Ontario will upload control of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway from Toronto as part of a new deal to bail out the cash-strapped municipality, the Ford government has announced.
In exchange, the city will allow the province to take over the responsibility for Ontario Place, clearing the path for the Ford government’s controversial redevelopment of the crown lands.
The deal will also include money for transit and refugees, while the city will redouble its efforts to build housing and transit-oriented communities.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow spoke at Queen’s Park around 11 a.m. on Monday to announce the deal.
“It is a great morning, I am thrilled to be here alongside Mayor Chow,” Ford told reporters, unveiling the “game-changing, historic” new deal.
The premier said the deal represented “growth” and not cuts, before calling on the federal government to step in and provide its “fair share” of funding for parts of the deal, including support for shelters and transit funding.
Chow called the agreement “a partnership” and said it would benefit residents of the provincial capital. She said she inherited a “financial mess” when she took office.
“I want to thank the premier for this wonderful partnership, for this new deal,” Chow said.
As well as the upload of the Gardiner and DVP, which means the province will take control of funding and managing the two expressways, the deal includes a range of new money for transit.
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The province will send Toronto $300 million in one-time funding to help with “safety, recovery and sustainability” on the city’s transport network. Another promise included in the deal is to help with the purchase of 55 new subway cars for the Bloor-Danforth subway line, if the federal government also pitches in.
Provincial officials also appear to have relented and agreed to pay for Toronto to run the Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West LRTs. The deal includes extra money to operate the two lines, which will be run by the TTC.
Documents previously obtained by Global News included an admission from the province that, with Toronto’s dire financial situation, they may have to pay to run the two lines.
Conditional on federal support, Ontario has also said it will help with funding services for homelessness and asylum seekers.
The provincial support is worth around $1.2 billion in operating funding over three years, with billions in “capital relief” by taking responsibility for the Gardiner and DVP.
Chow said the agreement over the Gardiner and DVP would “unlock” billions of dollars for other city projects, including housing and cities.
In exchange, Toronto has promised to meet or exceed its housing targets, which will benefit from the use of some provincial land. Part of that promise will focus on new housing near transit in the city.
Toronto has promised to look for “efficiencies in service delivery and procurement” as part of the plan.
At the centre of the agreement, however, is Ontario Place, suggesting Chow has traded away a key campaign promise.
Ford said on Monday that Toronto had “accepted” the province could control the planning of the Ontario Place project.
During the mayoral campaign, she pledged to fight against the plan and withhold city land and support to slow the project. The new funding for Toronto may mean the end of that promise.
The new deal means the province will be allowed to take control of planning the project, suggesting the city will step down its opposition and allow the plan to build a spa on public lands to go ahead.
Progressive Conservative insiders suggested that the agreement — which will be executed under legislation called the New Deal for Toronto Act — amounts to an expensive provincial price tag for Ontario Place.
The premier’s legacy project will see a private spa and waterpark occupy the public land for 95 years.
The Ontario NDP welcomed the deal and suggested Chow had got exactly what she asked for.
“Toronto needed a new deal, and Mayor Chow got it,” Ontario NDP Leader Marit Stiles said.
“She inherited a huge mess from a Conservative mayor who drove the city’s finances into a ditch. And now she has managed to get the Premier to come to the table and negotiate a new deal for Toronto.”
The legislation to make the new deal a reality is expected to be tabled later on Monday.