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Here’s what the Doug Ford government wants you to know about its contentious transit projects


The Doug Ford government wanted to make sure that Ontario’s newly appointed transportation minister was armed with key messaging on 10 of the province’s “top contentious issues,” including multiple transit projects, when he took over the file in September.

When members of provincial parliament are moved into a new cabinet position, they receive a transition binder outlining what their new responsibilities will be and what they need to know about the file.

A previous minister transition binder obtained by CTV News Toronto via freedom of information request included powerpoint presentations with updated data on important programing.

The 366-page binder for MPP Prabmeet Sarkaria includes an outline of the ministry’s role, agencies and partners; a financial overview; a breakdown of who the minister should contact in his first month on the job; and 60 pages of key messaging and speaking notes for the province’s most “contentious” transit projects.

Eleven pages within the ministry overview are redacted under S. 12 to protect Cabinet record. It’s unclear what data or updates may be within these documents.

A large number of files regarding “legal issues for ministers” and “legal cautions” were also redacted to protect solicitor-client privilege.

Among the contentious transit projects are a number of projects in the Greater Toronto Area, including the Eglinton Crosstown, the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Subway Extension, Finch West LRT, and Highway 413.

No new information was provided in the unredacted documents about the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, which was slated to open in 2020. As of September, officials refused to provide a new target date for the 19-kilometre rail line, much to the frustration of local politicians and businesses.

The CEO of Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency responsible for the line, said that they have a “really good idea” of when the line will open, but that he would not be sharing it publicly based on “the fact that (Crosslinx Transit Solutions) is finding and rectifying issues on a week-by-week basis and that this affects the opening date significantly.”

If pressed about the delays, Sarkaria and the ministry have been told to stress safety concerns and that Metrolinx expects that by the fall of 2023, they will have a better estimate for an “opening schedule.”

Phrasing within the speaking notes for the Ontario Line opening date also reflects this uncertainty.

“The project is expected to be complete by 2031, though the final in-service schedule date will be determined once the winning bids on all major works packages are awarded,” the key messaging states for if the minister is “pressed about whether the Ontario Line is still tracking for completion by 2029/30.”

The 15.6-kilometre Ontario Line was a flagship promise of the premier’s back in 2019 and is expected to run from the current Ontario Science Centre to Exhibition or Ontario Place.

Metrolinx has previously said the capital costs associated with the Ontario Line are about $10.9 billion.

Proposed path of Ontario Line. (Metrolinx)

However, according to the documents, if pressed about the cost of the line Sarkaria is not expected to provide a dollar figure.

“As the project moves forward, the province is adjusting its projects to levels that meet changing market conditions,” the key messaging states.

“We recognize the need for infrastructure investment is far from fully met and continue to call on the federal government to provide renewed infrastructure funding to address needs across the province.”

Following a request made by CTV News Toronto, a spokesperson for Sarkaria’s office said the government is working to “ensure that taxpayers receive the best value possible.”

“As each contract is awarded, the contract cost has been, and will continue to be, announced and posted publicly,” they said.

Messaging was also provided in the transition binder for questions about the closure of parts of Queen Street and tree removals to accommodate Ontario Line construction. The documents also discussed the lowering of Canadian content requirements for vehicles, the impact on local businesses and consultations—in addition to notes about a maintenance and storage facility that is the subject of an injunction.

There are “many complexities” associated with the tunneling and construction of the Scarborough East Extension, the speaking notes recommend saying when asked about it’s 2029/30 completion date.

“The project’s launch shaft is 80 metres long, 29 metres wide and 26 metres deep, and can hold roughly the same volume as 24 Olympic-size swimming pools,” the documents say.

“Building such a deep launch shaft and assembling Canada's largest (tunnel boring machine) for a transit project is a sophisticated endeavour, and teams have taken great care to deliver high-quality work while keeping safety as their top priority.”

This subway will replace the Scarborough SRT, which was decommissioned in July 2023 after a derailment sent five people to hospital with minor injuries.

A southbound Scarborough RT train derailed near Ellesmere Station on Monday, July 24, 2023. (Corey Baird/CTV News)

As for the contentious Highway 413, the speaking notes recognize questions regarding impacts to the Greenbelt and farmland and provides responses for when the minister is asked about the federal impact assessments.

“The Greenbelt Plan acknowledges the necessity of building infrastructure,” the notes say. “The plan allows for existing, expanded, or new infrastructure in the Greenbelt if the infrastructure serves the significant population growth expected in Southern Ontario. It also identifies where urbanization should not occur to protect agricultural lands and environmentally sensitive lands.”

There is no mention of the Sheppard subway extension in the documents other than a proposed line on a map of GTA transit.

Metrolinx has begun to gather feedback on the potential extension and posted information on its website a week ago. Top Stories

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