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Letters from province outline shift in plans for Toronto transit projects

Last Updated Mar 27, 2019 at 11:31 am EDT

Toronto Mayor John Tory, left, and Ontario Premier Doug Ford stand for a photo op in Ford's Queen's Park office in Toronto, Dec. 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The province of Ontario is prepared to fork over more cash for Toronto transit, but in return it wants control of several major projects.

That was the gist of two letters the province sent to TTC Chief Executive Officer Rick Leary and City Manager Chris Murray earlier this month. The documents — an initial letter and a follow up with clarifications — were posted on the city’s website on Tuesday.

“With major financial commitments by the Government of Ontario will come the expectation that the province will have a leadership role in the planning, design, and delivery of these projects,” one of the letters stated.

Read the full text for the first letter dated March 22 below:

 

The letters outlined discrepancies between the city and province when it comes to their respective visions for four major projects.

Instead of a one-stop Scarborough subway extension, the letters say the “province is committed to a three-stop extension.” In the first letter dated March 22, it states the 3-stop extension would still end at Scarborough Town Centre, however, in the letter dated March 26, it states, “under the province’s preferred three-stop extension of Line 2, the project would proceed north ward from the station at Scarborough centre.”

The Ford government is also proposing that a significant portion of the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) line be underground — marking a significant shift from the current design plans.

For the Relief Line South, the province “would propose alternate delivery methods and an approach that would create such a free-standing project, which would enable the procurement of a truly unique artery spanning the city that is not beholden to the requirements of the technologically-outdated Line 2.”

And finally the province wants work on the Yonge Subway Extension to take place in tandem with the Relief Line “so that the in-service date for the extension is fast-tracked to the greatest extent possible.”

Read the full text of the second letter dated March 26 below:

Province Letter March 26 by CityNewsToronto on Scribd

Mayor John Tory was quick to release a statement concerning the province’s letters.

“I have been clear that any decision on upload about our subway system needs to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that the people of Toronto and the City of Toronto must be completely involved and consulted,” he said.

Tory faced questions about the province’s plans after meeting with Premier Doug Ford at Queen’s Park on Monday to discuss transit.

Councillor Gord Perks said if the possible upload of the subways to the province was a topic of discussion behind closed doors, the mayor had an obligation to tell council and the public about it.

“Something this big — it’s incumbent on the mayor and all of us on council to make sure that Torontonians know what the options are and have a chance to tell us what they think of those options,” he told 680 NEWS.

Perks says upload discussion have to be transparent and decisions cannot be made without public input. He has written a letter to mayor Tory asking for a memo to council, detailing everything discussed during his sit down with the Premier.

Immediately following the Monday meeting, Tory said transit was a key topic of his meeting with the Premier, but did not elaborate on the exact details of what was discussed.

“It was a constructive discussion,” he said. “There are some things we all have to clarify with one another, but that’s why we’re sitting at the table, having a process.”

Tory has previously said that the term “upload” is unclear and understanding just what uploading means is “absolutely essential” before the city decides to accept or reject the proposition, and has expressed willingness to continue meeting with the province to discuss the plan further.

 

Tory revealed more about the meeting in his statement on Tuesday night.

At my meeting on Monday with Premier Ford, I reinforced Council’s position on the matter of the subway upload and Council’s expectation that the discussion between our two governments will proceed according to the agreed upon Terms of Reference, which include public consultations and transparency,” he said.

Coun. Perks responded to Tory’s statement on Twitter calling the province’s proposal “disastrous” and reiterating that neither he nor the public were aware of it.

Mayor Tory’s spokesman Don Peat said in a statement that Coun. Perks’ “instant outrage” and “over-the-top theatrics” about the letters was “extremely disappointing though not surprising,” adding that they do not contribute to getting transit built.

“Councillor Perks has been hell-bent on opposing any transit other than the plan he supported a decade ago. I don’t recall him championing the City’s current Council-approved transit network plan,” said Peat. “It’s the same old song – resist, put head in sand, pop up just to oppose, and then repeat.”

Peat also provided a timeline of the approximately 34 hours during which Mayor Tory became aware of the provinces letter and the events that followed:

  • Mayor Tory was alerted to the first letter on Monday by the City Manager around 9 a.m.
  • Tory met Premier Ford at his office at 10 a.m., raising strong concerns with the letter.
  • The steering committee met Monday night to discuss the letter and the issues it raised.
  • The province sent a follow-up letter on Tuesday morning
  • The City Manager filed both letters along with a supplementary report to City Council so everything could be considered at Wednesday’s debate.

 

The subway upload is one of the key items on the agenda for Wednesday’s city council meeting.