Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has announced $660 million in funding for a Scarborough subway, effectively killing what was shaping up to be a battle of competing subway plans at city council.
Along with a re-commitment of $330 million for the Metrolinx LRT project on Sheppard East, Flaherty said, “the total is about $1 billion in federal funding for transit in Toronto.”
“Our message for Toronto today is, you have our money, let’s get this subway built,” Flaherty told a news conference in a community centre near Kennedy Station on Monday morning.
With word that the federal Conservative government is backing the city council-approved subway route along McCowan Road, Premier Kathleen Wynne conceded the province is prepared to back away from its plan to build a shorter, two-stop subway extension to the Scarborough City Centre.
Calling it a historic day for the city, Mayor Rob Ford claimed victory for his administration.
“That’s another promise made and another promise kept,” he told the crowd of reporters, city councillors, MPs and MPPs.
“Together we are building transit that will last well over 100 years,” said Ford. .
The promise from Ottawa comes a week before a council deadline for returning to an original agreement to use $1.4 billion in provincial funding to build an LRT to replace the Scarborough RT.
Even with the federal and provincial funds, the city will have to raise taxes to come up with the total cost of the subway extension estimated to cost between $2.3 billion and $3 billion.
For SRT riders, the return to the city council-approved TTC route would avoid a three-year diversion to shuttle buses during construction of a new line.
The route takes the subway north of Highway 401 to Sheppard Ave. E., where it will connect with the LRT.
That takes it more than a kilometre further than the provincial proposal, which would have extended the Danforth line only as far as the Scarborough City Centre.
Wynne said it was the province’s decision to take a hard line on building a different subway that persuaded Ottawa to contribute.
“It’s very interesting that the federal government is coming to the table. That’s a good development,” she said.
Still, Wynne lamented the “ad hoc” financial planning.
“The disconcerting part is just that it’s not systematic. It needs to be systematic. We need that ongoing partnership,” the premier said.
“Certainly this is not the way that I would like us to do our planning going forward,” she said.
TTC chair Karen Stintz said she’s confident the three levels of government will agree on a plan, although the size of the Toronto tax increase will still need to be determined by council.
“We’re building a network. It’s very important that we connect the subway to the Sheppard LRT so the residents of Scarborough have greater access to rapid transit and they have access to a transit network,” she said.
Monday’s news conference came a day after a surprise announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that Ottawa would help fund a subway to help relieve congestion in the Toronto region.