Although it was not initially received well by the City of Toronto, the Province’s plan for transit in “the Six” has officially been endorsed by city council in a marathon meeting on Tuesday. Now, all eyes will turn to the Federal government to see if they’ll follow the direction and help fund these new transit projects.
By a vote of 22-3, Toronto city council affirmed a new arrangement for $30 billion in transit expansion projects including the much criticized Ontario Line. The deal will also allow the City to retain ownership of the TTC’s present subway system, and use $5 billion from the City meant for expansion to instead be used on improvements.
“This is a deal that is good for our city and one that is consistent with the direction given by City Council a year ago when we were faced with a very challenging situation,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement after the vote. “As a Mayor who was elected to finally get on with building transit and who was elected on a promise to work with the other governments, I believe this is our very best way forward.”
Of course, the best way forward will mean waiting until 2027 for the first of these projects, the Ontario line itself, to start carrying riders. All four of the expansion projects are planned for completion by 2031.
“With an agreement that balances city and provincial priorities, we begin a new era of cooperation and partnership that will make our government’s vision for subway expansion a reality,” said Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation, and Kinga Surma, Associate Minister of Transportation GTA in a joint statement.
Premier Doug Ford offered praise for all parties, and announced his eagerness to move forward in a separate statement. At the same time, he put the ball for this project in the court of his former, and perhaps future, federal rival.
“[T]o genuinely embrace this historic opportunity to take a massive leap forward in delivering transit for the region we need Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to commit to increasing their contribution and funding their fair share of the entirety of our subways program,” said Ford. “The transformative and lasting benefits to transit riders, the regional economy, and the environment associated with these projects is undeniable and we believe it to be of national importance.”
That could be easier said than done.
While Trudeau himself has not made any comment on the Ontario government’s expansion proposal, a Toronto Star article from before the election said that anonymous senior Liberal officials told reporters that Trudeau will follow Toronto’s lead on Ontario’s transit expansion proposal. But if one Toronto MP is to be believed, the project will be a tough sell.
“The questions cascade from this ridiculous proposal, and as a Federal government we just look at the Provincial government and our jaw drops. It’s insane,” Toronto MP Adam Vaughan said at a transportation debate last month. “We will fund real transit projects that are based on real evidence that come from cities because cities run, deliver and understand how it works.”
The three Toronto city councillors that voted against the project – Kristyn Wong-Tam, Josh Matlow and Gord Perks – were all part of the opposition block to Rob Ford during his mayoralty, and represent three key wards in Toronto proper. In the wake of their negative vote, Tory reportedly had trouble containing his dismay in a media appearance Wednesday.