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Comparing federal transit plans: Whose promises are best for Toronto?

Last Updated Sep 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm EST

With around one month to go until election day, federal leaders know what’s at stake in voter-rich Toronto: transit, transit, transit.

A Mainstreet Research poll released last week found the New Democrats and Liberals are jockeying for votes in the city. In Etobicoke and North York, the race is between the Conservative and Liberal parties, while in the downtown core it is a two way race between the NDP and the Liberals.

In July, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, with Spadina-Fort York candidate Olivia Chow at his side, promised better transit for what he calls “Canada’s most important city” – if his government is elected in the fall.

But do the other candidates feel the same way about Toronto when it comes to transit?

NDP transit plan

Over the weekend, Mulcair announced that if he was elected, he would commit $12.9 billion to the city’s infrastructure, $7.7 billion of which would be aimed at transit projects, the Toronto Star reports.

The New Democrats’ “Better Transit Plan” includes $1.3 billion each year over 20 years for infrastructure in Canada. In the first four years of an NDP government, Mulcair said Toronto would receive $1.6 billion of $7.2 billion in funding.

“Canada thrives when Toronto thrives,” Mulcair said back in July, adding that change means better transit and housing in the city.

At the time, he also pledged $420 million across Canada for transit from the existing gas tax, $90 million of which would go to Toronto.

Conservatives transit plan

Earlier this summer, ahead of the campaign kickoff, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper announced $2.6 billion in federal funding for Toronto Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan, made available through the government’s Public Transit Fund.

Earlier this year, Finance Minister Joe Oliver said the budget includes $750 million over two years, and $1 billion each year thereafter, for the new fund, which is aimed at helping cities combat gridlock.

“SmartTrack would slash commuting times for tens of thousands of hard working Torontonians,” Harper said from the TTC Hillcrest Complex in June.

“It will mean better, faster commutes for hundreds of thousands of people, and in that our government is very proud to be a partner.”

The 53-kilometre SmartTrack regional rail project would see existing GO tracks electrified to add 22 new surface subway stops. It would connect Pearson airport to Union Station and then up to Scarborough and Unionville.

In June, Harper reiterated his government would commit “$80 billion to infrastructure investments over the next decade.”

He said the Conservatives would invest one-third of the $7.8-billion cost to improve local and regional transit.

Liberals transit plan

Earlier this month, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said if elected, his party would invest $125 billion on infrastructure over the next 10 years, and nearly $20 billion of that would be allotted to transit.

He also said the Liberals would run deficits of up to $10 billion a year over three years for infrastructure projects.

In terms of how the $20 billion will roll out across cities in Canada, Trudeau states on his website the funding would be flexible to municipalities’ needs, and bilateral agreements with provinces would be drawn up.

Green Party transit plan

The Green Party’s platform calls for $3 billion – $500 million per fund per year – to six immediate infrastructure needs, including transit and community housing.

“The full one percentage point of GST dedicated to municipal infrastructure will generate roughly $6.5 billion a year,” the party’s website states.

In a CBC interview last Friday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she wants to expand Canada’s rail and urban transit systems.

With files from The Canadian Press