Olivia Chow is promising more rush-hour TTC bus service – at a cost of $15-million a year – if she is elected mayor.
Ms. Chow said the money would be found in the city’s budget and would not compromise her promise to hold property taxes around the rate of inflation.
She argued that the TTC could use some of the 140 new buses on their way and 100 buses the city is retiring to increase rush-hour capacity by 10 per cent.
“It is a modest improvement and it’s needed and it’s immediate so that people can ride more frequently and ride with comfort and dignity,” she said.
However, fellow mayoral candidate and former TTC chair Karen Stintz said the plan would put pressure on the city’s budget.
“We worked really hard over the last four years to make the TTC budget sustainable and we had to make difficult decisions,” Ms. Stintz said. “She will have to increase property taxes beyond the rate of inflation if she wants to do this.”
Ms. Chow argued that bus service needs to catch up with fare increases amid a reduced budget.
“What Rob Ford did when he first got elected was cut the funding from the TTC – that caused more crowding,” she said.
She called into question the transit plans of her opponents John Tory and Mr. Ford, who have both promised to expand subway lines.
“You can’t just go and announce a line without telling people where the funding will come from,” she said, comparing it to asking someone to lock into a 17-year cellphone plan without knowing the cost.
But on Thursday afternoon, her opponents countered with promises for more subways.
“I believe in subways,” said Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother and campaign manager. “Subways all the way. The 635,000 people who only have two subway stations – something’s not right.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Tory said Ms. Chow “revealed her true colours.”
“To pay for her bus plan, she says she will raise taxes ‘around’ the rate of inflation,” Erika Mozes said in an e-mail. “When the NDP says ‘around,’ they always mean ‘more.’ Keep your hand on your wallet.”
Ms. Chow repeated her promise to return to a light-rail plan in Scarborough, which she announced at her campaign launch last week.
“I wish that there was no four-year delay,” she said when challenged over her proposal to go back to former mayor David Miller’s light-rail plan. She argued that all the necessary studies to prepare for such a service are complete.
“Shovels can be in the ground next year after I become the new mayor of this city,” Ms. Chow said.
But her statements drew fresh criticism from Ms. Stintz, who said it was important to get shovels in the ground on the subway extension.
“She’s bringing forward an unfunded plan and she’s threatening to cancel a funded plan,” Ms. Stintz said. “We’re going to extend the Bloor-Danforth line to Sheppard, and it is so important that we not go back and discuss that.”
When asked about allegations of drug use against the mayor, Ms. Chow said the mayor’s personal life is a distraction from talk about better service for the people of Toronto.
“It’s not just his personal story. It’s his policies – his policies that are leading to more crowding on the buses, his policies that are saying that we will build something in Scarborough and that you have to wait 10 years from now rather than something that we can build now.
“He’s already wasted four years.”
With files from Ann Hui