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Hudak wants to order Toronto to build subways, not streetcars

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak delivers a keynote speech to his party's convention in Niagara Falls on Feb. 11, 2012.

Pawel Dwulit/Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press

Ontario is providing all the funding so the province should order the city of Toronto to build subways, even if city council votes for light rail transit instead, Opposition Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.

Just hours after Mayor Rob Ford's push for subways was dealt a major setback by councillors who replaced the board at the Toronto Transit Commission, the Progressive Conservatives came out swinging on Mr. Ford's behalf.

The subway debate at city council has deteriorated into a war of personalities, and the province needs to step in and take control of the $8.4-billion transit plan along Eglinton Avenue, said Mr. Hudak.

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"The province should be investing in subways, building underground, not ripping up more city streets and taking away lanes permanently to build glorified streetcars," Mr. Hudak told reporters.

"We know it's the right thing to do."

The Tories strongly feel the billions in provincial funding gives the province the right to determine Toronto's transit future, even if the elected council objects, Mr. Hudak added.

"This is provincial dollars, $8.4 billion from the provincial treasury, not from the city treasury, therefore the province has to have a say in it," he said.

"I just disagree with the Premier who wants to sit on the sidelines and see how this plays out."

During question period, Premier Dalton McGuinty noted Mr. Hudak was a member of the Progressive Conservative government in 1995 that moved to end construction of an Eglinton subway line started by the NDP.

"There was a time when he wanted to bury subways and now he wants to give life to subways, so it's hard to keep up with where they stand," Mr. McGuinty told the legislature.

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"Our shared responsibility at all times is to respect the expressed will of our municipal councils."

The premier said the province's funding agreement with Mr. Ford required him to get council approval for any transit plan, and lashed out at Mr. Hudak's apparent willingness to overrule the vote of an elected council.

"What other considered positions of municipalities across Ontario is he prepared to disregard and substitute his own personal discretion," Mr. McGuinty said.

"I don't think that's the way to run a railroad, and I don't think it's the way to run a provincial government."

Mr. Hudak criticized McGuinty for staying on the sidelines while Ford and his council fight over the future of the city's transit.

There was a "compelling provincial interest" in getting subways built, Mr. Hudak said.

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"Gridlock (in Toronto) is amongst the worst in North America, costing us billions of dollars every year with people stuck in their cars, waiting for the next streetcar to come along," Mr. Hudak said.

"It discourages investment."

Mr. Hudak called subways a "once-in-a-generation investment" that he said "offer the best return when it comes to speed, quality and value."

The Tories had an Opposition Day motion scheduled to be debated in the legislature Tuesday calling on the province to fund subways, not streetcars. The Liberals and NDP were expected to defeat the motion, which would not be binding on the government even if passed.

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