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WATERLOO — Ontario’s finance minister says he’s heard the demand for improved transit links between Waterloo Region and Toronto “loud and clear.”

In a wide-ranging luncheon address in Waterloo on Tuesday, Vic Fedeli said the promise of two-way, all-day GO train service is clearly front and centre on the minds of business and community leaders in the region.

“Believe me, we hear you loud and clear,” he told the audience at the event presented by the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce.

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Mayor John Tory said Wednesday that the city has not been briefed on legislation that is expected to enable the first phase of a provincial upload of the subway system, but said the city remains engaged in “constructive” discussions about the process with provincial officials.

The provincial government announced Wednesday that it will introduce legislation tomorrow to upload responsibility for several major transit expansion projects in Toronto.

The legislation is the first phase of a planned upload of Toronto’s subway system to provincial control. It would make the province responsible for new subway construction projects, including the downtown relief line (dubbed the Ontario Line by the province), the Scarborough subway extension of Line 2, the Yonge-north subway extension and the Eglinton-West LRT project.

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The President of Amalgamated Transit Union Canada says the budgetary priorities of the Conservative government of Ontario that were announced yesterday are grave threats to transit operations.

“Any municipality that was promised an increase in gas tax revenue will be reeling from yesterday’s broken promise in the budget. Local governments were promised a doubling of their share of gas tax revenue, from 2 cents per litre to 4 cents per litre. That increase was taken away,” says ATU Canada President John Di Nino. “It’s not that the gas tax was set to increase but the promise was public transit would get a larger cut for operations.”

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Barrie is rolling on with a fare increase for its transit system.

Council approved a series of changes to Barrie Transit fare rates April 29. Under the plan, the cash fare rate for students and adults increases from $3 to $3.25.

Monthly passes will cost $87, up from the current $86. Barrie also plans to drop its six-use ride card, allowing only a 10-use option. And its price will  increase from $2.60 per ride for adults to $2.80.

The city will extend free ridership to kids up to the age of 12 — children up to age five already get on without paying.

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Premier Doug Ford announced Thursday that the Ontario government will be spending $28.5 billion dollars to improve the Greater Toronto Area’s subway system. He hinted at the announcement earlier in the week, during a speech in Burlington on Tuesday.

This announcement comes at a time where there is tension between the City of Toronto and the Ford government about the province’s plan to take over the TTC subway system.

An open letter, sent on Feb. 21 to Mayor John Tory, was signed by 37 notable individuals, including Maria Augimeri, who is the former TTC commissioner, and David Crombie, a former mayor of Toronto, urging Tory to defend the city’s subway system.

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An Ontario government budget decision to quash a promised increase in gas tax revenue given to municipalities may slow transit growth, says London’s transit boss.

But Kelly Paleczny, general manager of the London Transit Commission, said losing the increase – which had been promised by the previous Liberal government – didn’t come as a total shock due to Premier Doug Ford’s cost-cutting agenda.

“Would I say it wasn’t a huge surprise that they decided not to proceed with the increase in the gas tax? I think that would be fair to say,” she said. “Certainly from London Transit’s perspective – we are disappointed.”

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Premier Doug Ford made an astounding commitment to improve public transit across Toronto and the GTA in last week’s Ontario budget, with one key qualification.

That is that an astounding plan is still just a plan.

It does nothing to make the lives of public transit commuters better, nor improve traffic congestion now costing our economy billions of dollars every year, until it’s built.

And we’ve heard such promises made before.

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The provincial government’s decision to scrap previous plans to double the city’s share of gas tax funding means Ottawa will lose $1 billion for its mass transit plans over the next 30 years.

The announcement that the Progressive Conservative government is cancelling plans to double the funds — which are expected to total more than $36 million for Ottawa in 2019 — appeared on page 75 of the PCs’ first budget, tabled Thursday.

The cancellation appeared to have taken municipalities by surprise.

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