Toronto mayor pulling no punches about provincial transit funding

There seems to be growing tension between the City of Toronto and the province.

It was all rosy until Premier Kathleen Wynne changed course and rejected Mayor John Tory's request to implement road tolls on the Gardiner and DVP.

Today, an impassioned Tory called a press conference on the Bloor subway platform, demanding Ontario match funding provided by Ottawa for transit, specifically for the relief line which is estimated to cost $6.8 billion.

"Unfortunately the province has said 'no' to allowing the city to control its own finances and address its own needs. So now, the future of transit expansion in Toronto rests squarely on the province of Ontario," Mayor Tory said. "It is not realistic that the city of Toronto could carry two-thirds of the cost of this large-scale, transformative, project in the billions of dollars and nor should it have to. Multi-billion dollar transit projects of this kind were not meant to be financed by property taxes."

Tory points to a recent agreement reached between Metro Vancouver and British Columbia as a model of what he would like to see in Toronto. "Last week the government of British Columbia pledged to contribute up to 40 per cent of the cost of projects that will receive funding from the 2017 federal budget. So, they will do the matching the federal government has indicted they want to see done. That is an inspiring provincial partnership for BC cities and one that I am hopeful the Ontario government would want to emulate."

Toronto's mayor isn't denying the province has already written some important transit cheques, though."Ontario does know how to be a good partner when it comes to transit funding. We acknowledge and appreciate the money the Ontario government has committed to transit in Toronto in the past. I mention the words in the past. The Eglinton Crosstown wouldn't be under construction without those funds from the province of Ontario, from then-premier Dalton McGuinty. They're also contributing to the Scarborough Subway extension and the Finch LRT. They're promising to build the Sheppard east LRT, and they're expanding their regional express rail which includes a partnership for local rail service through Smart Track within the city of Toronto."

He argues the building of transit must continue. The TTC says if the relief line isn't build by 2031 the system will not be able to cope with demand. "The province, to their credit, has also offered $150-million for design work, through Metrolinx, on the relief line that we're here talking about. But, that's the point. If we are to continue to proceed responsibly and with determination on the relief line project we must know where the province stands on partnering with the federal government and with us to get on with this project."

A couple of hours after Mayor Tory's news conference a tersely worded media release came from Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.

Statement from Minister Del Duca:

"I want to be very clear: no provincial government in the history of Ontario has invested more in Toronto transit projects than the Kathleen Wynne Liberals. We have always been a strong partner with Toronto city council – this includes with Mayor Tory and his councilors - because we understand how important transit is to the daily life of Toronto residents.

I understand that Mayor Tory held a presser on the Downtown Relief Line this morning – it is important to remember that we were first at the table last June when we announced that we are providing $150 million so that Metrolinx, Toronto, and the Toronto Transit Commission can work collaboratively to begin planning and business case analysis work on the Downtown Relief Line project. ?This is $150 million that is already being used to get this project shovel-ready.

This $150 million is in addition to the literally billions of investments we have already made in Toronto transit project. These include:

- $3.7 billion to build the foundations for Tory’s own SmartTrack plan;

- $5.3 billion for the Eglinton Crosstown LRT;

- First at the table with $1.48 billion for the Scarborough Subway;

- $870 million for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension;

- $456 million for the UP Express;

- Up to $172 million for Union Station;

- $416.3 million to replace 204 TTC streetcars; and

- Over $1.9 billion provided to Toronto through the Gas Tax Program, which we are doubling to provide Toronto with at least $340 million a year for transit.

We, like Mayor Tory, are encouraged to see that the federal government is investing in infrastructure but we also understand that the federal government is catching up on years of underinvestment made by the previous Harper government. What the Mayor refuses to acknowledge is that while previous Federal governments chose not to invest, Toronto has always had a stable provincial funding partner at the table, providing Toronto with billions for important local transit projects.

We are not going to play political games with transit. We will be at the table, and have always been at the table, when it comes to investing in Toronto and we look forward to continuing to work with the city and our federal partners to continue delivering. We are also about to do an announcement at the Kipling GO station that will demonstrate yet another example of the investments we are making in Toronto."