As Queen’s Park moved to shut down the debate about building one Scarborough subway, councillor Doug Ford has promised to put another subway project on the floor of Toronto city council Thursday.
Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray told reporters at Queen’s Park that the province won’t reopen discussions on whether the Scarborough RT should be converted to a subway instead of the agreed-upon plan to make it light rail transit (LRT).
“We have 15 projects. We’re not revisiting those projects,” he said, as Toronto city councillors moved into a third day of debating whether to endorse a series of taxes to expand transit and speculating on what projects that money might buy.
Ford continued to stress he won’t support any new taxes, insisting money for transit is available through provincial government efficiencies.
City manager Joe Pennachetti has recommended council endorse a sales tax, gas tax, development charges and a commercial parking levy to help pay $2 billion a year toward building the Metrolinx Big Move regional transportation plan.
“True leadership,” said Ford, “is standing up for people that can’t afford the taxes and speaking out for the people of Scarborough that have a two-tiered transit system.”
Ford said he supports re-opening an agreement signed last year between the city, Metrolinx and the TTC that calls for the SRT to become an LRT.
“We’re putting our plan out there and you’ll see it today,” Ford told reporters, adding that a Sheppard subway extension will be part of that plan.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said she will support a request led by councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker and some Scarborough city councillors, to ask Queen’s Park to reconsider the plan for the SRT.
“We have an agreement that’s in place. Any agreement can be altered and I think that’s the spirit those motions are being moved and if the province doesn’t wish to alter the agreement, that’s fine, too,” she said.
Council has spent much of the last three days dealing with the issue of transit investment. Instead of debating the proposed taxes, however, on Tuesday evening the discussion deteriorated into a series of councillors’ pitches for transit projects that would serve their own areas.
On Thursday morning, councillor Ana Bailão pleaded with her colleagues to show leadership. Noting that council has asked for the province to pay for investments such as the electrification of the Georgetown GO train corridor, she praised the government for championing taxes to pay for transit.
“Don’t sign letters saying you want the electrification of the Georgetown corridor if you don’t know how to pay for it,” she said.
“If we don’t advocate for what we want, we should shut up and go home,” said councillor Chin Lee. “I will be supporting some of the revenue tools or the dirty three-letter word – tax.”
In Brampton, where Mayor Susan Fennell has angered Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion by proposing to replace a planned LRT on Hurontario with a Zum bus, Premier Kathleen Wynne reiterated that the province plans to build the Big Move.
Files from Robert Benzie