It’s likely that public transit will play a deciding role in the outcome of municipal and provincial elections next year.
Gridlock is considered a leading issue with voters, and the Scarborough subway has already played a key role in a summer provincial by-election.
Here’s where the declared candidates for mayor and the three provincial parties’ leaders stand on the kind of transit the city and region need to build and how to pay for it.
Premier Kathleen Wynne
Wynne has identified transit funding as a top issue for her government and recently appointed an expert panel to look at the kinds of taxes and charges needed to help pay for expansion. Some could surface in the Liberal government’s spring budget.
While the provincial transportation agency, Metrolinx, signed an agreement with the city to build LRT in Scarborough, it bowed to the wishes of Toronto council and agreed to instead partially fund a subway to replace the Scarborough RT.
Wynne’s transportation minister, Glen Murray, also introduced his own proposal for where that subway should run. His idea to make use the current SRT route was subsequently rejected by council but is likely to become part of the environmental assessment for the new transit.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak
Hudak wants to build subway rather than LRT. While they’re more expensive, Hudak says subways are a better investment, creating more jobs.
His party’s White Paper, Paths to Prosperity, promotes one integrated Toronto-area transportation system that combines GO and the TTC under Metrolinx.
Earlier this month, however, Hudak cast doubt on the future of Metrolinx, saying that if he were elected, he would look at the viability of the agency in the context of potential cost cutting.
He has repeatedly said that no new taxes are needed to expand the system, although he hasn’t said where the money will come from — only that his party will build transit as it becomes affordable to do so.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath
She doesn’t support new individual taxes or tolls to pay for transit expansion. Instead, Horwath says that money needs to come through corporate taxes.
Mayor Rob Ford
If he gets a second term in office, Ford has vowed to use it to fight planned LRTs on Sheppard Ave. East and Finch Ave. West. He has repeatedly gone on the record denouncing streetcars and LRTs.
He’s also recently on the record for saying that downtown has enough subways, so those two lines, in addition to the recently approved Scarborough subway, must go ahead of a downtown relief line.
After saying he didn’t support new taxes to pay for transit, Ford voted for a 30-year, 1.6 per cent property tax levy to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Ave.
Mayoral candidate, TTC chair Karen Stintz
The city councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence has repeatedly said she supports subways, LRTs and buses, depending on the area and ridership the different modes are designed to serve.
After voting in favour of an LRT to replace the Scarborough RT, Stintz then joined fellow councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker in pitching a comprehensive plan called OneCity that included a Scarborough subway. The scheme was buried by council.
When the Scarborough subway issue came to council again in September, Stintz, like the mayor, supported the Bloor-Danforth extension tunneled under McCowan Rd. and paid for by the 1.6 per cent property tax levy.
Mayoral candidate, former Toronto councillor and businessman David Soknaki
The kind of transit he supports depends on the density of the area it’s supposed to serve, Soknaki told the Star.
“Subways work very well where there is high density — usually employment high density. LRTs work well where there’s mid-density, usually residential. Buses work where there is low density,” he said, adding that LRT is the most sensible choice to replace the Scarborough RT.
“It is such a clear decision when you look at the options. It’s a choice between seven stops and two or three; it’s a choice between a tax increase and none at all; it’s a choice between getting service sooner rather than much, much later,” said Soknaki.
When it comes to paying for transit expansion, he says all types of taxes must be considered, including property taxes and others being floated by the province such as a sales tax, gas tax and development charges.