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Indira Naidoo-Harris's Responses to 2014 Provincial Election Questionnaire

On June 12, 2014, Halton voters will cast their ballot for local provincial election candidates. On behalf of Halton residents, Regional Chair Gary Carr has sent a letter and questionnaire to local candidates asking how they would resolve critical issues facing Halton.

The following are Indira Naidoo-Harris' responses to 2014 Provincial Election Questionnaire.

Indira Naidoo-Harris

Indira Naidoo-Harris
Halton - Liberal
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  1. Halton Region requests that the Provincial Government provide predictable funding to keep Halton moving and deliver on committed projects through the Metrolinx Plan, The Big Move, including all day GO service to Milton and Georgetown, and the electrification of the Lakeshore GO line, to meet the transportation needs of our growing community. What will you and your government do to ensure that Halton’s Metrolinx projects are delivered within the next 5 years?

    Ontario Liberals are committed to continuing to make commutes faster for Halton residents so that they can spend more time doing what is important to them and less time sitting in traffic. Our government has already invested more than $9 billion in GO transit. It is these investments that have allowed Burlington to see train service increase to every 30 minutes, new parking facilities at Appleby GO Station, $4 million in Bronte GO Station improvement, and the new pedestrian bridge at Burlington GO Station, as well as $4.7 million in further improvements at the Appleby GO Station, a new $15 million Burlington GO Station Building.

    The Liberal government also secured more than $54 million in funding for local transit in Burlington through the dedicated gas tax program – money that would otherwise likely have to been raised through municipal property tax hikes.

    We have a $130 billion infrastructure and transportation plan that will create and sustain 220,000 jobs over 10 years. $15 billion of this plan will be dedicated specifically to GTHA transit without impacting our existing southern Ontario highways program.

    Unlike the NDP and PCs we have a fully costed and defined plan for Ontario that includes:

    • Investing in GO Regional Express Rail, our plan for faster, zero emission, fully electric trains every 15 minutes on all lines over 10 years
    • A variety of investments in Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit to better connect municipal transit to GO Regional Express Rail
    • Continued unprecedented levels of investment in Ontario’s southern highways program to widen more highways and build new ones.
    • An investment in Canada’s first ever High Speed Rail system linking Union Station, Pearson Airport, Kitchener and South Western Ontario through London, and a commitment to work with VIA Rail and the federal government to expand it further.
    • A vision of border-to-border-to-border four lane highways to make them safer and to improve goods movement.
    • And under our now permanent Gas Tax program Ontario Liberals committed over $2.7 billion in funding to Ontario municipalities to help fund local transit.

    Our Regional Express Rail will do for the GTHA what subways did for Toronto in the 1950s. These investments will also be a tremendous benefit to those who do not use public transit. Congestion on our highways is a real concern in Halton region, and without these investments it could become even worse. That’s why it’s particularly troubling that the opposition parties chose to vote down our budget. Once fully implemented, our plan will take tens of thousands of daily car trips off of roads and highways across the province.

    It’s important to remember that when the PCs were in power between 1999 and 2003, they contributed nothing to transit, leaving it up to municipalities to carry the weight. During the current campaign, Tim Hudak has made it clear that his party would cut funding for LRT projects throughout the 905, and would not electrify the GO lines. This would make it more difficult and costly to improve service on the Lakeshore West line in any substantial way.

    The NDP have flip-flopped on transit. One day they are advocating for electric trains and the next they don’t support our plan to electrify the entire GO rail system. They voted against our budget, which would have revolutionized transit for Halton residents. Now we don’t know what they stand for, but we know they don’t appear to stand for improving commutes and building transit.

    Ontario Liberals have a detailed, fully-costed plan that will ensure Halton families spend more time together, and less time on the road. We will continue working with our municipal partners to ensure that our plan is implemented as quickly as possible.

  2. What will your government do to ensure that Halton’s growing communities have the necessary community infrastructure, such as schools and health care facilities, in place to keep pace with the growth?

    Ontario Liberals stand for jobs, for growth and for keeping our recovery on course—we are working to create opportunity for all.

    We are continuing to make smart investments in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for people across the province. We have made unprecedented investments of nearly $100 billion to modernize public infrastructure since 2003. These investments have helped create thousands of jobs, support business and improve the everyday lives of people across Ontario.

    Since 2003, we have invested over $12 billion in improvements to our education infrastructure, which helped provide students with the best schools in which to learn and grow, and created and sustained an average of 16,000 jobs every year.

    Across the Province, we have built nearly 650 new schools, and completed over 27,000 repair and renewal projects. We also helped make more than 2,600 publicly funded schools more energy-efficient. We have built 20 new schools in Halton alone.

    In terms of health care infrastructure, our government has invested more than $21 billion since 2003. Provincial infrastructure investments in Ontario’s hospitals supported nearly 26,000 jobs. We’re providing $2 billion to build a new state-of-the art Oakville hospital. The estimated 1.6 million square-foot hospital is on time and on schedule for substantial completion by summer 2015 with an opening targeted for December 2015. Approximately 1000 men and women are working on the hospital daily to ensure its completion.

    When last in power, the Harris/Hudak PC government closed 500 schools, fired 15,000 teachers and 26 million teaching days were lost due to strikes. Unfortunately, Tim Hudak seems intent on going down that same path. His plan to fire 100,000 public sector workers would include 9,700 educational support workers and 9,000 teachers. On top of that, when he served as junior Health Minister to Mike Harris, Tim Hudak fired 6,000 nurses, closed hospitals, and Ontario had the worse surgical wait times in Canada. The cuts he’s proposing once again threaten to derail the tremendous progress that we’ve made.

    Going forward, our plan includes $130 billion in infrastructure projects over the next 10 years—which will support over 100,000 jobs each year across the province.

    Ontario Liberals will continue to make smart investments in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for people across the province today and build a more prosperous tomorrow.

  3. Halton’s school boards receive the lowest per capital funding in the Province and they have recently learned that their operating and capital costs are being cut. Being a growing region, particularly in Milton, Canada’s fastest growing community, funding is urgently needed and without it, we will not be able to keep up with the provincial mandated growth. What will you and your government do to increase Halton’s school board’s funding to enable them to meet their students’ needs?

    We have invested $12 billion in school infrastructure since 2003, including nearly 650 new schools, and over 27,000 repair and renewal projects. In Halton alone we have built 20 new schools, with two more on the way.

    Ontario Liberals have always believed that education is the most important investment we can make. We are committed to helping our kids become lifelong learners - that’s why we’ve increased funding for education for the 10th straight year -- Funding for our education system is up 56% since 2003. Studies have shown that Ontario has the best education system in the English speaking world.

    When the PCs were in power, they closed 500 schools, fired 15,000 teachers and lost 26 million teaching days to strikes. It is very troubling that they are once again proposing to cut educational support workers and teachers – a move that would jeopardize the success we’ve have achieved in our education system since 2003.

    As a result of our dedication to improving Ontario’s education system, our graduation rates have increased every year, from 68% in 2003 to 83% in 2013. That’s 138,000 more students who have graduated thanks to our student success strategies, which is roughly equivalent to the population of Guelph. On top of that, 92% of students are meeting or exceeding international standards, regardless of socio-economic background or first language.

    To continue the progress we’ve made, our government has invested $4 million in additional supports for math to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to help our students succeed. We also increased funding for our Summer Learning Program to $6 million to provide support for more elementary students who may be struggling.

    A crucial component of the Ontario Liberal plan is to give our children get the best possible start – and give our economy the most highly educated workforce in the world. Studies have shown that children attending full day kindergarten are more successful in school, have better language skills, and improved cognitive development. By September 2014, all four- and five-year olds will have access to Full Day Kindergarten. That’s over 265,000 children across the province. The program saves families up to $6500 per child per year in childcare costs, while their kids get a world class education. We have also increased childcare funding the Regional Municipality of Halton to $30.7 million in 2014, a 171% increase since we first took office.

    The Hudak PCs would jeopardize the gains we’ve made, by decimating the full-day kindergarten program. Many of their proposed cuts would be made to this program, with reductions to the current staffing model, and increases to class sizes. The proposed layoffs would also mean higher class sizes across the board, and fewer educational assistants to support students with challenges. These cuts will hit our most vulnerable students the hardest.

    Finally, Ontario Liberals are committed to giving students with special education needs the support that they need to succeed. We’re making changes to be even more responsive to those needs and to o ensure that boards have the resources they need to deliver high quality programs to our most vulnerable students. Our investments in special education are part of our efforts to increase student success and close gaps in student achievement. For 2014-15, boards in Halton will receive $124.9 million in special education funding, which is an increase of $10.5 million over 2013-14 and $70 million or 130% since 2003.

  4. Will your government move forward with Niagara to GTA transportation corridor? If so, will you commit to voting against any option that impacts the Niagara Escarpment?

    Ontario Liberals do not support the proposed “mid-pen highway”. This highway would pave over protected green space and farmer’s fields in prime agricultural land. In 2005, we strengthened the Niagara Escarpment Plan by introducing the Greenbelt Act to provide permanent protection of the agricultural land base and the ecological features and functions occurring within the Niagara Escarpment.

    Unfortunately Tim Hudak and the PCs do not seem to share the concerns of the citizens of our region when it comes to protecting the Escarpment. The PCs have promised to thoughtlessly pave a mega-highway through sensitive environmental lands in the escarpment.

    A new super highway would see millions of cars roar through our community every day, with little economic benefit to our local businesses. It could also see hundreds, if not thousands, of homes displaced.

  5. Halton Region requests funding sources that support the recovery and collection of growth related costs to ensure that Halton’s taxpayers do not bear the financial impacts of growth. What will your government do to ensure this?

    In order to build a prosperous and fair Ontario, we need prosperous local communities. That’s why we have worked hard with our municipal partners to ensure they have the flexibility to address local needs without being burdened by the costs.

    Our government has a strong record of supporting and working with municipalities. In 2014, the Province will provide municipalities with ongoing support of approximately $3.5 billion — an increase of more than 200 per cent over 2003. This number will continue to grow as the province continues to upload services off of municipal tax rolls. This will give municipalities room in their budgets to invest in local priorities and control property taxes.

    Across the province, we've invested nearly $100 billion in infrastructure since 2003, which has supported an average of 100,000 jobs each year in construction-related industries. We have introduced a new 10-year economic plan to invest over $130 billion in public infrastructure. Our budget also introduced a permanent, $100 million annual fund for municipal roads and bridges in communities outside major urban centres. We will continue to focus our infrastructure expenditures on the most critical areas, such as transportation, health care and education, consistent with the government’s long-term infrastructure plan, Building Together.

    We are continuing to make smart investments in infrastructure to improve the quality of life for the people of our region. We have made unprecedented investments of nearly $100 billion across the province to modernize public infrastructure since 2003. These investments have helped create jobs, support business and improve the everyday lives of people across Ontario.

    Our key accomplishments since 2003 include:

    • Since 2003, we have committed over $60 million in the region of Halton to support public transit through Gas Tax funding.
    • More than $19 billion to design, repair, and expand provincial highways and bridges across Ontario supporting more than 20,000 jobs across the province
    • Building or rebuilding more than 7,900 kilometres of highways and more than 950 bridges across Ontario

    Going forward, our plan includes $130 billion in infrastructure projects over the next 10 years—which will support over 100,000 jobs every year across the province.

  6. Changes to the Development Charges (DC) Act is necessary to recover growth costs, including: include all services funded by a municipality in the Act, remove the 10 per cent discount for all services, replace the 10 year advantage historic service limits with a service level that is forward looking, remove mandatory exemptions. Will your party amend the DC Act to ensure that taxpayers are not burdened with the costs of growth?

    I am always willing to look at any proposals brought forward by Halton Region for the purpose of supporting growth in our region.

    Ontario Liberals recognize the importance of ensuring that municipalities have the tools they need to fund local infrastructure improvements that are needed to support growth. While the Development Charges Act helps local governments pay for capital costs required to serve new growth for services like roads, water, wastewater, transit and libraries, it does not allow municipal governments to levy development charges to pay for capital costs of hospitals.

    In terms of health care infrastructure, our government has invested more than $21 billion since 2003. We’re building cutting-edge health infrastructure, with over 100 major health capital projects complete or underway, including 23 new hospitals and $60 million more over the next three years in community health infrastructure, including Community Health Centres. We’re also providing $2 billion to build a new state-of-the art hospital in north Oakville.

    Our government has a strong record of supporting and working with municipalities. In 2014, the Province will provide municipalities with ongoing support of approximately $3.5 billion — an increase of more than 200 per cent over 2003. This will give municipalities room in their budgets to invest in local priorities and control property taxes.

    Our government was prepared to introduce legislation to improve the Development Charges Act, as well as the Land Planning Act, which were the result of broad consultations with a wide variety of stakeholders. We will introduce these bills and help move these important initiatives forward if we are re-elected.

  7. Halton Region invests $26 million annually to provide assisted housing options for low income residents and we have had an increase of 894 in affordable/assisted housing units since 2007. What long term funding commitments will you and your government make to create real and affordable housing solutions in Halton?

    Since 2003, our Government has helped improve the quality of life for those living on low and fixed incomes. Together with our municipal partners, we have made unprecedented investments that have resulted in thousands of new units built, and repairs to hundreds of thousands of units across Ontario.

    As part of our government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, we created the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy—the first of its kind in Ontario. That’s why since 2003, our government committed nearly $3 billion towards affordable housing – the largest investment in affordable housing in Ontario’s history.

    These investments are supporting the creation of over 17,000 affordable rental housing units; funding more than 263,000 repairs and improvements to social and affordable housing units; and, providing rental and down payment assistance to over 81,000 households in need.

    We have made significant investments in affordable housing in Halton region since 2003. The province has committed over $66.3 million in total assistance for affordable housing in Halton, and Halton families have seen the results:

    • 278 affordable rental units created
    • 20 affordable units repaired
    • 64 households received down payment assistance
    • 703 housing allowances and rent supplements have been allotted
    • 870 evictions have been prevented.

    Halton has also received planning allocations of $4.2 million under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI) for the 2014-15 fiscal year. This program was created in the 2012 Budget by combining 7 different housing programs. This year’s budget would have added $42 million dollars to this important program, bringing the total funding to just under $300 million.

    Ontario Liberals know that affordable and secure housing provides the stability needed to raise families and build futures. We have therefore invested more in affordable housing than any previous government. This speaks to our commitment that, despite challenging economic times, we have stayed the course.

    Prior to 2003, Ontario’s housing supply was put into a catastrophic state by the PCs. They underfunded housing and cancelled the construction of 17,000 new units. They downloaded the entire housing portfolio onto local governments without providing money to repair an aging system or to meet future demand. Similarly, the NDP voted against the 2009 stimulus package, which, through our partnership with the federal government, invested $1.2 billion in the affordable housing sector.

    Unlike the PCs and NDP, Ontario Liberals have not wavered during difficult economic times and we will continue to work with our partners to identify opportunities to help create affordable housing.

    Ontario Liberals have worked hard to remedy the problems created by the PCs — and we will continue to work to help affected Ontarians receive the housing assistance they need. I am proud of our record and am energized about doing more to meet the affordable housing requirements of Ontario. We have also recently reached a deal with the federal government that will see $160M invested into affordable housing each year in the province. Together with our housing partners and other levels of government, we will continue to help Ontarians shift out of poverty.

    The future of housing depends on sustained long-term funding that is fair and will help meet the needs of Ontario. We will continue to work with all levels of government to secure a long-term funding.

  8. What will you and you government do to deliver long-term, sustainable funding at the expected (agreed upon) levels of cost sharing for Public Health programs and Paramedic Services?

    Since 2003, our government has more than doubled public health funding in the province, allowing for increases in valuable programs like health promotion, illness prevention and screening.

    Across the province, we have hired 20,510 more nurses, created 25 nurse practitioner-led clinics that provide services to over 43,000 patients, increased long-term care funding by 81%, and increased long-term care home staff by 10,000.

    As of 2012, Halton has 274 more doctors, an increase of 151% in Milton alone. There are 1,603 more nurses working in the Mississauga Halton LHIN than there were in 2005, and there are two Family Health Teams in and around Halton, providing care to more than 27,188 patients.

    As of February 2014, 90% of high acuity ER patients at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital were seen within target times, and 92% of low acuity patients were seen within target times. In Milton, the numbers are 94% and 95%.

    When the PCs were in government, they cut spending which had negative implications for all Ontarians. The PC fired doctors, nurses, and shut down hospitals – causing massive delays. The Tories have also stopped funding EMS as part of their downloading of costs on to municipalities.

    Our government has demonstrated that we are dedicated to continually improving the efficiency and quality of our public health care system. We will continue to work with our municipal partners to ensure that our system is meeting the needs of the residents of Halton.

  9. Will you and your government commit to taking immediate action to address offloading delays and enhancements to the Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC) to ensure that Halton residents receive the level of Paramedic Services required to meet their needs? If so, how?

    Since 2003 our government has worked hard to rebuild our province’s public health system. To resolve EMS offload delays, we started uploading land ambulance costs to achieve a true 50/50 cost-sharing with municipalities. We have also more than doubled annual land ambulance funding since 2003.

    Our government has undertaken a number of hospital expansion projects that will lead to increases in bed capacity in Halton region. We’re providing $2 billion to build a new state-of-the art hospital in north Oakville. The estimated 1.6 million square-foot hospital is on time and on schedule for substantial completion by summer 2015 with an opening targeted for December 2015. Offload delays will be partially addressed once the new hospital has opened and our bed capacity is increased. I will also work tirelessly to ensure that Milton receives the hospital expansion it requires to service its growing population.

    I am always open to working together with my municipal colleagues to improve our health care system for everyone in our community.

  10. Will you and your government honour the 2008 commitment to continue to the upload of social service and court costs until full implementation in 2018?

    In order to build a prosperous and fair Ontario, we need prosperous local communities. That’s why our government has worked cooperatively with municipal partners to ensure

    We have entered into landmark agreements with municipalities that have resulted in $2 billion in service costs uploaded off the back of municipal taxpayers. We have seen municipal support increase every year since 2003.

    I’m proud to say that we remain committed to uploading $1.5 billion per year in social assistance and court security costs by 2018–agreed through the Provincial-Municipal Fiscal and Service Delivery Review. By 2018, when the uploading of costs is fully absorbed, we will have increased support by more than 270 per cent.

    Ontario Liberals have a strong record of supporting and working with municipalities. In 2014, our Government will provide municipalities with ongoing support of approximately $3.5 billion. This will give municipalities room in their budgets to invest in local priorities and control property taxes

    When they were in power, the PCs downloaded highways and services onto municipalities. Unfortunately, the types of cuts that the PCs are proposing in their platform would once again lead to additional costs or service cuts to municipalities.

  11. Are you willing to vote against your party’s platform on issues that negatively affect Halton Region?

    My entire campaign has been dedicated to putting Halton families first. I have lived in Halton for more than 20 years. Halton is my home. It is where I chose to raise my family. My children were born here. They attend school here, play hockey, soccer and dance here, and regularly participate in charity events here. We spend our time visiting the many Halton Region conservation areas, shopping in the Milton and Burlington Farmer's Markets, attending the local fairs, and enjoying everything the region has to offer.

    While I have long contributed to my community through volunteerism and local activism, I have come to see that I can serve Halton best where the need is greatest, as a Member of Provincial Parliament. Halton is growing and changing but it has not had strong representation for a long time and that is why I am running. We need a change of representation in Halton. We need a stronger voice.

    Our representation in Halton has continued to say no to the important concerns of residents in Halton. When it came to funding for hospitals to take care of our sick in Oakville, Milton and Burlington he said no. When it came to funding schools for our children in the fastest growing community in Canada, he said no. When it came to expanded roadways and public transportation for thousands of Halton commuters, he said no. Our local MPP says no too often. I think it’s time we had someone here who says yes to Halton. I will say yes to Halton.