Ontario’s transportation minister said he was “confident” heading into a meeting with Mayor Rob Ford on the future of Scarborough transit but does not expect to make a commitment.
“I’m looking forward to a very positive discussion with the mayor,” Glen Murray said late Monday morning at Toronto city hall as he headed into the meeting with Ford.
“We’ve always been very thankful when the city council and the mayor understands provincial priorities, and we try to work together,” Murray “We’re all elected by the same people and people expect us to work together.”
A report released by Toronto city manager Joe Pennachetti on Friday said abandoning plans for a surface light rail line on Sheppard Ave. in favour of a subway would cost an extra $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion.
Ford, for the first time, endorsed a dedicated property tax increase to pay part of the cost of the switch.
But the mayor said he would support a maximum increase of 0.25 per cent each year for four years starting in 2015 — while Pennachetti asked council to approve a “minimum” increase of 0.5 per cent in 2014 and between 1.1 per cent and 2.4 per cent over the next three years.
Whatever emerges from the Ford-Murray discussions on Monday is expected to set the tone for council’s debate on the issue expected to dominate the monthly council meeting starting Tuesday.
TTC Chair Karen Stintz, often at odds with Ford, is backing the subway call, as are Scarborough councillors.
However, many questions remain about how to fill the huge funding gap and Ford’s question to get the federal and provincial governments fill most of it.
Premier Kathleen Wynne acknowledged at Queen’s Park on Monday that Liberal MPPs from Scarborough have been lobbying for a subway.
But Wynne stressed that the province’s bottom line has not changed — a subway can only be built if the federal government and the city can come up with additional money.
“We’re not suggesting we’re going to come up with the money to fund a subway if that’s what the city decides it wants to do.”
“I’m pleased that the mayor has changed his tune in terms of finding tools to create a revenue stream to do that. That’s great. I love it when we move closer in terms of agreement on policy issues.”
But, she added, that if there is going to be a Sheppard subway, “there has to be a way to fill in the funding gap.”
Wynne, who has not formally spoken with Ottawa over the push for federal dollars, noted that the debate over Scarborough transit “has been contentious” and there is a need for clarity from the city.
“We can’t continue to work unless it’s clear exactly what the decision of city council is,” she said.