Toronto’s mayor is ratcheting up his campaign for subways with a warning to the premier: Bury new transit lines or risk losing seats in the next election.
“It's political suicide,” Rob Ford said of Dalton McGuinty’s promise to follow the lead of city council, which voted earlier this month to resurrect most of the light-rail network Mr. Ford killed on his first day in office.
“[Mr. McGuinty]is the one who’s going to lose seats and votes,” Mr. Ford said Monday. “I listen to the voters. Every poll you see is 70 or 80 per cent want subways. So if he wants to, you know, cater to the 30 per cent, I don't see him winning many seats at 30 per cent.”
The mayor was responding to comments Mr. McGuinty made Monday morning, when he reiterated that the Liberal government is “running out of patience,” with divisions between the Ford administration and council on how to spend $8.4-billion in provincial transit funding.
“We’re coming to the end of our rope,” Mr. McGuinty told reporters.
It wasn’t the first time Mr. Ford called the Liberal government’s position on Toronto transit “political suicide.”
The mayor levelled that charge Sunday on the debut broadcast of his weekly radio show, co-hosted with his brother, Councillor Doug Ford.
The mayor also told listeners that he hadn’t heard directly from Mr. McGuinty that the province would in fact side with council, not Mr. Ford, on how best to expand public transit in the city.
“I gotta get a radio show, obviously,” Mr. McGuinty joked on Monday, before adding: “I think we’ve all been very clear in this regard that we have a responsibility to listen to decisions adopted by Council as a whole.”
Mr. Ford suffered the worst defeat of his mayoralty earlier this month when council voted 25-18 to revive most of Transit City, the light-rail network championed by his predecessor, David Miller.
The council insurrection, led by TTC chair and erstwhile Ford ally Karen Stintz, saw Mr. Ford’s plan to bury all new transit lines scrapped in favour of a mix of above-and-below-ground tracks on Eglinton Avenue and Finch Avenue West.
Council punted a decision on how best to extend the Sheppard line – with surface light-rail or a subway – to an expert panel expected to report at the end of March.
Mr. McGuinty and Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli have since said several times that they intend to respect the council vote.
Ms. Stintz said Monday that was her understanding as well.
“[The premier]understands ... that council has made a decision on Eglinton and Finch. Those projects have been confirmed by council and can move forward. The only outstanding question really is what do we do for Sheppard?”
The mayor, meanwhile, is continuing to urge his supporters to speak out in favour of subways.
With reports from Elizabeth Church