Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French has introduced a private member’s bill, Bill 43, the “Freeing Highways 412 and 418 Act”, which would remove the tolls from those Highways, and prevent any new connector roads from being tolled. Ms French’s bill is now on its way to becoming law, having passed second reading in the Legislature on Wednesday, November 18. The bill passed almost unanimously with support from all parties – except for The Green Party, represented by Guelph’s MPP, Mike Schreiner. This isn’t the first time Schreiner has expressed support for road tolls in Ontario. During the 2018 election, Schreiner expressed support for road tolls on all 400 series highways.
The Guelph NDP believes that Ontario’s highways should be public property. The roads have been built with our tax dollars and Ontarians should not be asked to pay again just to drive on them.
The NDP strongly supports investment in public transit as a high priority, to reduce our dependence on automobiles and to reduce the enormous cost – in terms of stress, wasted time, accidents and death, and policing and maintenance costs – of our severely clogged highways. We need frequent, rapid, affordable bus connections between Guelph and rapidly growing cities such as Kitchener, Hamilton, London, and Brampton. Instead, commuters are faced with a dispiriting choice – drive, or put up with the slow, infrequent, indirect GO buses; Greyhound, a private company, has abandoned Ontario.
Mr. Schreiner says that highway toll revenue should be used to fund improved public transit. The NDP rejects this as a false equation. Improving public transit should not depend on extracting toll revenue from Ontario’s commuters; transit should be funded out of general government revenues.
Tolls represent an involuntary and unfair tax on employees trying to get to their jobs and on families traveling for visits or vacations. The Green Party approach – continuing and increasing road tolls – penalizes hard-working Ontarians. Millionaires driving Porsches and BMWs can just laugh at tolls; indeed, they welcome the tolls, because tolls keep the Toyotas and Fords of everyday commuters out of the way of their luxury sports cars.
Jordan Lemcke, President, Guelph NDP, puts it this way: “Our highways are public property – we built them and we own them. To meet the challenge of climate change, we have to reduce the use of private cars on Ontario’s highways. The right way to do this is to invest in public transportation – greatly improved rail and bus connections – providing commuters with an attractive alternative to being stuck in their cars in a traffic jam on the 401. Let’s pay for transit the same way we pay for highways: through general tax revenues, with the wealthy paying their fair share. Imposing tolls to shift the burden of transit costs onto Ontario’s commuters is just plain wrong.”