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Canada election: O’Toole stops short of promise to extend Ottawa LRT to Barrhaven

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole is seen during a campaign stop on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 in Russell, Ont. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole would not commit to funding Ottawa’s Stage 3 light-rail extension out to Barrhaven while campaigning in the region on Tuesday, despite previous promises that a CPC government would pay its share for LRT out to Kanata.

The long-term plan for Ottawa’s LRT system, which officially opened two years ago on Sept. 14, 2019, includes Stage 3 expansions out to Kanata and Stittsville in the west and a branch connecting the line to the suburb of Barrhaven in the south. The 11-kilometre western expansion has been estimated to cost $1.85 billion, with the 10-kilometre extension between Algonquin College and Barrhaven Town Centre is priced at $3 billion.

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party pledged that, if elected, the government would commit funding to the Kanata extension of the light-rail system with no mention of the Barrhaven leg.

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O’Toole was asked directly during a campaign stop in Russell, Ont., on Tuesday whether he would commit to the Barrhaven extension as well. While he said he was willing to work with local levels of government to ensure municipal transit priorities are funded, he did not provide a direct answer about additional Stage 3 funding commitments.

“We’ve made a commitment already for the Kanata LRT and we’re there to be a partner with council, Mayor Watson and local levels of government,” O’Toole said.

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“This will be our approach in a federalism partnership. On infrastructure, we need to partner on the priorities of the provinces and municipalities and then the federal government has to step up with money and accelerate these economic investments,” he said, before adding that a Conservative government would seek to tie those commitments to housing density goals.

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Mayor Jim Watson sent out a survey to all local candidates in the 2021 federal election, asking off the bat whether they would commit to a 50 per cent cost share on the entire Stage 3 LRT expansion.

The deadline on that questionnaire passed on Monday, but Watson has yet to share the results publicly.

No other federal party leaders have explicitly acknowledged future expansions of Ottawa’s LRT line during the campaign. The incumbent Liberal government had not yet committed to fund the 50 per cent cost share needed for infrastructure project before the election began.

Council’s decision to approve the route for an eventual extension out to Barrhaven last November came with controversy, as staff’s proposed alignment would result in the demolition of 120 homes in Manor Village.

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