WATERLOO — Ontario’s finance minister says he’s heard the demand for improved transit links between Waterloo Region and Toronto “loud and clear.”
In a wide-ranging luncheon address in Waterloo on Tuesday, Vic Fedeli said the promise of two-way, all-day GO train service is clearly front and centre on the minds of business and community leaders in the region.
“Believe me, we hear you loud and clear,” he told the audience at the event presented by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.
The message he’ll take back to Queen’s Park “is that in order to continue to expand the tech sector here, the region needs transit that can accommodate that,” Fedeli said in a brief interview following his talk. “There’s an important link between Toronto and the K-W region, and the transit needs to be adequate.”
Fedeli said his colleague, Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek, met with some local leaders on Monday and discussed transit issues.
“I think you will continue to hear positive comments about transit in this area,” Fedeli said.
Economic Development Minister Todd Smith and Treasury Board president Peter Bethlenfalvy have offered similar support for improved transit connections in recent visits.
However, the provincial budget offered no new information on either two-day, all-day GO service or a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph. The budget also paused capital funding for a proposed high-speed rail corridor from Toronto to Windsor.
The budget does promise a transportation plan for southwestern Ontario by this fall.
Fedeli’s reference to the local tech sector comes a few days after provincial funding to innovation hub Communitech was cut by about $2.1 million a year — about 10 per cent of its overall budget, and about one-third of the funding the province had provided.
“The investments in businesses in Ontario this year alone is $5 billion in tax credits and reduced costs, so we’re looking forward to all businesses of Ontario sharing in that $5-billion investment,” Fedeli said when asked about the Communitech cuts.
On Tuesday, local NDP MPPs Catherine Fife and Laura Mae Lindo released a joint statement calling for the funding cut to be reversed.
“Ripping millions of dollars in funding away from our area tech innovator is backwards, and Ontarians will pay the price,” they said. “When our tech sector thrives, Ontario thrives. Families deserve a government working with this industry, instead of against it.”