Mayor Rob Ford and subway supporters are ready to claim victory in a debate over the future of Scarborough transit, even as the exact funding and price for the expansion remains uncertain.
City council is expected to revisit the controversial issue of light rail versus subways as early as Tuesday, considering a staff report on replacing the aging Scarborough Rapid Transit line with a subway extension.
If council gives its blessing to the change in plans and commits funds to the project, Mr. Ford said on Monday the province is ready to build a Scarborough subway extension and the federal government will consider helping to pay for it.
“I believe we are a step closer to building a subway to Scarborough,” an upbeat Mr. Ford said on Monday after a meeting with Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray. “I believe on this issue, we are both on the same page.”
Mr. Ford met with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Saturday.
The city and the province agreed last year to replace the Scarborough RT with a $1.8-billion light-rail line that the province would finance. The change of heart by the provincial Liberal government comes after pressure from TTC chair Karen Stintz and their own Scarborough MPPs. The subway is estimated to cost $1.1-billion more than the LRT, and the two sides must work out a way to pay for it.
Mr. Murray pledged on Monday to put $1.4-billion of the provincial cash that would pay for an LRT toward the subway project. He confirmed that the province will build a subway if council votes for one and can present a business case to support it.
“We respect the city council,” he said. “We’re simply saying to them: ‘Figure out what you want to do.’”
Both the city and the province are looking to the federal government to help fund transit. Mr. Ford said Mr. Flaherty did not commit a specific sum, but that he supported the idea.
Mr. Flaherty’s staff would not discuss details of that meeting, but Ottawa has set aside billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, including transit.
Scarborough councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker agreed the city could quickly meet Mr. Murray’s conditions for funding, saying much of the research is done.
But he said Mr. Ford and council may not be on the same page when it comes to how much money the city needs to raise. He expects a majority of councillors will endorse a staff-recommended 1- to 2-per-cent tax hike over three years, significantly higher than the 0.25-per-cent increase put on the table by Mr. Ford last week.