Remember their promises four years from now

Innisfil Scope – Editorial
October 17th, 2007
By Chris Simon

With another provincial election campaign out of the way, Innisfil residents have four more years before they again get to put Ontario politicians on trial.
But residents need to remember the promises made by both the governing Liberals and the official opposition, the Progressive Conservatives. Along with York-Simcoe PC MPP Julia Munro, each party must be held accountable for their promises and commitments, and judged accordingly in four years. Throughout the campaign, each made several promises specifically relating to this region, while some broader commitments may also become major issues down the road.
Locally, Munro promised to secure more funding for the environmental health of the Lake Simcoe watershed. If her party were elected to govern, they promised $12 million in funding for improving water quality and sewage treatment. The Liberals also made commitments to the area, pledging to pass the Lake Simcoe Protection Act. Though in opposition, Munro could be an advocate for funding, and the government may take her seriously. Simcoe County is one of the fastest growing regions in the province, and should thus draw immediate attention. Munro needs to help work towards solution for the clean-up and long-term health of the watershed.
Munro committed to reducing gridlock on area highways, and it’s easy to see why. Travelling Highway 400 can be laborious at times, especially during rush hour and long weekends. Both parties have promised to look into the feasibility of building a Bradford bypass, to link the 400 to Highway 404.
To further reduce gridlock, Munro also committed to expanding the GO Transit network. Train service is already scheduled to return to this region within the next few months, and crews have already began preparing the rail lines into Barrie. However, there’s still no proof the expansion of GO service will be viable. Planned boarding times are infrequent and inconvenient, and there are few commuter stops between Barrie and Toronto scheduled.
Both parties have also shied away from several key growth concerns in the area. The Liberals have refused to set guidelines or become directly involved in the county’s growth management policy, which may ultimately determine where population growth will occur, and how residents will be serviced throughout the region. Thus far, Barrie has refused to become directly involved in policy making, instead sending representatives to meetings as passive observers.
Munro, her party, and the Liberals have also refused to become directly involved in land negotiation between Barrie and Innisfil. This links into the county’s growth process. Barrie sees itself as an independent body, working not towards the good of the region, but for the expansion of its own tax base. Innisfil is doing much of the same chest thumping.
The province needs to step in and set some firm boundaries in both cases, especially since they consider Barrie and the surrounding municipalities as the heart of future growth for the region. But a constant refusal to cooperate by both municipalities may only delay the process. Unfortunately, it could be area residents that suffer.
Several commitments to education and health care were also made during the election campaign, and it will be interesting to see how creative the Liberals will get. They promised to continue reducing primary grade classes to 20 students, and improving standardized test scores. Each will cost money, time and effort. Teachers will have to be hired, new schools will need to be built, and patience from Ontario voters may be in short supply in four years if targets are missed. The Liberals also promised to hire more doctors and nurses, but paying for those promises could cause difficulty. Ontarians are relatively reluctant to pay higher taxes, regardless of the reasons behind the increase.
The Liberals may have dodged a bullet this election campaign. If not for the faith-based funding issue, the PCs could be governing. Voters were genuinely angry about the health care premium, forgetting the PCs had left the government billions of dollars in debt.
Voters usually have a short memory, but hopefully they took a few notes during the election campaign.