Toronto city council to consider Ontario government’s subway plan — but with caveats
The City of Toronto is attempting to maintain control of its own transit planning destiny while leaving the door open for cooperation on the province’s transit plan.
After the Doug Ford government recently unveiled a $28.5-billion plan to reshape transit in the GTA, Toronto city council has been searching for its next steps. Some felt an initial report from City Manager Chris Murray left the door open too far for a total takeover.
Several councillors, including Mike Layton, said they feel the provincial government has been acting in bad faith in its dealings with the city. During city council’s second day of meetings, Layton drew on singer Kenny Rogers with his pitch for going forward.
“If you’re sitting at the table and you’re being dealt cards over and over again and it’s always a losing hand, you gotta know when to fold ’em,” said Layton on Wednesday, prompting several councillors to burst into a rendition of “The Gambler.”
What remains a massive sticking point is the City’s own transit priorities laid out after spending $224 million. Some parts, including the Mayor John Tory’s Smart Track plan and the Waterfront LRT, were left off the province’s plan.
City council voted to consider endorsing the Ontario government’s plans, but with the caveat that the government doesn’t delay city transit plans.
“We’re not throwing our plan out,” said Coun. Paula Fletcher while holding up a map of the Relief Line — also dubbed the Ontario line by the province.
“We’re going to test their plan against our plan.”
Murray identified 61 preliminary technical questions regarding the province’s transit plan. Tory repeated his commitment to staying at the bargaining table while seeking more clarification.
“If what emerges out of that is something that is not satisfactory to the people of Toronto and the transit riders, then we’ll have to re-think where we are on that,” said Tory.
Along with seeking more answers, the City is also looking to have provincial funding reinstated. The Ford government’s first budget backed out of a previous agreement to double Toronto’s share of gas tax funds.
The money, which would have totaled $1.1 billion over 10 years, was already budgeted locally to go toward TTC repairs. Without that money, TTC Board Chair Jaye Robinson indicated keeping the system in a state of good repair will be severely diminished.
Several questions also remain about how the province will pay for its transit plan. It has only committed to funding $11.2 billion and hasn’t said how much it expects Toronto to contribute. A motion passed by council on Wednesday will see future city tax bills indicate how much each resident is paying into the province’s transit plan.
With marching orders to seek clarification from the province, staff are due to return to council with advice in June. While their response may yield another political showdown, the province’s transportation minister indicated there may be room for cooperation.
Jeff Yurek said in a statement that Queen’s Park is “open to discussing additional transit expansion projects that benefit people.”
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