Trapped between his appreciation for federal transit investment and his loathing of streetcars the money is helping buy, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford opted for pretending the vehicles didn’t exist.
Mr. Ford was at the TTC’s Hillcrest facility Friday morning for a signing ceremony on a renewed gas-tax agreement with the federal government, a deal which is expected to bring billions of dollars to the province over the next decade. Some gas-tax money is being spent on the TTC’s new streetcar fleet.
“On behalf of the city of Toronto, I want to thank the federal government for its continued commitment to cities like ours,” said Mr. Ford, who wore his chain of office to a joint appearance with Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Russ Powers, president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
“Among many other transit improvements, the gas tax is helping the TTC increase its fleet size. This has allowed us to continually improve service quality while serving a greater number of passengers, each and every day.”
The mayor listed a number of ways the TTC is upgrading its fleet, including new subway cars, more vehicles for disabled riders and buses being replaced. Conspicuously absent was a mention of the $1.2-billion order for new streetcars, a vehicle he despises and has repeatedly said he will phase out.
Nearly 10 per cent of the cost of the new streetcars is being funded through the gas tax.
“Perhaps he doesn’t know that the money is going to pay for streetcars,” TTC Chair Maria Augimeri said after the photo-op.
“Perhaps he doesn’t know that, when he said he would get rid of all streetcars, it would cost us an additional $2-billion that we can’t afford. Perhaps he doesn’t know that, for every streetcar we remove on King or on Queen Street, we’d have to replace each and every one with three to five buses, which would make life intolerable and traffic immovable. Perhaps he doesn’t know the realities of Toronto.”
Mr. Ford did not take questions at the signing ceremony and left immediately for City Hall, leaving Mr. Oliver to do a media scrum next to one of the next streetcars.
Mr. Powers, with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said that the renegotiated gas tax was not new but that money could not flow until Friday’s signing ceremony. Among the changes in the new agreement is that the money is indexed and the funding made permanent.