The battle over the future of Toronto Transit is “not over yet,” promises Etobicoke Councillor Doug Ford, arguing the mayor’s pledge to build subways would get him re-elected tomorrow.
Mayor Rob Ford will face the greatest test of his leadership when councillors meet on Wednesday to debate his transit plan. The special meeting, which is being held at the request of 24 councillors led by TTC chair Karen Stintz, will pit the mayor’s subway vision against the light-rail plan council endorsed three years ago.
Ms. Stintz is asking councillors to reaffirm the 2009 agreement for light-rail lines on Eglinton Avenue, Sheppard Avenue East and Finch Avenue West, and to replace the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit line. At stake is $8.4-billion in provincial transit spending – money initially designated for the 2009 plan, but now earmarked at the mayor’s insistence entirely for burying the Eglinton Crosstown line. Mr. Ford has promised to extend the Sheppard subway with private financing.
The move by Ms. Stintz and her supporters shows a “ total disconnect” between the 24 councillors and the public, Mr. Ford said. As TTC chair, Ms. Stintz has played a key role in the Ford administration, but has lost the confidence of the mayor, he said.
“It’s sheerly political what’s happening right now,” he said. “It’s a personal attack against the mayor. That’s clear.”
Asked how the mayor plans to respond, he answered: “Stand by and see what the recourse is.”
Ms. Stintz says provincial transit dollars could be better spent – and create more transit for more Torontonians – under the original light-rail plan. The deal that the mayor struck with the province last year to bury the Eglinton line requires council’s endorsement, and with a majority of councillors now asking for a special meeting, that appears increasingly unlikely.
“The question for council is, is this the best way to spend $8.4-billion and that question will be answered on Wednesday,” Ms. Stintz told reporters.
She also took issue with the mayor’s insistence that his election win gave him a mandate to build subways. “There is no funded subway plan, and an underground LRT is not a subway,” she said.
To bolster that point, Ms. Stintz released a report late Monday done by KPMG on the funding options for Toronto Transit.
The study, part of research done for Gordon Chong’s report to the mayor on the Sheppard subway, shows all options would leave the project underfunded by at least $1-billion, she said. All the tools the city could use to close that gap would require provincial approval, Ms. Stintz said, and some options, such as hiking development fees across the city, would be a tough sell politically.
In releasing his report last week, Dr. Chong said the city can count on the private sector to fund 50 to 60 per cent of the new subway.
Ms. Stintz used the consultant’s study to paint a different picture. “It won’t get built unless there is significant City of Toronto tax dollars applied towards this project,” she said.
With a report from Patrick White