The Ontario government revealed it will introduce legislation to upload responsibility and ownership for extending transit in Toronto to the province.
Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek announced Wednesday morning the “Getting Ontario Moving Act” would make sure new subway lines are built faster, and to cut red tape and regulations. The act will be introduced in the Legislature at Queen’s Park on Thursday.
“If passed, it would give us the legislative tools to upload ownership of future subway expansion projects to the province so that we can get them built quicker,” said Yurek at the Toronto Region Board of Trade.
“We would be able to prioritize transportation projects and make decisions based on what is best for the people of Ontario, not just Toronto,” he said.
In April, Doug Ford proposed an ambitious $28.5-billion transit project asking the federal government, City of Toronto and York Region to chip in more than half of the funding needed. Ford said the province would commit $11.2 billion but he also said he would foot the entire bill if other jurisdictions were unwilling to help.
“The new ‘Ontario Line’ provides real relief from congestion on Line 1. It will be twice as long, move twice as many people as the original relief line project,” said Yurek.
The government said the province is in the “best position” to get future projects completed faster.
They proposed building three stops for the Scarborough subway extension that they said will be built before 2030. They previously said they will add to the Eglinton Crosstown West extension through to Etobicoke, with a large portion to be built underground, and a connection to Toronto Pearson Airport expected to be delivered by 2031. In addition, they also said a Yonge-North subway extension will open soon after the Ontario Line is completed.
The Ford government said the Ontario Line is expected to be completed by 2027, two years ahead of the downtown relief line outlined by the city.
Ford has said the Toronto Transit Commission would retain the day-to-day operations of the subway, buses, and streetcars, and the city would keep farebox revenue.
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The City of Toronto and the province are currently in talks over Ford’s plan to take over responsibility for the city’s subway system. Yurek said information that already exists from the city’s planning will be used in these projects.
Councillors at city hall reacted to the government’s announcement on Wednesday about officially putting the gears in motion to upload the subway.
“We would much rather have the legislation tabled after our questions have been answered,” said Ana Bailao, city councillor for Davenport.
In mid-April, city council approved 61 technical questions from its staff to be directed at the province to answer. However the legislation, slated to be tabled Thursday, will not give the city all the answers it has asked for.
Coun. Gord Perks said that the city has a written agreement to sit down with the province to work through any issues with the upload.
“This shows the word of the province isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” said Perks.
— With files from The Canadian Press