'We're starting again from scratch': City council approves Doug Ford’s vision for Toronto transit
Toronto city council has given the green light to the province’s rewrite of its transit expansion plan in exchange for keeping ownership of the subway system.
In a vote of 22 to 3, municipal politicians approved the deal on Tuesday following a call from the mayor to support the compromise reached after months of negotiations.
The province had previously threatened to upload and take control of the subway system.
“We have a real, once-in-a-lifetime chance to start building transit now,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said ahead of the vote. “I believe this is the best opportunity we’ve ever had, with the most alignment between the three governments, to actually get this transit plan built.”
Under the deal, the province will pay the capital costs of a $30 billion transit expansion package, which includes a relief line, the Scarborough subway extension, a Yonge line extension and the Eglinton West LRT.
Municipal officials were initially reluctant to back the Ford vision for the relief line, dubbed the Ontario Line, because city staff had already spent years, and at least $200 million, studying the council-approved version.
The province’s revision, which would cost $10.9 billion and take a longer, different route than the city’s version, would stretch 16 kilometres from Ontario Place up to the Ontario Science Centre.
“We got a great deal from the province, both financially, and also in terms of building transit, so I think we should embrace it,” Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong told CTV News Toronto.
Critics have questioned the province’s target timeline of 2027 for the completion of the Ontario Line, which city staff have been unable to validate due to the early stage of the planning process.
The revised three-stop Scarborough subway, meanwhile, would be delayed two or three years, city staff confirmed to council during the debate on Tuesday.
“The city is being put in an impossible position,” Councillor Mike Layton told CTV News Toronto. “There will be delays in Scarborough, there will be delays across the city. And that’s because Premier Ford, in the middle of executing a plan, has now changed it, took our plan and wiped it out, and we’re starting again from scratch.”
“The alternative would be sitting around for three years and waiting for an election, with maybe a different outcome,” Councillor Brad Bradford, the mayor’s designated ‘relief line champion,’ said. “I don’t think that’s realistic and I don’t think it’s responsible.”
The mayor though touted the fact that under the deal, the city would be able to put its own transit funding toward state-of-good-repair costs, since the capital expansion costs would be footed by the province and federal government.
“I believe this is our very best way forward,” Tory maintained.