Council votes 24-19 to put LRTs on Sheppard
Published Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:38PM EDT
Toronto city council voted to install light-rail transit on Sheppard Avenue by 24 to 19 on Thursday afternoon, in a major defeat for Mayor Rob Ford.
The vote marks the end to months of debate on how to proceed with a transit plan along Sheppard Avenue.
Ford and his allies have pushed for subways, while other councillers have supported above-ground light-rail transit.
Shortly after the vote, Ford said he did all he could, but he came up short.
"I feel sorry for the taxpayers, I feel sorry for the residents," Ford told reporters.
The vote does not mean the end of the subway debate, Ford indicated.
"This is an election issue. The campaign starts now," he said. "I'm willing to take anyone on to fight them, streetcars against subways in the next election, and I can't wait for that."
Coun. Doug Ford also maintained that people still want subways and that the victory for LRT supporters did not reflect the desires of Toronto citizens.
"I respect the will of council 100 per cent; they don't respect the will of the people," Doug Ford said. "This is a nanny state, when politicians dictate to the public, against their will ‘this is what you're getting.'"
This is the third transit vote Mayor Rob Ford has lost. Earlier this year he lost votes which will put mostly above-ground LRT lines along Eglinton Avenue and Finch Avenue.
Doug Ford maintained that his brother still had the will of council, despite the vote outcome.
"Yes, he can continue to lead," Doug Ford said.
Other councillors said the vote was a victory after months of stalling.
"We're actually getting mass transit to people who really, really need it, people who have been denied it for decades, today, and not 30 years from now," said Coun. Glen De Baeremaeker.
It came after a second day of debate on the vote. Debate began on Wednesday and had to continue after councillors failed to reach a decision by the 8 p.m. deadline.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was heated in his opposition to light-rail transit on Sheppard Avenue on Thursday as he lashed out at opponents of his plan to build subways.
"They don't want these damned streetcars blocking up their city," Ford said, raising his voice. "That's what they don't want… This is going to be a boondoggle… that will make the eHealth scandal look miniscule."
It was the first time the mayor spoke out in the two-day debate.
During the 12-hour debate the day before, several subway supporters used procedural tactics to stall the final decision. Ford abruptly ended the session without a vote, paving the way for another long day on Thursday.
Ford was among several anti-LRT council members to arrive late for Thursday's council meeting.
The light-rail option councillors voted in favour of has already been funded by the province and will see the creation of an LRT line from Don Mills station to Morningside Avenue.
The available $1-billion budget would have only paid for two or three subway stations, likely bringing transit as far as Victoria Park Avenue before the money ran out.
An expert panel that looked at transit options for Scarborough also supported the LRT idea, prompting criticism from Ford that the group is biased.
As one of its first orders of business on Thursday morning, council decided to ensure the area's transit fate wouldn't be left in limbo much longer, voting to make sure the final verdict was determined by the end of the day.