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How I'd Fund Transit as Ontario's Premier

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As the Ontario Liberal leadership race heats up, The Huffington Post Canada is asking the declared candidates what message they'd most like to get out to our readers. Here's what Harinder Takhar, the Member of Provincial Parliament for Mississauga-Erindale, had to say.

Why are you running to be the next Premier of Ontario? Why do you think you're the right person for the job? What kind of ideas will you bring to the table? These are just a few of the important questions I've been asked since launching my leadership campaign.

I entered this leadership race focused on the issues that matter to the people of Ontario and their families, and I have maintained this focus throughout the campaign. I believe that this leadership race should be first and foremost be about presenting Ontarians with a detailed, workable plan that address the issues that really matter to our families and communities.

My leadership campaign has been about ideas and solutions. I have spent time talking with Ontarians across the province to make sure my ideas reflect your concerns, and my solutions solve the problems you've identified.

I want to take this opportunity to discuss my solution to Ontario's infrastructure deficit -- our congested highways, our outdated transit system and our crumbling local roads and bridges. Infrastructure is the engine of any economy. Currently, Ontario's infrastructure deficit is costing us approximately $6 billion in lost productivity every year. If we want to strengthen Ontario's economy, beginning at the community level, we must ensure that our infrastructure can keep up with the current demands and the increasing demands of the future.

Through my conversations with people across the province I learned that Ontarians are looking for an alternative financing model to public-private partnerships and taxpayer-funded projects that is cognizant of their concerns as taxpayers. Ontarians are looking for a smarter way to fund new infrastructure projects and make investments to improve existing systems.

If I am elected Premier I will work to issue a dedicated Ontario Infrastructure Savings Bond (OISB), to create a sustainable, dedicated and competitive Ontario-based funding model for infrastructure related projects to keep moving the Ontario economy moving forward. The OISB will be available to Ontario residents and Ontario-based businesses.

The capital accumulated through these bond issues will be used to fund government infrastructure-related projects such as transit, roads and bridges, hospitals, schools, and university campuses, as well as, municipal and jointly sponsored community based infrastructure projects. The capital will also be used to fund certain pre-approved infrastructure projects run by non-profit organizations whose primary source of funding is the government of Ontario.

As alternatives to public-private partnerships and taxpayer funded projects, the OISB will allow bond holders to reinvest the interest earned on their bonds on a preferential basis. The interest income earned from OISB will be exempt from the Ontario Income Tax. I will also call on the federal government to make the interest income exempt at the federal level.

Furthermore, OISB holders will be able to establish a direct link between their investments and improvements being made to infrastructure, enabling heightened transparency, as bond holders have an incentive to keep the government accountable.

I want Ontarians to know that I plan to lead a stronger, smarter, more focused government that is open and accountable, that puts their priorities and concerns as taxpayers at the centre of every decision it makes. The OISB is a smart financing alternative that will ensure we can address Ontario's infrastructure deficit and keep our economy moving forward.