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Toronto Toronto mayoral candidate David Soknacki presses for LRT ‘built faster’

Toronto mayoral candidate David Soknacki held a press conference outside the Lawrence Ave East Scarborough rapid transit station on Jan 14 2014.

Mayoral candidate David Soknacki wants to speed up construction of current transit projects in Toronto but says he's not going to meddle and "redraw lines on the map."

The former councillor – who has pledged to nix new plans for a subway extension in Scarborough and revert to the former agreement for light rail – confirmed Thursday that he is backing the LRT lines proposed for Sheppard and Finch avenues.

"The lines that are there, the lines that have been supported by environmental assessments, by professional review, I believe ought to go forward," Mr. Soknacki told reporters Thursday after a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade. "The funding is there; let's just get them built faster."

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He said that, if elected, he would use part of the mayor's budget to hire a policy adviser with experience in construction, consider public-private partnerships and look at incentives that would motivate quicker transit development.

Mayor Rob Ford, a noted opponent of surface transit, would like to replace the LRTs planned for Finch and Sheppard with subways. He also backs a subway in Scarborough, where rapid transit expansion has been a hotly debated political issue and, in its most recent iteration, the plan is for a subway there.

Transit already appears to be one of the most contentious issues of this election year. But the arguments over specific lines can obscure a bigger debate, the winner of which will have a profound effect on the city.

Mr. Ford and provincial Progressive Conservatives favour subways above all, a pricey option that means less expansion but has the advantage of being underground. Mr. Soknacki, expected candidate Karen Stintz and the provincial Liberals want a mix of above- and below-ground transit, a cheaper approach that allows more expansion but has the disadvantages of running vehicles on the surface.

The municipal election this fall and the probable provincial election this spring should go a long way toward settling this debate, with long-term effects on the way transit is built and the city develops.

"I'm an advocate for subways where subways work," Mr. Soknacki said during questions from the audience after his speech. "We need to develop transit that works best for the population."

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