Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne rebuffed Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s demand that Queen’s Park fund his suburban subway plans, emphasizing her government’s support for city council’s light-rail project, government sources said.
Ms. Wynne invited Mr. Ford to the late-afternoon tête-à-tête in her Queen’s Park office Thursday – their first formal meeting other than an informal chat at a dinner last month and one phone call.
Mr. Ford used the opportunity to present his spending requests ahead of the provincial budget and make his case for a Toronto casino. “We had a good meeting,” the mayor said after the half-hour sit-down. “Obviously, there are a number of things that we can agree on and that we’re going to agree to disagree on.”
One item not on the agenda was the controversy that has dogged Mr. Ford all week after one of his council allies, out of concern over his behaviour, allegedly had to escort him out of a charity event.
Asked about the incident, he smiled and said: “We didn’t actually discuss that with the Premier.”
Ms. Wynne and Mr. Ford are diametrical opposites: She a conciliatory liberal sophisticate; he a hard-charging conservative populist.
The mayor has campaigned for an extension to the Sheppard subway line but staunchly opposes implementing taxes, tolls or parking levies to pay for it. The Premier’s government, meanwhile, made a deal with council to build four LRTs. And this week, Ms. Wynne said it will be impossible to build future projects, including a major new Toronto subway line, without new sources of revenue to pay for it.
In their meeting, Ms. Wynne was said to have remained firm in the government’s position that any transit deals between Queen’s Park and Toronto must be made with city council.
Mr. Ford also badly wants a casino in Toronto and insists the city should receive a sweeter deal than other municipalities on hosting fees. But when provincial gambling officials suggested they would give Toronto a larger cut of casino revenues than other host cities, Ms. Wynne promptly put a stop to it and ordered them to create a single revenue formula that would be used equally across the province.
On Thursday, Mr. Ford pitched a casino as only one part of a larger development, one source said. He focused instead on pitching a new convention centre to accompany it.
Casino plans presented by developers and promoters over the past year have all included add-ons. One proposal would see the Metro Convention Centre replaced with a newer facility, which would include a gambling palace, along with residential and office towers. Another envisions a casino paired with a new shopping centre at Exhibition Place.
Although the cash-strapped, deficit-saddled province could badly use the extra cash a casino would provide, Ms. Wynne has said any decision on building one must be made by city council. She is also known to be lukewarm to gambling herself; the plan to erect casinos across the province predates her premiership.
Despite these differences, the meeting was described as cordial. The pair plan to keep in touch by phone.
One source said Mr. Ford did not lay out many hard numbers in his budget requests.
“We talked about a number of things, like I said, with respect to the upcoming budget. And there are a lot of issues, there are transit issues, there’s obviously the casino,” he said. “It was a productive meeting.”
With a report from Adam Radwanski