Sunday 16 October 2011

Toronto mayor Ford still confused after provincial election. Better chance now for Transit City comeback

NOW Magazine // Daily // News // Transit City’s minority report

The results of the provincial election have encouraged progressives
still holding out hope for the resurrection of Transit City. 

Adam Vaughan is among the devotees waiting for the transit plan’s
second coming, and lately he’s seeing good omens. One of them is that
the mayor’s replacement for Transit City has stalled, for the time being
at least. The province agreed to fund part of it (the underground LRT
along Eglinton), but so far Ford has been unable to secure enough
private funds for an extension of the Sheppard Avenue subway. 

encouraging sign for Vaughan is the results of last week’s provincial
election, which saw the pro-Transit City NDP gain more power in a
minority government, and confirmed that “Ford Nation” no longer has the
ear of the province. The political playing field is looking rather
different than when Dalton McGuinty acquiesced to a newly-elected and
still popular Ford on Transit City.  

“You’ve got a group of
councillors who support Transit City, and you’ve got a significant group
of provincial legislators from the GTA who want light rapid transit,”
says Vaughan. “Meanwhile you’ve got a mayor who’s still dreaming in
Technicolor when it comes to Sheppard avenue. The mayor’s just one voice
in a sea of people with a lot more power than him.” 

On the
transit file, Ford is looking increasingly desperate. The morning after
the provincial election, the first thing he did was venture out of his
cocoon of protective right-wing media for an interview on the liberal
CBC in which he publicly aired his demand for more provincial funding
for Toronto transit. 

A spokesperson for transportation minister Kathleen Wynne says the
province has no plans to give the city more transit money at this time,
but if that changes, NDP transit critic Cheri DiNovo says any provincial
funding should come with strings attached. 

“If the province is
going to be paying huge amounts for more transit, the province should
have a say in what it’s used for,” DiNovo says. “And Transit City is the
best way of spending it. I’m sure Ford would rather see something built
than nothing built. If we’re paying the piper we get to call the tune.”


There remains one development that could alter the political
equation. When Ford decided to cancel Transit City, he made Toronto
liable for the costs associated with work already underway. 

bill from the province is expected to be upwards of $49 million, but
mercifully for Ford, who is in the middle of a crusade to stop waste at
city hall, it has yet to arrive. Once it does, Transit City may start
looking a lot more attractive, says Vaughan. 

“There is no
$49-million bill to repay if Transit City gets back on track,” he said.
“For a city and a province looking to save money, the easiest way to
save money is to stop canceling things and to start building things.”

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