Mississauga officials cry foul over assumption that they will help fund SmartTrack
Chris Fox, CTV Toronto
Published Thursday, November 3, 2016 12:31PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, November 3, 2016 1:44PM EDT
Some Mississauga officials are crying foul after a staff report revealed that Toronto expects the city to pay hundreds of millions of dollars towards the cost of extending the Eglinton West LRT to Pearson International Airport.
The report, which was released earlier this week, revealed that Toronto expects Mississauga and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority to pay a combined $470 million towards the cost of the project, which is part of Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack plan.
The number was included in the public report but had not been previously shared with officials in Mississauga, Mayor Bonnie Crombie said in a statement provided to CP24.
The statement was released on Thursday morning, following the publication of a story in the Toronto Star in which Crombie called the $470 million figure a “non-starter” and Coun. Jim Tovey likened the request to Donald Trump’s belief that the Mexican government will cover the cost of his border wall proposal.
“While we support the building of regionally-integrated transit, we would have to make sure that there is a business case to support Mississauga’s participation in the funding of any transit project,” Crombie said in the statement.
Under the current SmartTrack cost-sharing agreement with the province, Toronto will be on the hook for an estimated $2 billion to build six new SmartTrack stations and the Eglinton West LRT (the western portion of SmartTrack).
That number, however, is based on $470 million in assumed contributions from Mississauga and the GTAA and so far the City of Toronto has not formally requested that money.
“I think what you are seeing is some political rhetoric that sometimes happens,” Mayor John Tory said in response to Crombie’s comments on Thursday. “The discussions now are going to begin and there will then be the opportunity to have a formal sit-down with Mississauga and for that matter the airport authority.”
The staff report did not provide a breakdown for what portion of the $470 million that Mississauga would be expected to pay and what portion the GTAA would be expected to pay.
Tory said the reason staff have not yet begun formal discussions with Mississauga is because council first needs to approve the tentative cost-sharing agreement, which it will be asked to do on Tuesday.
“What is in front of city council is giving authority to city staff to sit down in a formal sense with Mississauga and talk about something that’s been on agenda for years and that is the desired objective of connecting the job hub that exists there with the City of Toronto,” Tory said.
In an interview with CP24, Tovey said that the funding request was made without notifying Crombie, Mississauga’s city manager or council as a whole. Tovey also cast doubt on whether the Eglinton LRT should be prioritized over other needed projects in Mississauga.
“We are completely in favour of regional transit but right now we have a lot of density coming in our Dundas Street corridor – we are doing a study on that that Metrolinx has funded. We also have a similar study going on with our lakeshore as well,” he said. “We have to look at the numbers.”
Though Tovey said that he is in support of the Eglinton LRT and a regional-based approach to transit on the whole, he said he is not ready to commit hundreds of millions in taxpayer money to the project right now.
That, however, didn’t sit well with Toronto Coun. James Pasternak, who told CP24 earlier on Thursday that Mississauga should start paying its fair share towards these sort of projects and should so with a recognition of the urgency that exists.
“We have a regional transit crisis and it is time the political leadership of Mississauga wake up to it and pay their fair share,” Pasternak, who represents Ward 10, said.