Documents reveal Ontarians may have been pressured into paying tolls

A document obtained by the CBC shows the Ontario government sat on $1-billion in penalty payments from the 407 Express Toll Route over a decade because it had strong doubts about imposing a toll on the expressway.

The correspondence, sent to the Liberals in April 2014, by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s then-transportation minister Glen Murray, says: “This committee is nervous about slapping a toll on the 407 and may consider an independent solution.”

The NDP Opposition has now demanded an immediate inquiry into the cancellation of the planned tolls.

“The Liberals decided to cancel this project, pull the plug, for political reasons,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in a statement. “Ontarians are paying for it today and they are not going to stop until the cost reaches $1-billion.”

Wynne said Monday that she was surprised by the revelation but denied there was any intention to deal with the tolls through illegal means.

“This government has been clear: We acted within the law and with the advice and support of senior government staff at all levels,” Wynne said.

Last week, the government confirmed there would be no tolls after the Liberals cancelled the $5-billion project.

The cash-strapped Liberals say they need the money to balance the budget in time for the next election. Wynne said she had not influenced any decision in relation to the 407.

NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh accused the government of lying about the toll decision and called on it to make public the names of all those involved.

“The Liberals can’t hide behind a lack of financial disclosure,” Singh said. “If they can’t answer questions from the opposition and the media, they should wait until the next election.”

But government spokesman Stephen Buckley said it’s the opposition that has been keeping secret the names of those involved and he suggested the NDP be cautious.

“The NDP owes it to the public and hardworking Ontarians to respect full disclosure and to provide a full list of those involved,” Buckley said.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said it was a matter of trust between government and the people.

“The only way to fix this is to restore the public’s faith in government by putting people’s interest first and promoting public sector solutions rather than closing them down,” Schreiner said.

– Follow @Kalvapalle on Twitter

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