Full Disclosure

October 25, 2013 10:02 am
Updated: October 25, 2013 10:40 am

Pop quiz: How much is Toronto actually paying for its Scarborough subway?

St. Clair West subway station.

Anna Mehler Paperny/Global News

What’s the difference between Oakville and Mississauga gas plants, scrapped mid-campaign 2011, and Scarborough light-rail transit, scrapped mid-campaign 2013?

This time, the province isn’t on the hook for the costs of the last-minute switch: Toronto is. And we still don’t know how much that’ll be.

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Mayor Rob Ford and 23 of his council colleagues have committed almost a billion dollars to a three-stop underground line when they could have gotten a seven-stop above-ground line for free.

But there’s more coming.

The city has promised to pay whatever it costs to renegotiate a contract with Bombardier, which inked a $770-million deal three years ago to supply vehicles for all four of the city’s light rail projects.

At the time, that included Scarborough’s light rail, along with Eglinton, Sheppard East and Finch West. The deal was for as many as 300 light-rail vehicles, 48 of which were earmarked for Scarborough’s three-car trains.

“The contract between Metrolinx and Bombardier demonstrates our commitment to public transit and job creation,” then-Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said at the time.

But this summer, mid-byelection, Premier Wynne and her Transportation Minister Glen Murray threw their support (well, kind of) behind the city’s subway desires.

Now, that light rail plan’s long gone. Two environmental assessments are under way, one for each of two different Scarborough subway plans.

And Metrolinx – the province’s regional transit-planning body, designed years ago to take these kinds of decisions out of politicians’ hands – has been tasked with hammering out a new deal with Bombardier – one that effectively cancels the light rail cars planned for Scarborough and replaces them with subway vehicles.

Negotiations are happening now. While Metrolinx hopes to wrap those up in the next month, no one’s estimating how much that will cost.

“We can’t even ballpark it at this point,” said spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins.

Metrolinx had been seeking bids for other aspects of the light rail project but “we’ve put a stop to all of it,” Aikins said.

Bombardier did not return repeated requests for comment this week.

The city couldn't provide an estimate of how much changing that deal will cost and couldn't say how it intends to pay for it.

Tax hikes council passed last month will increase property taxes by 0.5% in each of 2014 and 2015, and 0.6% in 2016. This, along with increases to development charges, is supposed to bring the city’s contribution to $910-million.

The remainder of the $3.56-billion is supposed to come from Ottawa ($660-million) and Queen’s Park ($1.48-billion in 2010 dollars, or almost $2-billion once you factor inflation).

At the same time, city staff note, “in moving from an LRT delivered by Metrolinx to a City owned and operated subway extension, the City assumes both construction cost overruns and interest rate risks.”

Toronto’s also on the hook for up to $40-million a year to operate the subway. The city planned to ask Metrolinx for the money the provincial body would have spent operating the previously planned LRT, but Metrolinx is not on board.

“The operation of a subway given that it’s an extension of a city owned asset would be the responsibility of the city/TTC,” Aikins wrote in an email.

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