Local mayors pleased with ongoing commitments in provincial budget

Kitchener City Hall is pictured on Thursday, July 3, 2014. (Kevin Doerr / CTV Kitchener)

There were no new projects announced in Waterloo Region in Thursday's provincial budget, but local mayors were pleased to hear about ongoing commitments.

The budget was mostly dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but some local projects were mentioned.

Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said he's happy the province hasn't forgotten about several large infrastructure projects in the region, including expanding GO Train service, a number of highway expansions and an ongoing local long-term care project.

The province promised a second tunnel on the Kitchener GO line.

The budget also mentioned plans for the Highway 7 expansion that will connect Kitchener and Guelph, as well as the Highway 401 expansion in Cambridge from Hespeler Road to Townline Road.

Vrbanovic said there's always concern that some projects may fall by the wayside, especially during the pandemic. But, he said Thursday's budget gave him confidence in the region's post-pandemic recovery.

"These are long-term projects that need investment throughout," he said. "They'll keep people employed and most importantly they'll make sure we're ready as an area to make the most of things when we come out of the pandemic over the next couple of years." The budget also mentioned ongoing construction at Shlegel Villages. The province reaffirmed its commitment to build 97 new long-term care beds and upgrade 95 long-term care beds in Kitchener.

Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky said he was happy to see the province investing in mental health and small business during the pandemic.

"COVID-19's impacts are wide-ranging," he said in an emailed statement to CTV News. "I am very thankful that the government has made additional investments in mental health, our arts sector, and small business supports. Every bit helps as we all try to help each other through the pandemic."

The budget includes $176 million for mental health and addictions, $25 million for arts institutions losing money due to COVID-19 and $60 in one-time grants of up to $1,000 for small businesses to help offset personal protective equipment costs.

Region of Waterloo officials said they asked for a reduction on the business education tax rate, funding for transit, affordable housing, broadband and infrastructure funding.

They said they ware pleased that the budget mentioned local projects, including highway improvements and more GO Train service.

“The Toronto Waterloo Region Innovation Corridor will play a key role in Ontario’s economic recovery,” said Regional Chair, Karen Redman said in a news release. “These new investments by the Province will allow us to move a number of projects forward across Waterloo Region that will help stimulate our local economy.”

The province is expected to add $99.8 billion worth of deficit spending over the next three years.

With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca