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TTC chair Stintz calls on Ford to allow full transit debate

TTC chair Karen Stintz announces that she hopes federal budget infrastructure funding will support the downtown subway relief line as she speaks to the media at Toronto City Hall on the day the federal budget is released on March 21, 2013.

michelle siu The Globe and Mail

TTC chair Karen Stintz says Mayor Rob Ford and five other members of his executive committee should not stand in the way of city council having a full debate on how to pay for transit expansion.

Ms. Stintz said the majority of councillors want to have that debate and are working together to make that happen, likely during the next regular meeting of council in early May.

"We have been elected by the people of Toronto to represent their interests and I think we need to do that in this matter," said Ms. Stintz, widely regarded as a likely candidate for mayor in the next election. "I think the Mayor had an obligation to bring it to council for full debate and I don't believe he showed leadership in this matter and I don't believe he has a vision for transit and I don't believe he has a vision for the city and I think that is unfortunate."

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Ms. Stintz's comments come one day after the Mayor's executive committee Tuesday voted 6-4 in favour of delaying for one month the debate on new sources of transit funding, a move that would keep the issue off the city council agenda until after a long-anticipated report to the province is expected on May 27.

The report, by the province's transit agency Metrolinx, is expected to recommend new revenue sources such as taxes and fees to pay for more transit in the greater Toronto and Hamilton area. As part of the process and at council's direction, city staff consulted with the public and prepared a report recommending four revenue tools to be implemented in the short term.

Mr. Ford made it clear during Tuesday's debate that he will not support any new fees, tolls or taxes, arguing the province must take money-saving measures first. "Guaranteed, hell will freeze over before I will support any of these new taxes," he said.

Ms. Stintz said that if Toronto does not weigh in with recommendations before the May 27 deadline when Metrolinx releases its recommendations, other regional municipalities will effectively be deciding how Toronto gets taxed.

"This is about six councillors who voted one way that prevent the majority from having a discussion," she said. "Far from council hijacking the mayor, it's really a question of do six councillors have the power to prevent council from having a discussion that it wants to have?"

There are several ways that council can force the issue. While a special meeting is one option, Ms. Stintz and others said Wednesday that likely will not happen.

Councillor Gord Perks said the easiest route would be to have a council member stand up at some point during the regular May meeting and "remove" the transit item from the executive committee. Such action requires the support of two-thirds of council.

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Mr. Ford's chief of staff Mark Towhey said Tuesday that he is "kind of excited" by the prospect of a special debate on the new revenue tools, promising to make the Mayor's opposition to them a centrepiece of his re-election campaign.

Ms. Stintz played down the debate as a future campaign issue. "This is an issue about how Ontario and the region is going to build transit," she said.

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Toronto City Hall bureau chief



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