As Toronto City Hall looks to determine how best to approach its share of federal dollars over the coming weeks, Mayor Rob Ford used the newly unveiled federal budget as a boost to push his subway plan further.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Ford said he’s reviewing the federal budget with the city manager to see how Toronto can maximize funding from Ottawa. He said clean water, roads, and transit are in most ‘critical’ need.

“We have a long list of infrastructure needs and identifying priorities is always challenging,” Ford said.

In its budget, Ottawa announced $47 billion in funding for infrastructure projects. The budget also recommended indexing the Gas Tax Fund, a move that would inject $9 billion in revenue to municipalities over the next 20 years. In Toronto, that translates into more money for state-of-good-repair maintenance for transit.

Last year, the city received approximately $154 million from the gas tax, Ford said.

Ford said Ottawa’s renewal of its Building Canada Fund over 10 years, will be a “huge benefit” to Toronto, and he will be working over the next few weeks with councillors to identify Toronto’s laundry list of needs.

Renewing the call for subways

As the city and province continue to look at how to pay for transit expansion, Ford also renewed his call to build subways.

Council should be focusing its efforts on expanding subway into Scarborough along Sheppard Avenue, Ford said.

Council effectively quashed the plan to build more subway track along Sheppard Avenue last year, instead re-affirming a plan to extend light rail east into Scarborough.

“We should finish what we started, by closing the loop, Don Mills and extending it to Downsview,” Ford said. “That will provide new connectivity and relieve stress on the Yonge line.”

Ford’s comments are at odds with TTC Chair Karen Stintz, who said Thursday that she’d look to federal cash to help build a downtown relief subway line. Ford said the downtown relief line is “not as important” as constructing a subway into Scarborough.

Ford also slammed council’s plan to build light rail along Finch Avenue, saying it would “do nothing” to reduce commuting times.

“We should adjust our plans now to make this a faster solution and that means burying the line,” he said.

Ford also said clean water is “even more important” than transportation needs as the city looks to tackle the water department’s $1.6-billion capital funding shortfall.

Though not as “sexy” a topic as subways, “clean, safe water is essential to our survival,” Ford said.

Federal budget a disappointment for Toronto, Chow says

Meanwhile, Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow said she’s disappointed with the budget.

The ruling Harper Conservatives ignored the needs of the GTA by not taking adequate steps to address infrastructure and job creation, said Chow, who is also the federal transportation critic.

“We are going to be getting less money for the next 10 years,” Chow told reporters. “This coming year across the country we’ll get one billion less.

“For Toronto, it’ll be 100 million, because our population is about 10 per cent.”

Chow has been pushing for federal investment in a long-term plan to address traffic gridlock and crumbling infrastructure in Toronto and across the country.