The day after Mayor John Tory wrote an editorial in the Toronto Star about his support of the Scarborough subway extension, that same plan was under the spotlight at the executive committee meeting at City Hall.
The committee room was packed as councillors and residents spoke about the transit plan on Tuesday.
Coun. Joe Cressy said the one-stop subway extension is not a good idea, preferring the LRT instead.
“If we don’t make the responsible and wise decision soon to abandon the silly one-stop subway and move to the 25-stop LRT, if we don’t do that today, or if we don’t do that in July, guess what? We’re going to have to do it next year because the costs are just going to get worse,” Cressy said.
Shaun Cleaver, with the Scarborough Transit Action, is also not keen on the one-stop subway plan.
“The city’s rationale is that the one-stop extension is better for Scarborough Centre, but [it] is too large to be accessed by one stop only. An LRT has the option of multiple stops that would serve Scarborough Centre far better than with the one-stop extension,” Cleaver said.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the subway plan is the cost. The one-stop extension to Scarborough Town Centre is expected to cost $900 million more than originally estimated, to around $3 billion.
Ahead of the meeting, Tory was criticized for comments he made in the op-ed regarding the subway expansion.
In an article entitled, “Why I support the Scarborough subway,” which was published on Monday, Tory outlines his argument for the expansion. And in it, the mayor appears to link a large immigrant population in Scarborough to the outcry over the increased cost.
“Many of the subway’s loudest critics do not live or work in Scarborough, where more than half the population is born outside of Canada. When they say this is too much to spend on a subway, the inference seems to be that it’s too much to spend on this part of the city,” Tory states in the editorial.
But some critics say Tory is painting subway opposition as anti-immigrant.
Coun. Josh Matlow responded to the opinion piece tweeting: “Sad, desperate and shameful. I had hoped for much more from a mayor who preached civility.”
Sad, desperate and shameful. I had hoped for much more from a mayor who preached civility. https://t.co/LoxbsTni2o
— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) June 27, 2016
In response to the backlash, Tory said Tuesday he believes the controversy is misplaced, saying the important thing is to get the subway built.
“This is manufactured outrage by people who are trying to distract from the real issue, which is we’ve got to get on with building public transportation to Scarborough,” Tory said on Breakfast Television.
“Scarborough is under-served by public transportation. That has the effect of making it more difficult for people who live in Scarborough to connect up to opportunity in our city in terms of jobs.”
In the opinion piece, Tory said he struggled over supporting the Scarborough subway.
“The struggle is that you have a whole bunch of people saying let’s switch back to an LRT […] and I just can’t be satisfied with that,” Tory told 680 NEWS on Tuesday.
“If we want to have investment in jobs and opportunity for those people, they have to be connected up to the rest of the city.”
680 NEWS political affairs specialist John Stall spoke with Tory about his transit plan on Tuesday. Listen to the interview below:
The Scarborough subway has long been a big topic on the transit agenda. Despite the cost increase, Tory is committed to moving forward with the plan. He said the original cost was estimated before his time.
“[It] was based on no design and none of the preparation work, so that’s what you get. It’s an inaccurate estimate,” he said.
“I think that this going to be an investment that 25 years from now nobody will be questioning the cost, even though the cost is high. Transit is not free, but I think people will think this is a wise investment to connect up an under-served part of the city to the rest of the city.”
The meeting started at 9:30 a.m. Click here to read the agenda.
Along with the Scarborough subway extension and SmartTrack, the executive committee will also review a consultant’s report prepared by KPMG that looks at how much money the city could raise for public transit infrastructure by imposing new taxes on everything from alcohol to parking.
Tory said the KPMG report will be reviewed, but added that staff work has to be done to analyze the report. He said the first step is to look at the expenditures of the city, which will take several months, before they consider the revenue tools.
“We’re going to have to do something to raise more revenue to pay for billions of dollars of transit, way beyond the Bloor-Danforth subway extension,” Tory said.
Raising income tax was one of the suggested tools; however, he said the city is not legally allowed to do it because requires legislation from other governments and “I don’t think they are interested in going there.”
“So I think that’s a doubtful starter,” he said.
Last week, Tory and the province announced new stops for the mayor’s SmartTrack and GO Tranit’s Regional Express Rail Network.