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The Globe and Mail

Province blames Ford, cities for gridlock problem

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford looks back at cameramen on a subway cars as Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty looks forward at another line of cameras following a joint transit funding announcement at the Wilson car yard in Toronto, March 31, 2011.

J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail/J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Liberal government says it's doing its part to reduce gridlock in the province and if congestion isn't easing, it's because of bad municipal decisions.

Infrastructure Minister Bob Chiarelli says the province has been investing in transit to get cars off the road, but that funding is sometimes not implemented because the cities don't make it a priority.

He points to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who moved quickly to scrap "Transit City" after he was elected.

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That program sought to spread more light rail lines throughout Toronto.

Instead, Mr. Ford chose to focus on subway extensions in the city's north and east ends.

Such moves, Mr. Chiarelli says, set provincial government's transit plans back by eight to 10 months.

"Our money's been on the table, our money has adjusted to the circumstances of the local community," he said.

"We can't build the subway in Toronto if the City of Toronto doesn't agree."

But Toronto Transit Commission chairwoman Karen Stintz says the provincial and federal governments are not providing enough money.

"We've consistently asked for more funding for transportation because it shouldn't be funded through the municipal tax base," said Ms. Stintz.

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"It should be funded by the provincial government because riders who use our transit system don't just live in Toronto."

NDP critic Peter Kormos said the province was wrong to go along with Ford's transit changes.

"McGuinty, in an effort to jump on the Ford phenomenon, acquiesced, rolled over in terms of the Ford redesign of the subway system," said Mr. Kormos.

"The provincial government has the cheque-signing authority that gives it an awful lot of leverage if it chooses to utilize it."

Mr. Chiarelli said the province wasn't willing to withhold funding in those instances, because it respected the municipalities' autonomy.

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