Toronto city council votes to support Scarborough subway

TORONTO – Toronto city council is backing a subway in Scarborough, as long as other levels of government put up the cash to pay for it.

The motion to support the subway passed by a vote of 28 – 16 on Wednesday afternoon.

“The potential of the city lies in the mobility of its residents,” Mayor Rob Ford said in a press conference Wednesday while flanked by TTC Chair Karen Stintz. “I want to thank the 28 councillors that stood by me.”

The province had already pledged $1.8-billion towards a previously agreed-upon light rail route. A subway will require all that, plus several hundred million from the federal government and about $500-million from the city, as well as higher operating costs.

READ MORE: Comparing subways and LRTs in Scarborough

But the entire plan hinges on new funding from the federal government.

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“If the province or the feds can’t come up with their fair share of the money,” Ford said. “It’s not going to go.”

The motion voted on Wednesday says the city only supports a subway if the province contributes $1.8-billion and Ottawa pitches in half of the remaining capital cost.

“The province has indicated that they want to be a partner, so if they commit $1.8 billion and the federal government comes with new money, then we will have what we need,” Stintz said Wednesday prior to the vote. “There has to be new money, otherwise this project doesn’t proceed.”

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Stintz said the city has until January to apply for some of the $53-billion the federal government put aside for country-wide infrastructure funding. She added that if the city does not get new federal money, “at a minimum, Scarborough will get a replaced LRT.”

Provincial transit agency Metrolinx says about $85-million in “sunk” costs has already been spent on a light-rail route.

“If the decision is made that a subway project is preferred, the federal and municipal governments will be responsible for paying the balance of costs,” Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murrary said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “This includes the costs associated with changing the project.”

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Watch: Councillor Josh Matlow explains his issue with the Scarborough subway proposal. 

Even if provincial and federal funding comes through, that leaves Toronto on the hook for more than $550-million, money the city hopes to make by increasing development charges and property taxes. Mayor Rob Ford had previously floated a 0.25 per cent increase to property taxes over four years to pay for the subway – a figure councillor John Fillion said “absurdly misrepresent[ed] the cost of his proposal.”

The motion the mayor put forward includes “committing to” a property tax increase between 1.1 and 2.4 per cent over three years.

The subway plan came under criticism from regular Ford ally Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong as a “vote-buying exercise.” Any self-proclaimed fiscal-conservative who voted for it, he said Tuesday, would have to “turn in their membership cards.”

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In a tweet shortly after the vote, Councillor Josh Matlow used the mayor’s ‘gravy train’ campaign slogan to condemn the decision:

Follow the debate with Global Toronto municipal reporter Jackson Proskow in our LIVEBLOG.


Councillors who voted for and against the subway in Scarborough

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Yes: Paul Ainslie, Ana Bailao, Michelle Berardinetti, Raymond Cho, Josh Colle, Gary Crawford, Vincent Crisanti, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Mike Del Grande, Frank Di Giorgio, Doug Ford, Rob Ford, Mary Fragedakis, Mark Grimes, Doug Holyday, Norm Kelly, Chin Lee, Mary Margaret McMahon, Joe Mihevc, Peter Milczyn, Ron Moeser, Frances Nunzaiata, Cesar Palacio, James Pasternak, Anthony Perruzza, David Shiner, Karen Stintz, Michael Thompson

No: Maria Aguimeri, Shelley Carroll, Janet Davis, Sara Doucette, John Filion, Paula Fletcher, Mike Layton, Gloria Lindsay-Luby, Josh Matlow, Pam McConnell, Denzil Minnan-Wong, John Parker, Gord Perks, Jaye Robinson, Adam Vaughan, Kristyn Wong-Tam

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