April 10, 2019 by Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
TORONTO—Doug Ford’s ambitious plan for public transit in Ontario includes a Toronto downtown relief line that will be twice as long as the city is currently considering, be built two years earlier and cost billions more.
The Toronto subway system expansion was one of four projects unveiled April 10 as part of a $28.5-billion plan the Progressive Conservative government said will move the province’s aging public transit into the 21st century.
The province will contribute $11.2-billion to the project, and Ford said he hopes the federal government, the City of Toronto and York Region will chip in the rest.
“There has to be responsibility with the federal government,” he said. “Last time I checked, they have a lot of members where these subways are going. Last time I checked, the mayor, his responsibility is to get the city moving.”
But there is no love lost between Ford and the federal Liberal government, who he is taking to court over the carbon tax. His relation with Toronto Mayor John Tory has also been tense since the Tories slashed the size of city council in half shortly after winning a majority government last year, and especially after Ford promised to upload responsibility for Toronto’s subway system, including all future projects, to the province.
“If need be, we’ll backstop it ourselves,” Ford said Wednesday when asked what would happen if the other levels of government refused to help fund his transit plan.
Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau would not commit to contributing to the Ford government’s transit plan, criticizing the province for dragging its feet when it comes to allocating federal infrastructure money.
“We have already put significant funding (in place) and we have found it difficult to actually get these projects going because the Ontario government is not at the table trying to get those projects happen,” he said in Ottawa. “And frankly, jobs are on the line.”
Adam Vaughan, a federal Liberal MP who represents a downtown Toronto riding and sparred with Ford during their days on Toronto city council, called the plan “bizarre.”
“Well, it’s really nice to see that he’s taking a crayon to the riding I represent and somehow feathered … a subway line through the densest, most complex part of the City of Toronto with absolutely no costing, no idea how it’s going to work,” he said.
The Tory government said Toronto’s new 15-kilometre relief line that would run from Ontario Place in the city’s west to the Ontario Science Centre in the east. The city’s proposed line would be 7.5 kilometres long and run from the subway line on Danforth Avenue to the line on University Avenue in Toronto’s core.
The province said it can deliver the project by 2027 — two years earlier than the city’s projections — using stand-alone technology and a different procurement method. The project would cost $10.9 billion, up from the city’s $7.2 billion estimate for its version of the line.
Toronto Mayor John Tory, who did not attend the announcement, said the city must continue to work with the province and cannot walk away from transit planning in spite of serious questions about timing of the projects and funding that he said remained unanswered.
“No mayor, no premier, no prime minister can build transit alone,” he said. “But one mayor, one premier, or one prime minister can easily block transit progress. That is why we have to try, and try, and try, to work together.”
The Tories plan also includes three other key projects — the Yonge North subway extension that will cost of $5.6 billion and be completed in 2029-2030, the $4.7-billion Eglinton Crosstown West extension light rail line to be finished by 2031, and the Scarborough subway extension, which will move from having one-stop to three-stops. The province said the project will cost $5.5 billion and will be completed by 2030.
Ford mentioned his late brother, former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who had advocated for a three-stop subway to the city’s eastern suburb when talking about the changes to that project.
“This one is for you, Rob,” Ford said. “I can see he has a big smile on his face.”