Ottawa pledges $660M for Toronto subway expansion
Published Monday, September 23, 2013 9:53AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 23, 2013 10:00PM EDT
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says the federal government will contribute $660 million toward the expansion of the Toronto subway system in Scarborough.
“You have our money, let’s get this subway built,” Flaherty said at a news conference Monday morning.
Flaherty said the project is now “a done deal” and he’s been told that construction could start “within a year or two.” He said his government decided to pitch in after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wrote to the feds and asked for a contribution.
Flaherty also re-iterated a $330 million commitment to expand the Sheppard subway line.
Ford applauded Flaherty’s announcement, calling it a “truly, truly historic day for this great city.
“We now have all three levels of government at the table,” he said.
Speaking to reporters before Flaherty’s announcement, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne credited the province’s $1.4 billion commitment for the Toronto subway extension with bringing the federal government on board.
“Make no mistake: we have said that $1.4 billion was available for this project and if that money had not been available, then there is no doubt in my mind that the federal government would not have been at the table,” Wynne told reporters a day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Ottawa would help fund the expansion.
Wynne said all three levels of government still need to have a “conversation” about a broader transit strategy.
"I hope what it leads to is that the federal government will now be able to take part in a systematic discussion of building transit in this region," Wynne said.
"Ad hoc investments are not how you build infrastructure."
Earlier this month, the Ontario Liberals announced a scaled-back plan to replace the Scarborough RT, with only two stops along the route, ending at Scarborough City Centre.
That’s a shorter, cheaper route than the one conditionally approved by Toronto council in July, which would put the subway’s final terminal at Sheppard Avenue East.
The TTC issued its own report Monday endorsing the subway plan approved by city council.
A map displayed at Flaherty’s announcement Monday suggested that Ottawa is backing the city’s subway plan. It showed a proposed subway extension from Kennedy station to Sheppard Avenue, with three stops.
Council voted in July to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway line into Scarborough instead of moving ahead with a previous plan to build a seven-stop light-rail line to replace the aging Scarborough RT. The city will have to raise taxes to cover its share of the project costs.
When provincial Transportation Minister Glen Murray announced the province’s subway plan, he criticized Ford, saying the mayor “hasn’t delivered five cents for a subway yet.”
Murray was also critical of the federal government, saying he had attempted to discuss transit funding with federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, but was unsuccessful.
On Monday, Murray would not commit to the city’s subway plan. He said despite the federal government’s cash offer, it’s not enough to fully fund the project.
"I think it's fair to say while we welcome the money, we'll certainly engage them, we're not going to abandon a fully funded project for one that now has a 20 per cent contribution to it," he said.
Scarborough Centre Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker said Monday he hopes that the provincial and federal funding commitments will finally move things forward.
“I think now that some of the hysteria is over, some of the name calling is over, we’ll actually sit down as mature adults and say we’re all putting money in the pot…let’s pick the very best line,” he said.
TTC Chair Karen Stintz said she’s optimistic that the city’s subway extension proposal will be realized.
“I am confident that the province will recognize that now we have the money to complete the network,” she said.
“And that’s an important thing to do for the residents, for transit riders, for Scarborough and for the City of Toronto.”