“Here in the GTHA and beyond, we’ve seen that there have been many years worth of debates, discussions and dialogue, now we need to get on with the job,” he said in an interview with the Daily Commercial News.
“A plan is only as good as its implementation, and that’s what I will be focused on.”
The Liberals’ plan includes investing $130 billion over the next 10 years in transportation and infrastructure, including $29 billion dedicated to transit and transportation, which Del Duca will oversee. This $29 billion investment will be broken into $15 billion for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) and $14 billion for the rest of Ontario.
He said the years of highlighting the need for transit and transportation infrastructure has built a strong public understanding for its need.
The recently re-released budget highlighted GTHA priorities as drawn from the Next Wave of Metrolinx projects, including electrification and GO Rail service expansion. Beyond the GTHA, priority projects include infrastructure development for the Ring of Fire and funding for bus and rail infrastructure for the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission.
Del Duca was appointed to his first cabinet position last month after the Liberals won a majority government and Premier Kathleen Wynne shuffled her cabinet. Del Duca takes over the portfolio from Glen Murray, who is now in charge of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Del Duca is no stranger to the province’s construction industry, having worked as the director of public affairs for the Carpenters District Council of Ontario.
He was elected in his Vaughan riding in a 2012 by-election. He has also served as parliamentary assistant to the finance minister where a lot of the budget was infrastructure-oriented.
“Given that I spent a number of years working in and around the construction industry, I think it will help focus my mind with respect to understanding the long-term impact it will have on communities, but in the shorter term, the fact that we will be able to help employ thousands and thousands of skilled tradespeople is something I know that is very important to the future economy,” he said.
The re-introduced Ontario budget recognizes the need for dedicated and stable funding as part of a balanced investment strategy in transportation infrastructure, including public transit. It also notes that the federal government needs to recognize that a national strategy is badly needed.
Del Duca has had a brief conversation with federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt about the issue. He said she understands the challenges and opportunities facing the province.
It is important to make sure there is strong evidence-based case on the importance of these types of investments, he said, noting that it is about providing a better quality of life for commuters across the province.
“There’s also an economic imperative to making sure that we get this plan delivered. It means that our economy will continue to move forward, it means that commercial goods will flow more easily through the system, it means that more companies will want to come here and employ people here,” he said.
“When the federal government has the chance to understand the importance of this economically, I sincerely hope that they’ll want to be at the table and partner with us, be a committed federal partner so that we can jointly deliver on these projects.”
During the last parliament, Del Duca introduced Bill 69, the Prompt Payment Act. When the bill was debated at committee, it was decided that there would be a broader review of the Construction Lien Act. The review is a joint responsibility of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.
“I remain firmly committed to the general principle that you have completed your work and it’s been certified as being complete, you should get paid in a timely fashion and there has to be a better system in place in order to deliver on that,” he said.
“From the Premier on down, people understand that there are improvements that are required in the system because the construction industry is too vital and too crucial to Ontario’s economy and we can’t afford to have an inefficient payment structure within that system.”
Though Bill 69 did not pass second reading, he said the debate surrounding it helped convince people that there is a challenge in the system and there is a consensus that something needs to be done.
Del Duca said he looks forward to working with all stakeholders and partners “and together we’re going to make some fantastic stuff happen.”