The 2017 Ontario Budget released this afternoon mostly echoes the highway infrastructure and environmental commitments the government made last year; while also recognizing a need to map out future infrastructure plans, including investments in autonomous vehicle technology research and development.
On top of the 10-year infrastructure plan unveiled in the 2016 Budget, Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa announced plans to create a “Long-Term Infrastructure Plan” by the end of 2017 that describes the province’s existing infrastructure portfolio, outlines anticipated needs and proposes strategies for all of Ontario’s infrastructure plans. The map out would cover all infrastructure strategies, including roads and highways.
As part of that commitment, the province will invest $80 million over five years to create the Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Innovation Network, in partnership with Ontario Centres of Excellence. The network will capitalize on the economic potential of AVs and help the province’s transportation systems and infrastructure adapt to AV technology. The money will support industry-led AV R&D projects, create sites across the province to develop, test and validate new technology, including a Demonstration Zone in Stratford.
The Ontario Trucking Association and Canadian Trucking Alliance are actively involved in many stakeholder efforts in both Canada and the U.S on the issue of autonomous vehicle. The OTA looks forward to working with provincial officials on navigating the operational, infrastructure and regulatory considerations related to highly automated vehicles in Ontario.
OTA and CTA, which are watching trade issues closely these days, also welcomed the province’s stated commitment in promoting stronger trade relations with the U.S. The budget said the province will, among other efforts, establish a Premier’s Committee on Ontario-U.S. Economic and Trade Relations and actively support the federal government’s efforts to create a positive dialogue with partners in the United States as the two nations prepare to discuss possible changes to NAFTA.
Additionally, as part of a stated effort to reduce electricity costs for businesses, Ontario is proposing to further expand the Industrial Conservation Initiative (ICI) program by lowering the eligibility threshold from one megawatt (MW) to 500 kilowatts (kW) for targeted manufacturing and industrial sectors, including greenhouses. OTA will explore in the coming weeks what impact, if any, this change to the ICI program will have on our sector.
Click here to read the full budget.