Ontario must reach a deal with Toronto if a Scarborough subway extension is ever to become reality, but the two sides appear no closer together after Premier Kathleen Wynne met with TTC chair Karen Stintz.
And if Queen’s Park and city council cannot agree on a route for the project, Ms. Stintz said, Scarborough could end up with a light-rail line instead.
The city and province signed a master agreement to build an LRT last year. Then, in July, city council voted for a subway extension instead, and mapped out a route that largely follows McCowan Avenue. Last week, the province countered with a different, shorter subway alignment that runs above ground up the current Scarborough Rapid Transit corridor. Ms. Stintz was clear that she does not think highly of the route favoured by the province, which would involve sharp turns. She also let Ms. Wynne know she was unhappy that the province put the alignment forward without consulting the city.
“I don’t even know that this plan should come to council. I don’t even think that it’s technically feasible,” she said outside Queen’s Park after the sit-down. “It’s not a subway. It’s an elevated two-stop route to Scarborough Town Centre which, technically, we don’t know if we can do.”
The only agreement that currently exists, she said, is to build the LRT. If the city and the province cannot reach a new deal on the subway, the light-rail line would be constructed instead.
“We will continue to work with our plan,” she said. “Failing that, the master agreement is a signed agreement.”
Government sources acknowledged that Ms. Stintz is correct – the deal would have to be changed to build a subway. But they said the province is determined to make it happen one way or another. Among other considerations, the Liberals know the matter will be an issue in the next election, said one party insider.
The Premier might find an ally in Mayor Rob Ford, who sounded more willing to compromise. He said he prefers the route endorsed by city council, but that he was “flexible.”
“If the [province] wants to pay for it all and give us the alternative, I’ll look at it,” he said. “I think there are issues with both routes from the engineers. I’m very flexible on both routes, but we should stick to what council approved and we’ll take it from there.”
He said a few matters would have to be worked out, including who would pay for sunk costs already spent on the LRT.
The Progressive Conservatives, meanwhile, ramped up the pressure on Ms. Wynne to accept council’s favoured route. They also urged the province to wait and see how much money the city and federal governments can pony up, in hopes of building the subway further, to Sheppard Avenue East.
“I think it’s just too early to throw [the federal government] out of the picture yet,” said PC MPP Doug Holyday, a former Toronto deputy mayor. “They haven’t had enough time to come to the table, they want to have a concrete proposal that everyone agrees to, and that’s the toughest thing to get around here.”