Transit City is back on track – and Mayor Rob Ford’s memorandum of understanding with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to spend $8.2 billion to bury the Eglinton LRT while the city builds a Sheppard subway is sidelined, Toronto Council decided at a special meeting this week.
The debate Wednesday, Feb. 8, led to a dramatic defeat for Mayor Ford, who said afterwards that the meeting was “technically irrelevant” and vowed to take his fight for subways directly to the people, and the premier.
“I’m very confident the premier is going to build subways,” said Ford. “Technically speaking that whole meeting was irrelevant – because the Eglinton line is a provincial project.”
Council voted 25-18 in favour of something other than subway construction, however, supporting TTC Chair Karen Stintz in a move to ask the province to shave $2 billion off the cost of the Scarborough Eglinton-Crosstown line by running it on the surface of Eglinton Avenue east of Laird Drive.
The motion asked that the savings go toward building a light rail line along Finch Avenue West, as described in former mayor David Miller’s Transit City plan.
Mayor Ford’s plan to build a private-sector-funded subway along Sheppard Avenue, meanwhile, would go to an advisory panel for a report back in a month.
Stintz maintained that the vote, and the motion, was not intended as a rebuke to Ford.
“I believe this is a common sense compromise,” she said. “Now we get to complete work on Eglinton and get it done on budget. The mayor continues to have Sheppard as a study option and he can continue to see if he can make it work for the city.”
Stintz maintained that she had attempted to maintain support for the mayor’s mandate – to build a subway into Scarborough along Sheppard. But it was clear that the Ford team would have none of it.
Early in the meeting, Ford attempted to persuade councillors to simply defer the matter for a month, but lost that vote.
Supporters of the mayor’s vision argued that Stintz’ plan was short-changing suburban voters in favour of the downtown, where a great deal of Stintz’ support rested.
“People are getting railroaded in Scarborough, people are getting railroaded in Etobicoke,” said Etobicoke North Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother.
“What we need to do is bring it to the streets…. We will stand up for the people in the suburbs to do better than have a two tier system that has trolley cars running down the middle of their roads.”
Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Norm Kelly was even more blunt.
“This is the third time that Scarborough’s been screwed on rapid transit issues,” he said.
“The first time was the Scarborough RT – the second time was the ’80s and ’90s and well into 2000, when we were told we were gong to get a Sheppard line to the Scarborough Town Centre, and what are we going to end up with? Another LRT. We have an opportunity to transform a sufrace LRT in Scarborough to an underground LRT – that was the expectation. And what are we getting? Another LRT. Scarborough is 30 per cent of the land mass of this city, and that’s deplorable.”
Etobicoke North Councillor Vincent Crisanti was a strong supporter of Rob Ford in the election and supported Ford’s plan.
“Some people would like nothing better than to pretend the last election never happened,” he said.
“Some people say that I’m not sticking up for my constituents because I don’t support this transit. On the contrary, I’m supporting underground transit because it’s the better way to go in the long run.”
In North York, opinions were mixed on the support for Stintz’s plan
“I as I’m sure every other member of council would love to have a subway under every road in the City of Toronto,” said York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza.
“I would love to have a subway along Finch Avenue West. But in 1994 the provincial government announced four significant subway lines… Eglinton, Spadina, Sheppard… I forget what the other one was. But everybody forgot it too. Because the government changed, Mike Harris came to power and cancelled everything. That was 20 years ago, almost. We are here, this is a good plan let’s move forward. Let’s serve the citizens of Toronto.”
Perruzza and Giorgio Mammoliti, who both represent different halves of York West, briefly went head to head, as Mammoliti suggested that the light rail line would preclude a subway ever coming onto Finch.
“Show me your magic beans to make it happen,” quipped Perruzza.
At the end of the meeting, Perruzza was among councillors who were astounded to hear that Mayor Ford thought the debate was “irrelevant.”
“I don’t think he understands how council works,” he said.
St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow called the statement “bizarre.”â?¨”I have never seen that from an elected official,” he said. “No meeting of council is irrelevant just because you agree or disagree with its outcome.”
DAVID NICKLE, Feb 09, 2012 – 2:13 PM