Pressure builds to bring transit funding debate to council

The pressure is building for city council to debate the use of revenue tools to help fund transit expansion in Toronto.

Councillor reconsiders vote on deferral, says council needs to have debate

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and five other members of the executive committee recently voted to defer debate on a city manager's report about revenue tools that could be used to help fund transit improvements. (CBC)

The pressure is building for city council to debate the use of revenue tools to help fund transit expansion in Toronto.

Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee recently voted to defer consideration of a report from the city manager on the revenue tools that Toronto should consider endorsing to Metrolinx — the provincial agency that is seeking to build $50-billion worth of proposed transit projects in the GTHA.

The decision to shelve that report for another month drew sharp criticism from Coun. Karen Stintz who said Toronto is simply avoiding a conversation the province will have without them.

Councillors opposed to Ford on the revenue tools issue are trying to assemble enough votes to overrule the mayor’s executive committee and put the report on the agenda for the next council meeting.

Councillor 'reconsidered' deferral vote

On Thursday morning, one of the councillors who supported the deferral at the executive committee meeting this week said that report needs to go to council sooner rather than later.

Coun. Gary Crawford released a statement on Thursday saying constituents have told him that council needs to have that conversation.

"After careful consideration of feedback from residents of my ward and across the city, I have reconsidered my decision to defer the funding recommendations," he said.

Crawford said he is concerned about increasing the tax burden on Torontonians, but he believes that the city needs to have a sustainable funding base if it is to tackle its growing gridlock issues.

"All members of Council should have an opportunity to discuss this important matter and I am urging my colleagues to support adding this item to the agenda at next month's meeting," he said.

‘No lack of leadership’

Stintz also said this week that she believes the mayor lacks a clear plan for improving transit in Toronto and suggested that he has shown a lack of leadership on the transit file.

On Thursday, the mayor’s press secretary, George Christopoulos, answered back, saying Ford is doing exactly what he was elected to do.

"There is no lack of leadership from the mayor. The mayor received an overwhelming mandate from Toronto taxpayers to go down to city hall and get spending under control, keep taxes low and focus the city on the priorities of taxpayers," he told CBC News.

"From Day 1, the mayor has led the city in the direction taxpayers' demanded. And he continues to do so today."

Earlier this week, Ford said "hell will freeze over" before he supports "any of these new taxes."