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Throne speech reiterates key housing, infrastructure promises from Ford government

Angela Gismondi
Throne speech reiterates key housing, infrastructure promises from Ford government

Ontario’s throne speech reiterated the Doug Ford government’s commitment to continue building key infrastructure, hospitals, housing, transit and highways while recognizing the skilled trades shortages and looming economic challenges that lie ahead.

“Together, let’s build the highways, roads and transit infrastructure needed to keep Ontario moving,” said Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell as she delivered Ford’s speech from the throne Aug. 9 at Queen’s Park in Toronto. “Ontario cannot afford to hold its economy back. Now is the time to build.”

The speech was entitled Together, Let’s Build Ontario.

“Businesses of all sizes are struggling to find the skilled women and men they need to grow, or the parts they need to take on more orders,” said Dowdeswell. “Amidst this scarcity, the rising cost of labour and supplies may in turn increase the cost of goods being sold to consumers. Taken together, these looming fiscal and economic challenges cannot be understated or ignored. They must be confronted head on and there are no easy solutions.”

There was a strong focus on health care in the speech.

“Ontario is on track to make good on its commitment to build 30,000 new long-term care beds by 2028, with 31,705 new and 28,648 upgraded beds now in development,” she said.

She also spoke about clean, green steel.

“With the support of the provincial and federal governments, Algoma Steel in Sault Ste. Marie and ArcelorMittal Dofasco in Hamilton are making generational investments to transition to electric-arc furnaces, powered by clean Ontario energy,” Dowdeswell said. “These two projects alone are the equivalent of removing nearly two million cars off the road every year.”

The province has also released its critical minerals strategy with the cornerstone being the Ring of Fire, located about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay. Dowdeswell called it one of the most promising mineral development opportunities in the world.

“By working collaboratively with First Nations partners, the province is now in the late stages of environmental assessments and design work to build the first two sections of the road to the Ring of Fire and recently, chiefs from Webequie and Marten Falls First Nations submitted the terms of reference for the Northern Road Link, the third and final road necessary to complete the all-season connection to the province’s highway system.”

It was highlighted once again that the government is investing $86.6 billion over the next 10 years to build and expand roads, highways and transit infrastructure across Ontario, including the controversial Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass. Dowdeswell also mentioned other projects such as widening Highway 3 from two to four lanes between Essex and Leamington; rebuilding more than 21 kilometres of Highway 101 through Timmins; and twinning the Garden City Skyway bridge along the Queen Elizabeth Way over the Welland Canal. She also touched on the new Ontario Line subway and expanding GO train service.

Ontario is also facing a generational labour shortage and it’s important to get more women and men trained for careers in the skilled trades, Dowdeswell added.

“The government is investing more than $1 billion in a skilled trades strategy to reduce the stigma around the trades, particularly for women and young people…and expanding training opportunities,” she noted.

“This includes expanding three-year college degrees for in-demand fields and partnering with union-led training centres to provide people with the skills they need for new and exciting job opportunities.”

The province is once again calling on the federal government to double the number of skilled workers that are allowed to immigrate to Ontario each year, she added.

Getting homes built faster is another priority of the government, with the goal of building 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.

“While this is welcome news, more needs to be done,” she noted. “As the province continues to grow and as Ontario welcomes more newcomers in search of economic opportunity, the crisis will only get worse.”

Ontario will provide the tools municipalities need to break through the logjams that have historically slowed the speed of housing construction, including enhanced authorities for the mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, she added.

“Strong mayor systems will empower municipal leaders to work more effectively with the province to reduce timelines for development, standardize processes and address local barriers to increasing the supply of housing,” said Dowdeswell. “For urban populations, these new powers will be especially relevant as the province works with its municipal partners to expand the footprint of transit-oriented communities.”

The government will also explore partnering with municipalities to leverage surplus provincial lands.

Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.

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