quit the spin and finally keep their word on delivering all-day, two-way GO rail service to and from Kitchener and Toronto.

Speaker, it has now been an entire election cycle since the Premier first came down to Kitchener to make a pre-election promise reannouncing the addition of Kitchener GO train service after having cancelled it in 2010, and committing to all-day, two-way GO. I was there; I remember.

A few months later, of course, after she formed government, she stated that more trains would be added “immediately,” adding that the full two-way service would take “a couple of years.” Her then Minister of Transportation, Pembina Glen Murray, doubled down on the vote-getting game play, but, in the true spirit of Liberal stretch promises, stretched the timeline to five years.

Since that time, we have seen the Wynne Liberals make countless visits down to our area, speaking to the importance of talks and discussions. You know, it’s too bad that with all of their trips to the area to trumpet their plan, they failed to notice that as the years stretched on, so did their stretch promise, leaving us with a couple of extra trains here and there, as well as a few new gridlocked buses, but no all-day, two-way GO—not all-day, two-way GO.

I guess we should have had a clue as to the government’s lack of intention to deliver when I had the transportation minister in committee soon after the election. It was then that the very minister we were depending on to deliver the government’s recent commitment told us that “there are a lot of commitments” that get made, “that parties make, that individual MPPs make that are aspirational in nature.” Aspirational? Speaker, now, that’s a stretch in every sense of the word. I’m left to believe that their aspirations don’t amount to much, because four years later, the boundless potential of our local tech economy continues to grind its gears as companies desperate for delivery of infrastructure promises are forced to fund their own transit initiatives just to get workers through the door. Several buses a day companies locally—OpenText, Google—are putting on our roads to bring employees into the region. While we continue to wait for this Liberal government to deliver the vital transit enhancement they promised to have up and running by 2019, our companies actually have to provide their own Toronto-to-Kitchener shuttle service just to keep their operations moving forward.

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While we wait and wait for the delivery of long-promised transit solutions, we’re forced to watch as the government wastes the money that they do spend on infrastructure—money going down the drain just like the Liberal all-day, two-way promises of the past election, promises that have again left us all in Waterloo region waiting for the train.

Speaker, I want to remind folks here that it took just four years to build the railway across Canada—four years for the entire thing.

The fact is, the Liberal Premier’s record on delivery of promised enhancements for all-day, two-way GO between Kitchener and Toronto has been a continued shell game that gets her votes and seats in the House but does little in ensuring our residents get seats on the train they need.

While the Premier and her aspirational transportation minister continue in their charade, they pull the strings on their area parliamentary assistant, the member for Kitchener Centre, who performs the requisite dance routine around the facts, reminding us of all of the work they’re doing that, to this day, has gotten us absolutely nowhere.

There was the member for Kitchener Centre back in 2015 agreeing that Kitchener trains—

Interjections.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): Order.

Hon. Jeff Leal: Point of order.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I recognize the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.

Hon. Jeff Leal: We have a tradition in this House where we don’t look at the absence of members here, and “dancing around the facts”—I would ask the table to make a ruling on that, because I know exactly what that is implying.

The Deputy Speaker (Ms. Soo Wong): I already reminded the members of the rules of the House: You don’t mind the members when they’re not here. Please, if you could not discuss people’s attendance.

I return to the member.

Mr. Michael Harris: I am quoting what a member has said.

I want to again go to the point that back in 2015, the member for Kitchener Centre said the trains “need to go faster.” That’s what she said, at the same time as highlighting a sob story to divert attention from their undelivered promises and point to jurisdictional hurdles in their way, as if they weren’t aware of those issues when they first made their commitments to, of course, garner votes.

Talk is cheap, and when it comes to this government, we’ve been getting nothing but talk the last few years, of course, and a whole lot of it.

As if the excuses weren’t enough, they also tried to slip through a timeline extension, telling us that all-day, two-way was not five years but actually 10 years away. Talk about stretching a promise, Speaker.

There was, of course, the member again in 2016 telling us that the 2016 budget “knocked her socks off” due to the series of mentions of Kitchener-Waterloo in the text. As I indicated then, I hoped that the member would keep her socks on, actually, because empty words aren’t bringing the trains to Kitchener any faster.

Neither that budget nor the next did absolutely anything to move closer to the delivery of vital transit upgrades we were promised four years ago. You’d think that after four years, they would have gotten around to the agreement with freight partners that the 2016 budget said was key to delivering all-day, two-way GO.

I know the minister previously talked here about this agreement in principle—and really, that’s all it was: an agreement to actually continue to have talks, nothing firm. Yet to this day, we continue to be dragged out to what the member calls “very substantial announcements,” only to be told that talks, of course, are ongoing.

One more time, Speaker: Talk is cheap. We need the trains.

That brings us to 2017. There again was the Liberal government member, right on cue, in August providing an annual update on why they’ve failed to deliver those trains and how far they have to go. This time they brought Metrolinx staff in to join in the dance, and who confirmed our fears: All-day, two-way under this government is more like two-way, someday.

Here’s what they revealed in August as to the issues that need to be dealt with on the way down the track to our promised and desperately needed services: They need a new 30-kilometre corridor between Bramalea and Milton to bypass CN’s existing track, to build capacity; they need 35 new bridges for road and water crossings, including significant crossings of Highways 401 and 410; they need 17 hydro towers and up to 3.4 kilometres of major gas lines to be modified and/or replaced; they need 60 kilometres of new track; they need a second 52-kilometre track between Kitchener and Georgetown; they need a fourth track between Mount Pleasant and Union Station; they a new tunnel under Highway 401 to accommodate more track, of course, on the Kitchener line; and they need other system-wide upgrades for signalling and communications systems, and renovations to existing GO stations. There is the list that we need.

That’s a pretty long list to check off for a project that the Liberals promised would be up and running by 2019. But that’s okay, because as usual, the local member 2017 update provided our annual updated timeline for delivery. Now it’s seven years from today, not from when they thought they would originally commit to this service back in 2014. In 2014, remember, there was an election. That’s when they came to town and promised to have this up and running by 2019. Now, instead of the promised trains in 2019, we’re actually looking at 2024, at best.

Our businesses and workers need those trains today. The thing is, this cannot come as a surprise to the government, including local members. Everyone else in Waterloo region gets it. The member for Kitchener–Waterloo certainly gets it. The only people who don’t seem to get it is the Liberal government. That’s why I’ve been proud on a number of occasions to join with the member for Kitchener–Waterloo, as I am today, in united efforts to call out the Liberal government for their inability or unwillingness to deliver the transit service that they in fact promised back in 2014. I joined with her in 2015 to demand transit fairness for Waterloo region, as it became clear even then that when it comes to this government meeting their transit commitments to Waterloo, we sit at the back of the bus. We joined together in 2016 to write a joint letter to the Prime Minister after, in typical Liberal pre-election fashion, Mr. Trudeau ran local ads highlighting his support for investments to deliver the long-awaited two-way, all-day GO service to and from Kitchener.

Liberals, whether they’re provincial or federal, will say anything to get elected—anything. Once a Liberal commitment, always a Liberal commitment, and you know what we say about Liberal commitments: Talk is cheap, and we’re still waiting.

I can tell you, Speaker, that the Ontario PC platform, the People’s Guarantee—I happen to have a copy here today—provides a clear commitment to move past the talk and finally deliver for the people of Waterloo region. We’ve heard from the Kitchener–Waterloo MPP of her party’s commitment as well.

Today, I am again proud to join in support of the member for Kitchener–Waterloo to move forward with her motion calling for the inclusion of all-day, two-way GO in the government’s long-term infrastructure plan and, before April 1, 2018, “a firm funding commitment and a clear timeline for the delivery of frequent all-day, two-way GO rail service along the full length of the vital Kitchener GO corridor.” I’m proud to support it on behalf of the residents right across my riding, because you know what we’re going to hear from the government side. They will roll out their usual bag of tricks, highlighting the snail-paced progress and jurisdictional hurdles without once admitting that they have failed to deliver on the service they promised residents would be receiving by 2019, in what was clearly little more than a vote-getting exercise.

If they really mean it, they can show us today. They can support the motion that’s on the floor; they can move past the rhetoric and game-playing and finally give us the train service we have been promised: urgently needed all-day, two-way service that our local economy and workers have waited for for far too long.