TTC Chair Karen Stintz says Mayor Rob Ford is going to have to choose between building subways in Scarborough and keeping taxes low as she prepares to present a scaled-down version of her OneCity transit plan in council this week.
Stintz introduced her $30-billion OneCity plan, which envisions the construction of six subway lines, 10 light rail lines and five bus and streetcar lines over 30 years, to much fanfare last month.
The plan would be funded through a transit-dedicated property tax increase and equal amounts of financial aid from the province and the federal government.
'I can't support taxing the taxpayers.' — Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
But councillors of all political stripes started expressing reservations about the plan's funding model and its timeline. So when council meets on Wednesday, Stintz will not be pushing her OneCity plan; rather, she will put forward a motion to ask staff to study options for transit expansion in the city and how to fund it.
However, that motion will also ask that two transit lines be prioritized — a light rail line along the east waterfront, where massive development is expected in the coming years, and replacing the Scarborough RT with a subway line instead of an LRT line as approved by the province.
Mayor Rob Ford has been consistent in his rejection of funding transit expansion through a tax increase, telling reporters on Monday, "I can't support taxing the taxpayers."
However, the mayor also campaigned on building a subway line in Scarborough, and Stintz says her motion means the mayor will have to make a tough choice.
"Well, the mayor's been pretty consistent that he doesn't like taxes," she said in a Tuesday interview on CBC's Metro Morning. "I think that he's also been pretty consistent that he wants to build subways. So at some point he's going to have to decide what he wants more."
But it appears Stintz has also had to make tough choices. Not only did she face opposition from fellow councillors, but she also encountered pushback from the provincial government, who don't want to deviate from the LRT plan that it and council approved earlier in the year.
After meeting with centrist councillors this week, Stintz now believes her motion to have staff study the issue and to resume the debate around funding transit expansion in October will have enough votes to pass.
"I think we have to step up in October and decide whether we want to be a city that talks about transit or whether we're a city that builds transit. And I'm confident that we will be the city that builds transit."