Toronto election: Why Scarborough transit debate isn’t a done deal

It didn’t take long for Toronto’s mayoral candidates to reprise that most debated of transit issues: Scarborough’s magic morphing light rail/subway.

David Soknaki and Olivia Chow say they’d revert to a seven-stop light rail line; John Tory, Karen Stintz and, of course, incumbent Rob Ford would stick with the three-stop subway council voted on last fall.

READ MORE: LRT vs. Scarborough subway – where do the mayoral candidates stand?

But the issue isn’t quite as settled as it seems.

The original Master Agreement the city signed with the province for a series of multi-billion-dollar transit projects, including light rail in Scarborough, is still in effect: Months after council voted for a subway, it has yet to amend its agreement with regional transit-planning body Metrolinx.

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Metrolinx, for its part, has already halted work on Scarborough’s LRT, putting the city on the hook for at least $80 million. But it hasn’t yet made changes to its contract with Bombardier for hundreds of light-rail vehicles.

Meanwhile, the original contract that would have the province pay to build and operate the new Scarborough light rail line remains binding, if the city wants it. (The new plan sees the city paying $1-billion towards the subway, plus its operating costs)

Both Metrolinx and Transportation Minister Glen Murray have meticulously emphasized they’re acquiescing to Toronto’s transit desires.

This may seem strange to some who note Metrolinx was created to take transit out of the often capricious hands of politicians.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins is more diplomatic.

“Transit is really important to everyone, including politicians – we know that. Look how important it is in these elections. And on one hand that’s very encouraging to us. I think many years ago transit wouldn’t have been this important. Clearly it wasn’t, we didn’t build transit for a long time and we’re behind now because of that.”


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