Sources have told Global News that the Ontario government will be denying the City of Toronto’s request to toll the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.
Premier Kathleen Wynne will make the announcement, while also outlining details about increased gas tax funding for cities, at the Richmond Hill Transit Facility Friday morning, sources said. However, a spokesperson for the premier wouldn’t confirm the details of the announcement.
Toronto City Council voted 32-9 in favour of asking the Ontario government for permission to toll the municipally-owned highways at its city council meeting in December.
Mayor John Tory’s office has scheduled a news conference to follow the premier’s announcement and issued a statement in response to the reports Thursday evening.
“Last month, the Mayor and Toronto City Council sent a very clear message: We have a plan to make much-needed investments in transit that will help fix traffic congestion in Toronto and throughout the region,” the statement read.
“By introducing tolls on the Gardiner and DVP and asking everyone to pay their fair share for the roads they use, the City of Toronto could raise up to $300 million each year that would be directly invested in transportation and transit expansion projects, easing the financial pressures the city faces while creating room to fund other priorities.”
Senior officials in Tory’s office told Global News the province wouldn’t have offered up increased gas tax money if the mayor didn’t propose tolls.
The mayor, who had previously shunned the idea of road tolls, surprised many in November when he came out in favour of implementing the user fee to help pay for transit and infrastructure costs.
Tory said a $2 road toll would raise over $200 million annually.
About 228,000 vehicles travel on the Gardiner east of Highway 427 on a daily basis while about 100,000 drive on the DVP north of the Bayview-Bloor exit.
A source told Global News affordability was the main rationale for the decision. The source said “true options” need to be in place for GTA drivers before consideration is given to tolling.
Meanwhile, Wynne was asked about suggestions she wouldn’t stand in the way of Toronto’s toll request by Global News anchor Alan Carter during a 2016 year-end interview.
“I have a strong belief in local democracy and I think that council needs to have the right to make a decision like this,” she said.
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, who applauded the decision in a statement released late Thursday evening, previously said he wanted the Liberals to reject tolls, adding he would rescind any such provincial approval if the Tories win the 2018 election.
“Today was a big victory for commuters, but I remain concerned about the mismanagement of infrastructure dollars and the fact that life continues to get harder and more unaffordable under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal Government,” he said.
The New Democrats also said they would oppose road tolls and that both the federal and provincial governments must provide a lot more funding for municipal transit systems.
Toronto Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, who has strongly opposed tolls, welcomed the news when reached by Global News Thursday evening.
“I’ll say to the Premier I’m glad you’ve listened to your caucus and to the suburbs in the city of Toronto,” he said, adding he wished the decision was made sooner.
VIDEO: Sources have told Global News that the provincial government will reject the city’s request for permission to toll the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. Ashley Carter reports.
Alan Carter, Kari Vierimaa, Jason Chapman and Gabby Rodridgues contributed to this report.