By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
When the provincial budget was released, the two MPPs representing Oshawa – Progressive Conservative Lorne Coe for Whitby-Oshawa and NDP Jennifer French for Oshawa – were not pleased.
Jeff Leal, the regional minister for Eastern Ontario – which includes Oshawa – sees things very differently.
“This is a very important budget for Oshawa and for Durham Region,” Leal tells The Oshawa Express.
One of the big items in this budget that will benefit Oshawa residents, Leal says, is the completion of the first phase of Highway 407 through to Harmony Road, as well as the commencement of the second phase of construction east toward Highway 115.
“That will be of huge importance to Durham Region and Oshawa in terms of the movement of vehicles to facilitate commerce in that area,” he says.
Leal adds that while funding has not been attached to the proposed GO Transit expansion east toward Bowmanville, residents can expect movement on the portfolio in 2016.
“There will be details, as I understand it, from the Minister of Transportation later this year,” he says.
“There’s the issue of track usage agreements with either CN or CP, and then the physical work that needs to be done to bring the GO train over Highway 401 for a terminus on the north side of Highway 401 in Bowmanville.”
Leal, who sits as the MPP for Peterborough and is also the Minister of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs, says the concerns raised by Oshawa’s two MPPs were addressed in this year’s budget.
“The shingles vaccine shot costs about $170, and we do know if you’re a senior and contract shingles, there’s a lot of medical issues that you develop after the shingles have gone away. It stays with you for a long period of time. So the ability to get that vaccine free of charge is going to be so important to our seniors,” Leal says, referring to Coe’s concerns that this latest spending plan does not do enough for seniors.
“Another thing over the next three years is we’ll be investing an additional $170 million in community-based hospice and palliative care – something that communities have been asking us for, particularly communities with a large number of seniors. This is a very important investment.”
Leal adds that French’s concerns over a lack of job creation are unfounded.
“Our investment in infrastructure will create about 100,000 jobs each and every year as we move forward with the most aggressive infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history,” he says.
“And we do know that having a good infrastructure base in any community, whether it’s Oshawa or it’s Peterborough, that provides the basis for a dynamic private sector growth.”