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Inside City Hall

Ford to Rossi: I said it first! Add to ...

Update: Now George Smitherman has weighed in on Mr. Rossi's plan, calling it a "mistake-ridden" plan that would "kill" public transit on Eglinton Avenue.

Well, that didn't take long. Rocco Rossi had barely finished announcing his transit plan when Rob Ford's camp fired off a press release congratulating him for being a copy cat. "Mayoral candidate says imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," the e-mail thundered.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Rossi unveiled his public transit platform, confusingly titled Transit City Plus. The name is a head-scratcher because Mr. Rossi is suggesting largely scrapping, not expanding Mayor David Miller's signature light-rapid transit plan. The former Liberal fundraiser and businessman is in favour of more subway and bus service, a pricey proposition he said he could pay for, in part, by selling Toronto Hydro. (My colleague Anna Mehler Paperny has a much more detailed take on the plan here.)

Mr. Ford said last week he prefers subways to streetcars and that he would turn to the private sector to pay for going underground. Details, however, were thin. For instance, how would Mr. Ford convince the private sector to invest in a money-losing proposition like public transit in the first place? It's not impossible, but it's no snap either. Mr. Ford has promised more details on his transit plan in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the Ford camp is clearly enjoying pricking Mr. Rossi to see how much more air leaks from his campaign.

"I'd like to congratulate Rocco on coming on side with the Ford plan for financing subway construction," Mr. Ford said in his release. "Realizing that subways, not streetcars are the way to go, and that the private sector be part [of]the solution to our transit and gridlock problems is a pretty big deal in this city, so I'm excited to see that my ideas are catching on."

How long before Subway Sarah Thomson accuses Mr. Ford of copying her? She was first out of the station on subways, pledging to levy a rush-hour road toll on the DVP and Gardiner to pay for an expanded underground network.

If you're keeping track, that's three leading candidates who've rejected Transit City and light-rail. George Smitherman's support for the program has been lukewarm at best (he lamented the province's decision to postpone funding, but said it gave the city and province the necessary time to make sure the St. Clair streetcar fiasco isn't repeated in the inner suburbs.) Joe Pantalone, the only unabashed supporter of Transit City, has been much quieter on the subject than one would expect of the guardian of David Miller's legacy. None of this bodes well for Transit City.

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