Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray and TTC Chair Karen Stintz have patched things up after a nasty fight over funding for a Toronto subway.
And true to the farcical nature of this city’s never-ending transit debate, the reconciliation happened on live television, facilitated by a bowtie-wearing talk show host.
Earlier this week, city council voted to scrap plans for a light rail line in favour of an extension to the Bloor-Danforth subway. City hall demanded $1.8 billion in provincial cash to help pay for the project. But Mr. Murray announced Queen’s Park would put up only $1.4-billion.
On Thursday morning, Ms. Stintz warned that, without the extra $400-million, the subway would not be built. Those comments set Mr. Murray off. He admonished her at a press conference, declaring “Decide whose side you’re on. Are you with the people of Scarborough?” Later, he used an interview with the Toronto Sun to lambaste her as an “impediment” to getting transit built. He and Ms. Stintz argued over Twitter through the evening.
Finally, on Friday, the pair appeared on CP24’s Live at Noon. Host Stephen LeDrew, sporting his trademark red-rimmed spectacles and a candy-cane bowtie, busted out some tried-and-true Maury Povich tactics to make peace.
First, he brought Mr. Murray on to tell his side of the story. The Minister explained the $400-million is needed for renovations to Kennedy station and to cover costs the province has already incurred on the now-cancelled LRT.
Next, it was Ms. Stintz’s turn. Mr. LeDrew misinterpreted Mr. Murray’s math and incorrectly told the TTC Chair the province was now prepared to hand over $1.72-billion. Informed of this surprising new development, Ms. Sintz was elated. During a commercial break, Mr. Murray cleared up Mr. LeDrew’s mathematical error, and told Ms. Stintz the province is still only giving the city $1.4-billion. She accepted that.
Shortly after, the two appeared side-by-side to declare an end to their feud.
“We’ve spoken, and we’ve agreed we’re going to work collaboratively to close the [funding] gap and make sure that we build a subway to Scarborough,” Ms. Stintz said.
Asked if they were now “seeing eye-to-eye,” she replied cheerily: “Absolutely. CP24 brought us together, saved transit in Toronto and made sure a subway gets built.”
“Right here!” Mr. Murray chimed in. “CP24, summit happens. Stephen LeDrew, you’re awesome. We’ll have to call it the Stephen LeDrew line.”
“Exactly,” Ms. Stintz agreed, as Mr. LeDrew laughed heartily.
Mr. Murray chalked up the previous day’s fighting to fatigue.
“Karen and I both care a lot about this. We’ve invested a lot of time. We’ve been working 18 hours a day on this,” he said. “You do get tired, you know? We’re all human ... sometimes government has to have a little bit of a tangle before we can settle things down.”
The hatchet buried, the reconciled representatives of the two lower levels of government even agreed on a method for raising the rest of the cash to complete the subway.
“We’ll work together to make sure the federal government contributes their fair share,” Ms. Sintz said.
“Our federal cousins, who we know love Scarborough just as much as we do -- we will get them to the table,” Mr. Murray agreed.
There is no word yet on whether the feds are ready for a tweet-off.