Premier Doug Ford was in town Thursday to announce millions of dollars in funding for Orillia’s transit operations.
The announcement was made at the Municipal Operations Centre on James Street, where Ford was joined by Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte MPP Doug Downey and Barrie-Innisfil MPP Andrea Khanjin.
“Our government is pouring money into infrastructure,” Ford said, noting the province plans to spend $144 billion over the next decade — more than $90 billion of which will go toward public transit and highways. “No government has ever invested $144 billion in infrastructure.
The province will provide $5.4 million for Orillia Transit: nearly $3.7 million to go toward a new transit hub, $1.4 million toward replacing seven buses, $226,000 for accessible transit shelters and $185,000 for a new fare system, security cameras and bike racks on 13 buses.
Mayor Steve Clarke welcomed the funding, saying a new transit hub “is key.”
“What we have going on at Mississaga and West streets is Mickey Mouse,” he said. “(A new terminal) will make our transit system mature. The hub is the next logical step.”
A consultant is currently working on a study to determine potential locations and designs for a new hub. Early estimates put the cost at about $10 million. The project would, ideally, include a parking structure and the hub would be multi-use. A final report is expected to be finished in the fall.
While a terminal is the biggest part of the plan, Clarke was also excited about the ability for riders to pay electronically and the funding to help replace buses, calling it “excellent.”
The funding for new shelters is also welcome news, the mayor said.
“One thing we’ve heard loudly and clearly is the need for more shelters. To have money to help purchase more is terrific,” he said.
It is expected the federal government will chip in the same amount, bringing the total to about $10.8 million. That has yet to be approved by Ottawa.
Ford did not take questions Thursday, ignoring queries from reporters as he walked out.
He and his team also steered clear of protesters who gathered outside.
“They very carefully avoided looking at us or paying any attention to us. It was like seeing your ex a party,” said Sophy Cooper.
The grassroots Orillia for Democracy group organized the demonstration after learning Ford would be in town, and Cooper decided to take part to make her views known.
“I still find the Doug Ford mode of politics to be abhorrent to anyone who values democracy,” she said.
John Winchester, one of the founders of the group, said the demonstration was “a continuation of what we’ve been saying since we formed — dishonesty, the untruths,” he said, referring to the province’s actions when it comes to class sizes, downloading to municipalities and a host of other issues. “It concerns me that people are going to be affected by them for the next three years on so many levels.”
Ford also announced Thursday funding for transit in Midland and Barrie. Midland will receive nearly $275,000, the bulk of which will go toward replacing three buses. Barrie is getting more than $13.6 million to go toward replacing 30 buses, building a new Allandale mobility hub terminal and improving transit infrastructure.