Glen Murray has only been sitting in his new office as Minister of Transportation and Minister of Infrastructure for Ontario for about 2½ weeks, but already his comments in the mainstream media (Globe Star) and on Twitter (@Glen4ONT) show that business as usual will not be the style of his office. We chatted for about 45 minutes earlier today.
I began by asking about the change of his Twitter handle from the suffix “TC” (for his riding’s name, Toronto Centre) to “ONT” and his recent comments about transportation in northern Ontario. Murray’s focus there is on economic development, and the need for transportation facilities to support investment, especially in mining. On the question of passenger services, it was a bit harder to nail down the Minister’s position.
Murray is a big fan of High Speed Rail, and feels that the Windsor-Quebec corridor needs that sort of investment as an important first step, followed by improved rail and bus feeder services. Yes, but what does this do for the north? Murray sees the need for a spine rail service linking Toronto to the north with bus routes feeding into that spine, but neither details nor any sense of timing emerged.
Two important dollar figures, however, came out. First, in southern Ontario, current spending on the 400-series highways is about $2.4-billion annually, and there is an argument to be made for upping spending on transit. Second, mining now brings in about $1-billion annually, and the industry’s primary complaint is the lack of infrastructure, not their tax burden, according to Murray.