ABOVE: John Tory delivers “State of the City” address
TORONTO – John Tory says the city’s transit system is “reeling” after recent cuts and its housing infrastructure is in “crisis.”
But city taxpayers can’t pay for it alone. He wants the provincial and federal governments to step up and said he will open a dialogue with them that has recently been “basically non-existent.”
The mayor-elect made the comments during an afternoon press conference Thursday, a month to the day after he was elected mayor of Toronto. Since the election, Tory has been meeting with his transition team to get updates on a number of files including transit, housing, poverty and gridlock.
In short, the city’s transit infrastructure badly needs more funding, Tory said.
“Those issues, the issue of capital and operating funding, has not been the subject of any kind of consistent dialogue between the city and other levels of the government,” he said.
He pointed to council’s decision to freeze the city subsidy to the TTC in 2011 which led to 41 bus routes being cut.
“The system, the TTC system is still reeling from operating cuts imposed by council in 2011 and again in 2012 which resulted on 41 bus routes across the city being reduced,” he said.
He said he’s asked TTC CEO Andy Byford to look into restoring service on some of the affected routes but noted some of the buses have since been retired.
“It is something that we didn’t want to do at the time, and it is something we are keen to bring back,” Byford said. “We clearly have a mayor coming into office who believes in public transit.”
Byford said he hopes to restore crowding standards that were also cut in 2010.
Tory cautioned all of his promises are contingent on being able to pay for them. But he added if there was any division which he thought should have their funding restored, it should be the TTC.
A number of transit projects are underway: the implementation of new subway trains and streetcars, installation of Wi-Fi at subway stations, signal upgrades which Tory wants to see expedited, the Union Station revitalization, planned light rail transit projects and the Scarborough subway. Also, Tory said “detailed analysis” has started on his SmartTrack transit plan which he campaigned on through the election.
Tory also spoke about several other issues facing the city including finding a new police chief, fixing child poverty and the upcoming Pan Am Games which he said was “crucially important” for the city.
But the city also faces another crisis: housing.
“I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say we are in the midst of a housing crisis in the city of Toronto,” Tory said. “This problem will not be solved by the resources of city taxpayers alone. We need other levels of government to provide greater and broader assistance.”
Tory noted the city is facing a growing backlog of needed repairs at Toronto Community Housing which could reach $2.6 billion in the next decade. According to the TCHC website, the organization faces a $1.73 billion funding shortfall.
The number of uninhabitable TCHC units has risen from 56 in 2010 to an estimated 4,000 in 2018.
“If we don’t get the assistance from the provincial and federal governments, it will be that bad,” City manager Joe Pennachetti said at the afternoon press conference.
A recent report titled “The Hidden Epidemic: A Report on Child and Family Poverty in Toronto” revealed 29 per cent of Toronto children are part of low-income families.
“That is obviously unacceptable, I think, to every Torontonian and certainly it’s mayor-to-be,” he said.