Money that would help with flood-proofing the mouth of the Don River and tackling the affordable housing backlog are Toronto Mayor John Tory's top funding priorities as the federal Infrastructure Minister comes to the city for an initial meeting Wednesday.
Amarjeet Sohi is expected to view the eastern waterfront – where the Don needs about $975-million in work to unlock transit and development in the area – as part of his first visit to the city since taking on the crucial portfolio.
Mr. Tory said that work and the repairs to affordable housing, where the tab has grown to exceed $2-billion, were top of mind. But he noted that the country's biggest city has a variety of other needs as well and said he would push for a fair share of the $125-billion the federal Liberals have promised to spend on infrastructure over the next decade.
In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Tory said his experience convincing the three federal parties during the campaign to support his signature transit plan left him believing that Ottawa was ready to play a funding role, but let council decide its priorities.
"In the course of those discussions, I also came to realize that they want to be less involved in kind of the list-making and all that," he said. "They really just say … 'if you say it's important and you set the priorities, then you know we will give funding such that you can plan and execute.'"
Although a firm list of the rest of Toronto priorities does not yet exist, clues have emerged.
Waterfront transit – which was promised to developers building out the new neighbourhood there – is expected to figure. The long-planned downtown relief line could finally have a funding request attached to it.
At the Toronto Transit Commission, there are signs that a favoured project is modernizing the signal system on the Bloor-Danforth subway. Projected to have an estimated final cost of $431-million, this upgrade is necessary to handle the increased volume that would come with the proposed extension of that line farther in Scarborough.
Other big-ticket items loom. The city will have to decide next year on bus and streetcar purchases totalling $536-million, plus another $346-million in so-called "state-of-good-repair" work. More choices come due in 2017, when the city must decide whether to spend $915-million on new subway cars and another $546-million on buses. None of these purchases, all of which are included in the 2016-25 capital budget, is funded.
In an interview last month, TTC chair Josh Colle called it "completely irresponsible" to keep pushing crucial items below the budgetary line. Speaking in the wake of a TTC budget committee meeting, he called it "fundamental, basic work that has to be done."
Mr. Tory said he was keen as well to push for assistance with the sort of unglamorous and unfunded repair work that is weighing down capital budgets, including at the TTC.
"I'm certainly going to make the case that we need to [have] help with that, because it's a fundamental part," he said. "Similarly … the rest of the infrastructure we never talk about – the water, the sewers and so on – is very expensive."