Wynne visits region, promotes plan of ‘fairness and opportunity’

Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks with Ian McLean, president and CEO of the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, at a lunch event in Kitchener on Monday. – Peter Lee,Record staff

KITCHENER — Premier Kathleen Wynne spoke with Kitchener-Waterloo’s business community on Monday, providing an overview of her government’s past record and future plans.

“Our plan addresses head on the issues of fairness and opportunity,” Wynne said to the crowd in downtown Kitchener at a luncheon hosted by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber is hosting three provincial party leaders ahead of the election scheduled for June 2018. Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has already attended and PC Leader Patrick Brown is scheduled to speak on Nov. 23.

Wynne reviewed the government’s free tuition plan for low income students, the hike in minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2019, planned drug coverage for those 25 years of age and under to start next year, the proposed high speed rail service to run from Toronto through to Windsor, and enhanced retirement security.

The plan for the high speed transit line — which was announced earlier this year — will connect to the Waterloo Region.

“The planning work is in the beginning stages; as you know the environmental assessment is already underway from the section from Toronto to Kitchener Waterloo and we’re working toward service between Union and Kitchener Waterloo by 2025,” she said.

Wynne announced that a high speed rail advisory board is being put together with representation from all regions involved.

“They will advise the folks who will actually be implementing the plan,” she said, adding the rail service will not be a replacement for planned two-way, all-day GO Service to Waterloo Region for 2024.

But Michael Harris, PC MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga who attended the event, said talk of the ‘shiny high speed train’ before an election doesn’t mask the fact that the region doesn’t have all-day, two-way train service to and from Toronto now.

Wynne also defended her government’s decision to hike the minimum wage and promised a plan was being put together to assist small businesses that are concerned about the increases.

“I know that there are some supports we need to be looking at in order to help folks transition — we are doing that and our Minister of Small Business will be bringing out a package later in the fall,” she said.

Following the luncheon, the premier fielded questions from reporters about the faculty strike at the province’s community colleges. Faculties at 24 colleges are now into their second week on the picket lines — a small group of picketers were outside the Crowne Plaza in downtown Kitchener where Wynne spoke on Monday.

Wynne wouldn’t comment on any specifics being negotiated between the colleges and those on strike, but said the government encouraged parties to head back to the bargaining table.

“It’s very important to me that young people are able to complete their term,” she said.

This article was written by Laura Booth for the Waterloo Region Record. Read the original article here.