Hamilton’s mayoral candidates dismiss talk of tolls for Linc and Red Hill Valley parkway

Click to play video: 'Tory tells AM640 he’d be open to revisiting highway tolls'
Tory tells AM640 he’d be open to revisiting highway tolls
While the Gardiner and DVP are owned by the city, the province has the final say, and the Ford government is adamant no new tolls will be implemented. Mark Carcasole reports – Oct 20, 2022

Three of Hamilton’s mayoral candidates didn’t warm to talk of potentially resurrecting debate on whether vehicles should pay tolls for barrelling down the Red Hill Valley and Lincoln Alexander parkways.

Seven years ago, it was the subject of heated debate among city councillors with talk of requisitioning a study on potential levies to diminish traffic on the local roadways suspected to be a favourite shortcut for out-of-town trucks travelling beyond the city.

“That is not something that I’m looking at, at this juncture,” former NDP leader Andrea Horwath said during a campaign stop at the Strathcona Market on York Street Thursday.

Horwath submitted there are “a lot of available opportunities” for funding from other government sources to finance road initiatives.

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“Whether that’s infrastructure dollars or whether that’s climate action dollars … there are (other) programs that we can look to,” Horwath suggested.

The thought comes amid Toronto mayoral candidate John Tory acknowledging an old idea he thinks could still work for his municipality: putting tolls on the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) to reduce congestion.

With pandemic restrictions easing and workers commuting once again to office spaces in downtown Toronto, bringing congestion back to the core, Tory told AM 640’s Toronto Today he would, because he “believed in it before.”

“I  think that would be something that would be very fair,” Tory said.

“It would help us to manage traffic and it would be considerate of the environment.”

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The talk in Hamilton years ago suggested setting up a transponder system similar to that already in place on Highway 407 in Toronto.

Coun. Sam Merulla, who championed the idea, insisted during a November 2015 council meeting it would raise revenue and deter drivers from taking shortcuts on the city-owned highways.

The discussion ended when councillors voted 7 to 6 to stop talking about it.

Current candidate and former mayor Bob Bratina gave the idea the thumbs down, saying adding any new levies or tolls is not a solution in keeping Hamiltonians’ tax increases down.

“There is a consideration if there’s, let’s say, large trucks on their way to Windsor just driving through, you might consider that,” Bratina told 900 CHML’s Hamilton Today.

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“But I don’t know how you would really set that up? So, no. Our cost of living is is way too high in the city.”

Mayoral hopeful and former Hamilton Chamber of Commerce boss Keanin Loomis said there would be “no chance” if he was elected for the same reasons Bratina wouldn’t — “Hamiltonians already pay enough taxes.”

He went on to say that the first priority needs to be cutting back on wasteful spending altogether, let alone making sure inner-city road repairs are being done properly.

“I’m just focused on fixing the roads here in Hamilton. Let’s do that first,” Loomis told Global News.

After proposing the idea, Tory won Toronto council’s approval to implement tolls while serving as mayor in 2016, but the plan to charge a $2 toll on vehicles heading into the downtown core was cancelled by the provincial government in early 2017.

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Then-premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters she was worried about the cost of living at the time. With hydro rates on the rise and a provincial election on the horizon, she told a press conference on Jan. 27, 2017, that “whatever we do has to be more affordable, not less affordable for people.”

Instead, she promised to increase the city’s portion of the gas tax, doubling it by 2022. At the time, Wynne insisted that would give the city just as much money as the toll would, though Tory begged to differ.

In a statement to Global News on Thursday, the Ford government shot down the idea saying it “will not be imposing any new tolls on any roads in Ontario.”

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— with files from Mark Carcasole and Colin D’Mello

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