Mayor willing to increase taxes to pay for Scarborough subway

Does Kathleen Wynne plan to privatize the TTC? Well, no.
File photo of Toronto Transit Commission headquarters. Brent Lewin / File / Getty Images

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford says he’d raise taxes to build a subway in Scarborough.

Ford, who voted against his own budget chief’s tax increase earlier this year, said at a press conference Friday afternoon that he would be willing to support a small tax increase to build subways, saying it’s an “investment” that will create jobs in Scarborough.

“I have told the city manager that I can support a minimum, minimum, minimum, increase in taxes of one quarter of one per cent, that’s 0.25 per cent,” Ford said adding that increase would work out to $5 per Toronto household.

“This is going to get people out of their cars, this is going to create jobs, it’s an investment.”

Meantime, a letter from the provincial transit planning body entreated the city to make up its mind, noting that the light-rail project and search for contractors is already well under way. Toronto has until Aug. 2 to clarify, Metrolinx said Friday, or all light rail work stops.

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If Toronto’s councillors choose a subway to Scarborough, the city manager Joe Pennachetti warns, there will be significant extra costs borne by the city’s taxpayers.

In a report released Friday, Pennachetti recommended the city increase development charges and property taxes to pay for the city’s share of the capital costs of a subway.

The report suggests raising property taxes between 1.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent over three years to build dedicated funds for the subway, well over the 0.25 per cent increase Ford suggested.

In May, city council voted to support an extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line from Kennedy Station to Scarborough Centre and Sheppard Avenue – a decision that contradicted a previous agreement between the city, Metrolinx and the province to build an LRT.

Now, the Ontario government is asking city council to clarify its position, or grind ongoing Scarborough transit work to a halt.

The LRT was expected to cost approximately $1.8 billion. According to the city manager’s report,  an extension of the Bloor-Danforth line would cost approximately $2.3 billion.

But Ford demanded Friday that the province fork over $1.8 billion in order to build the subways or “the deal is dead.”

In a statement to Global News, Minister of Transportation Glen Murray said the province has “made no commitment to allocate funds to a subway project.”

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And, Murray added, if city council votes in favour of the subway, he will be expecting a “viable business plan” to support the expansion.

The mayor said he hopes to discuss the matter with Murray on Monday and will be meeting with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Saturday morning.

TTC Chair Karen Stintz said Friday a Scarborough subway has a good chance of attracting investment from the federal government.

“We do have a real opportunity with this project if council approves it because it will be considered a new project,” Stintz said adding that new infrastructure projects are eligible for federal funding.

“We need the federal government to help us with transit planning and our transit future.”

City council will debate the report July 16.