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Toronto mayor John Tory attends a press conference.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor John Tory is calling the federal-budget promise of new transit funding "a major step forward" for the city – and for getting his SmartTrack transit plan built.

The Conservative government's 2015 budget released Tuesday included the creation of a new fund for transit infrastructure beginning in 2017 that would grow to $1-billion a year by 2019. And although the proposal included few details on how the funds would be distributed – and what, if anything Toronto may receive – Mr. Tory said he's "optimistic."

"This is a major step forward for Canada and for Toronto," Mr. Tory said. "This is funding that did not exist before."

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The transit proposal would begin in 2017 with $250-million available in the first year for cities across Canada. That amount would rise to $500-million in the second year, and $1-billion by 2019-20. The funding is aimed at financing public-private partnerships on major transit projects in cities.

Toronto would be competing with other cities for a part of the funding, but Mr. Tory said he's confident the city's application – with his $8-billion SmartTrack plan as its centrepiece – will "get its fair share."

"The articulation for this program said it was for major transit projects in the country's largest cities," he told reporters. "We are the largest city in Canada."

Mr. Tory's SmartTrack plan relies on the province and federal governments to each contribute one-third of the funding.

Toronto Transit Commission chair Josh Colle, meanwhile, said it was "a bit of a leap" to say what the announcement would mean for Toronto, given the lack of detail. He also pointed out that the funds wouldn't be accessible until 2017 – with just $250-million for cities across the country.

"I would certainly hope Toronto would get a large share of it," he said, "but we always know that there's those competing interests from cities across the country who I'm sure all have transit projects they want to dust off and get moving."

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