Ontario's three political parties are falling short on long-term vision, according to the Toronto Board of Trade, which is urging party leaders to create a strategy to solve the region's gridlock and infrastructure problems.

The City of Toronto's traffic woes can cost the average resident more than an hour of congested commuting time every day, according to a recent study, frustrating drivers and transit riders on their way to work and again as they rush home at the end of the day.

That loss of productivity prompted the board to push the Toronto area's infrastructure deficit as an election issue, calling Ontario's outdated transit system an economic cancer that costs the province billions of dollars each year.

A recent Statistics Canada report found that Toronto has the longest commute in the country, with an average one-way trek chewing up 33 minutes.

A separate Toronto Board of Trade study suggests the average Toronto commuter spends as much as 80 minutes in traffic every day. The board is trying to drive the city's traffic problems to the front of the provincial election campaign.

Richard Joy, vice-president of policy for the Board of Trade, said Ontario's next government needs to come prepared with plans to address the Toronto area's infrastructure and congestion woes as well as a fresh economic strategy for the region.

"None of the parties have approached what we think is needed to deliver a long term, stable financing strategy to massively expand the transportation and transit infrastructure in the region," Joy told CTVNews.ca.

A poll conducted by the board found that 70 per cent of those with an opinion on the provincial election felt the current party platforms were not putting enough focus on the GTA's traffic congestion problem.

The poll found that 76 per cent believe traffic congestion has gotten worse in the past two years, while 61 per cent feel it has reached a crisis point.

While the rest of Ontario suffers their own traffic and infrastructure problems, the board of trade says Toronto's congestion is a primary concern considering the region is responsible for about 50 per cent of the province's GDP.

Some 100,000 people move into the Toronto region every year, causing the cost and time associated with daily commutes to skyrocket. The time lost to extended commutes adds up to $6 billion in annual costs to the economy.

A recent Nanos Research poll found that 21 per cent of those in the province believe jobs and the economy are the most important issues in the provincial election, behind only health care (28.9 per cent) as the top issue.

In a 30-page infrastructure report, the board of trade says the city is not building the infrastructure necessary to sustain a growing economy, thereby limiting growth potential.

"We are looking for a more mobile and economically-coordinated region," Joy said. "It is a massive productivity issue. It makes us less competitive with economies across the continent and around the world."

Liberals defend record, pledge investment

Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne agrees with the board's assessment. While defending the progress made in recent years, she said more must be done.

"In Ontario as a whole, and certainly in Toronto, we are playing catch-up," Wynne told CTVNews.ca. "There have been a number of decades where there hasn't been investment and the assumption has been that somehow we can grow … but we haven't built the infrastructure historically to go along with that.

"Transportation comes up (as an election issue) no matter if you are in a small municipality or a large urban centre."

Earlier this summer the Liberal government released its "Building Together" plan, a refocusing of infrastructure spending that promised as much as $35 billion for big projects over the next three years.

The plan includes updating and expanding transit systems in cities such as Waterloo and Ottawa as well as increasing capacity of the 400-series highways and expanding high-occupancy vehicle lanes.

In the Toronto area, an extension to the Spadina subway line and the construction of an air-rail link between Union Station and Pearson airport are also being funded.

"People need to understand there has been investment. They need to understand how much has been done and how much more is needed. That will be the narrative around transit during the election," Wynne said.

Tories vow similar investment

The Progressive Conservatives have similarly promised a $35-billion investment over the next three years to pay for new infrastructure, specifically transit and transportation.

The party's "Changebook" election strategy says the party would "stop the war on the car" and find a balance between public transportation and drivers.

"The reality is that if you live in Toronto, the GTA, Ottawa or other parts of the province, we are experiencing terrible gridlock," PC Leader Tim Hudak told reporters last month. "Families are spending way too much time stuck in their car or waiting for a subway."

Hudak has said he will spread the province's portion of gas taxes across every municipality, allowing each town to choose what infrastructure program on which to spend the money.

Wynne said the Liberals would continue to share the some $320 million in gas tax revenue with municipalities with an aim at improving public transit. She said the Liberals would continue to distribute the funds based on population and ridership levels.

"That gas tax money is really in place to give an incentive to municipalities to develop transit systems. We have a whole other pot of money that helps with roads and bridges," she said. "The gas tax money needs to, in my opinion, continue encouraging transit development."

NDP promise fare freeze

Ontario's New Democratic Party meantime has promised to create a three-year dedicated fund to provide $70 million to help municipalities with road and bridge repairs.

Leader Andrea Horwath has promised to take on an even share of the operating cost of transit systems in exchange for a promise from municipalities that they would freeze transit fares for four years.

The NDP is also campaigning on promises to set ceilings on gas prices and invest in bicycling infrastructure.