Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives would bring back passenger rail service to Northern Ontario, establish resource revenue-sharing agreements with local communities and ensure that the North is considered in every decision made at Queen’s Park.
The pledges are among the many that are included in the party’s 80-page campaign platform – the People’s Guarantee – unveiled Saturday at a policy convention in Toronto.
The plan focuses on five key promises, including tax cuts for the middle class, a refund for childcare expenses, a further 12 per cent cut to hydro bills, new funding for mental health and legislation to address integrity and accountability at Queen’s Park.
But it also includes dozens of other promised measures, some specifically tailored for the North.
That includes requiring every cabinet submission to be subject to a Northern Ontario assessment, as well as the return of passenger rail service by the end of the party’s mandate.
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, who called the Tory plan a “tremendous platform” says a Northern Ontario light would be shone on every government decision if the PCs are elected next year.
“There could be two versions of every bill,” he said, noting the impact on the North would be assessed with each decision and changes made accordingly.
He said the return of the Northlander passenger train wouldn’t happen overnight, although the Tories would get started on the process.
“There’s a lot of work that has to get done,” said Fedeli, noting the process would require rebuilding from the ground up now that passenger rail service has been gone for a number of years.
He said environmental assessment work would be required, along with the purchase and upgrading of cars and equipment.
The Tory plan also calls for a portion of the provincial revenues collected from aggregate licenses, stumpage fees and the mining profits tax to be redistributed to local host municipalities or indigenous communities to help fund specific community projects and improvements.
In addition, the PCs would invest in a mobile PET scanner for Northern Ontario and ensure that the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is not only fully allocated or rolled over to the next year, but increased annually according to inflation.
The Tories have also promised to reverse a 148 per cent increase to the aviation fuel tax for all Northern airports and ensure all hunting and fishing license fees are spent on wildlife conservation.
“Patrick Brown knocked it out of the park with his speech,” said Fedeli, of the party leader’s address to 1,500 PC delegates during Saturday’s convention.
Although some pledges focus entirely on the North, he said the key pillars of the party platform are universal for all of Ontario.
The plan to spend $1.9 billion over the next decade to address mental health-care, for instance, will be “hugely important” to the Nipissing riding, said Fedeli, noting often he sees through his office the gaps in treatment and people slipping though the cracks.
He said dental care for low income seniors in another plank in the platform that will make a big difference in people’s lives.
The platform includes more nearly 150 promises covering a wide range of issues from transit to health care. The plan will also keep many of the Liberal’s biggest spending plans including free pharma care for anyone under the age of 24 years olds, all-day kindergarten and the free tuition plan for post-secondary students.
The platform projects that a PC government would fall into deficit of $2.8 billion in its first year, while posting progressive surpluses that range from $8 million in 2019-2020 to $767 million in 2021-2022.