Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow released her transit plan on Wednesday, vowing an immediate boost in bus service and committing to build light rail lines on Finch and Sheppard avenues that the province has already agreed to fund.
In a news conference Wednesday, the former city councillor and NDP MP took aim at John Tory’s transit promises, charging that his proposals would lead to “fewer lines, later.”
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'His plan doesn’t have the most important element, which is moving people now.' —Olivia Chow
Chow also slammed Tory for opposing a new TTC report that, among other things, recommended spending $84 million in capital costs to put 40 new buses and 10 new streetcars on Toronto's streets — improvements that would add $7 million to the TTC's annual operating budget.
“His plan doesn’t have the most important element, which is moving people now,” Chow told reporters. “He said we would not invest immediately in buses, and that is the critical piece.”
Chow has said that she would scrap the plan to replace the aging Scarborough RT with a $3-billion, three-stop subway extension and instead build the $1.4-billion, seven-stop light-rail line that the province had already agreed to pay for in its entirety. She also said she supports building the Yonge subway relief line, though no funding currently exists for this project.
Tory has said he wants to build the Scarborough subway. And though he hasn’t said he would cancel planned LRT lines on Finch and Sheppard, he said they aren’t priorities in his transit plan.
In May, Tory unveiled his plan to build a 53-kilometre surface transit line in seven years, at a cost of $8 billion. Dubbed SmartTrack, the line would run along existing rail corridors and extend into Mississauga in the west and Markham in the northeast.
But Chow says the plan is unnecessary because of provincial plans to electrify and dramatically ramp up service on GO Transit lines running in and out of Toronto.
At her announcement Wednesday, Chow was peppered with questions about comments that Warren Kinsella, a political strategist involved with her campaign, made online.
In a satirical post to Twitter, which was later taken down, Kinsella called Tory’s SmartTrack plan “segregationist” for bypassing Jane and Finch, a neighbourhood with high proportion of low-income and ethnic minority residents.
Chow deflected questions about Kinsella’s comments, and said he’s only a “volunteer” her campaign.
He has since apologized for the tweet.