Original Ontario Line price didn’t include all costs: Metrolinx CEO

Click to play video: 'Metrolinx explains why Ontario Line costs nearly tripled'
Metrolinx explains why Ontario Line costs nearly tripled
WATCH: Metrolinx explains why Ontario Line costs nearly tripled – Jun 24, 2024

The initial price tag of Premier Doug Ford’s signature Ontario Line project left out key expenses, according to the head of the province’s transit planning agency, that would eventually double the cost of constructing and operating the transit line.

The 15-kilometre transit line, announced by the Progressive Conservative government in 2019, has ballooned in price from the original $10.9 billion for construction to $27.2 billion to build, maintain and operate the trains for 30 years.

On Monday, as Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster broke down the reasons behind the cost increase, he also included a rare admission: that the province doesn’t provide taxpayers with the full price tag up front.

“It is the practice in Ontario whereby when projects are announced, only the construction costs are announced,” Verster said during an unrelated transit announcement. “The cost in 2019, the $10.9 billion, was only for construction cost.”

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Vester said the initial projection was “half or less than half” of what the total project would eventually cost once other necessary items such as land acquisition, design and project management.

“All of those costs are costs that are developed after the project is announced and so that initial announcement is only for construction costs,” Verster said.

Since then, Verster said, the province awarded $7 billion in contracts to maintain and operate the line over 30 years, while the costs of construction have nearly doubled – something Verster blames on the pandemic-related inflationary increases.

The Ford government has been under scrutiny over the escalating price tag with critics accusing the government of not being upfront with taxpayers and being “allergic to accountability.”

“This is already tracking to be one of the most expensive subway lines in Canadian transit history,” said Liberal finance critic Stephanie Bowman who pointed out the project will ring in at more than a billion dollars per kilometre.

“What this shows is this government is incapable of managing these kinds of projects,” Bowman said.

Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria told Global News the government has to “protect the integrity” of the competitive bidding process, suggesting that’s one of the reasons why the government didn’t reveal the true cost in 2019.

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“These projects are all competitively procured so you would never want to tip off the market as to what those eventual costs could be as well,” Sarkaria said.

Sarkaria added that since the major contract has been awarded for the Ontario Line, the cost isn’t expected to grow much further — a sentiment backed up by Verster.

“The cost we have now is very close to what we took to the Treasury Board in 2022,” Verster said. “So the budget we’ve got, and the budget that’s been declared is where we expected it to be.”

The $27.2 billion Ontario Line is expected to be in service in 2031, four years after originally promised.

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