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Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat lays out transit plan

Jennifer Keesmaat unveils Toronto transit pitch
WATCH ABOVE: Jennifer Keesmaat unveiled her plan to improve transit in Toronto. The former chief planner took several jabs at John Tory's Smart Track, whole pitching her own ideas. Keesmaat's plan would speed up the subway relief line, add LRT lines, and would cost $50 billion over three decades. Matthew Bingley reports.

Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat is pitching a 30-year, $50-billion transit plan that includes additional subway and LRT lines.

At a press conference on Thursday, Keesmaat told reporters her first priority on transit would be to build the downtown relief subway line to lighten the load on the Line 1 subway. This project, she said, would start by 2020, and eventually get extended north to Don Mills and then to the city’s west end.

“This is not about an election cycle,” she said. “This is about real transit and a real plan for the city of Toronto over the long term.”

Keesmaat, a political newcomer and the most high-profile challenger to enter the race against John Tory, took aim at the progress her rival has achieved on the transit file since he was elected mayor in 2014.

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She called his SmartTrack transit plan a “mirage” and a “distraction.”

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Keesmaat served as the city’s chief planner for five years starting in 2012. She joined the mayoral race on the July 27 deadline day, shortly after it was revealed that Premier Doug Ford intended to cut the size of Toronto City Council to 25 seats.

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The plan Keesmaat outlined on Thursday morning includes additional transit lines for areas outside the downtown. She said she would make the current one-stop Scarborough subway plan into a three-stop line and extend the upcoming Eglinton Crosstown LRT northeast.

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In the west end, Keesmaat committed to building an LRT line for Jane Street and extending the Eglinton Crosstown to the airport.

She also said that if elected mayor, she’d make the streetcar priority King Street Pilot project permanent and add “enhanced bus service” to popular routes.

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Keesmaat did not provide details on how she would pay for the plan, which she said would cost $50 billion, but noted that the federal and provincial governments have already pledged $14 billion for Toronto transit.

She said that the federal and provincial governments would play a significant role, as they have in other transit infrastructure projects.

“I’m confident that putting forward a plan that shows long-term value, and continuing to advance the technical analysis, the detailed alignments, will be an important part of continuing to work with our federal and provincial partners in securing the monies that we need to build out this plan over time,” she said.

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Tory’s campaign said that Keesmaat’s transit plan offers little in the way of new projects, save for adding stops on the Scarborough subway — a course reversal the campaign said would be costly.

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“The remainder of the plan is exactly the same as the transit network expansion plan championed by Mayor John Tory and approved by City Council,” the campaign said in a statement.

Tory’s campaign argued the city needs to stick with existing transit plans in order to make progress.

“Ms. Keesmaat was one of the key architects of Toronto’s transit plan in 2016 and recommended it to City Council. If there were problems or potential improvements, why did she not raise them then? Why is she only saying this now?”

Toronto will head to the polls on Oct. 22.

Jennifer Keesmaat revealed her plan for Toronto transit on Thursday, Aug. 30.
Jennifer Keesmaat revealed her plan for Toronto transit on Thursday, Aug. 30. Jennifer Keesmaat campaign