Rocco Rossi says that if he is elected mayor of Toronto this fall, he will review the light rail component of the city's ambitious Transit City plan.
Speaking to reporters after addressing Toronto's Empire Club on Thursday, the former national Liberal Party director said all light rail projects should be put on hold until he can review their budgets.
Transit City, a plan that has current Mayor David Miller's enthusiastic backing, relies heavily on expanding and adding 120 kilometres of new light rail lines as a means of upgrading the public transit service.
Rossi said only the 14-kilometre Sheppard Avenue East light rail line should proceed, as the city has already broken ground.
"But I think everywhere else we've got options," including a planned light rail line on Eglinton Avenue.
Rossi said he doesn't want a repeat of the "fiasco" that was the construction of a dedicated streetcar line on St. Clair Avenue West.
Work that began on the line in the fall of 2005 was plagued by ballooning costs, delays and protests from community groups and businesses, who complained construction was robbing the neighbourhood of its character.
Fixing city's finances the '1st priority'
Before speaking to reporters, Rossi outlined elements of his platform in his address to the Empire Club. While he did not specifically criticize Miller, he made it clear he did not agree with how the city has been run in recent years.
Getting the city's finances back in order would be his "first priority." Rossi railed against the city's five-cent tax on plastic bags, saying it is a symbol of how council is "completely out of touch with fiscal responsibility."
He lamented that the summer's garbage strike was an example of how the city was beholden to unions. He said he favours opening up city services such as garbage collection to outsourcing and competitive bidding.
"I've certainly talked to enough lawyers who suggest that there is room to introduce much more managed competition," he told reporters after his speech. "The unions will be welcome to bid on the work and they should have an advantage."
As mayor, Rossi would also ensure bicycle lanes would no longer appear on main roads "because common sense and safety tell me that bike lanes and arterial roads do not mix."
He instead favours adding bike lanes on side streets parallel to arterial roads, telling reporters a council-approved plan to add bike lanes on Jarvis Street "has to be stopped."
In his speech, Rossi also pledged to:
- Sell Toronto Hydro and other assets "the city can do without" in order to pay down the city's debt, which currently stands at $2.4 billion.
- Replace the councillors that sit on the TTC board with individuals from the private sector.
- Funnel money the city collects from developers applying for zoning exemptions to a fund aimed at improving the city's poorer neighbourhoods.
So far, the other major players in the mayoral race are former Ontario energy minister George Smitherman, Coun. Giorgio Mammolitti and Coun. Joe Pantalone
It's widely rumoured that TTC chair Adam Giambrone will throw his hat into the ring in the coming weeks.
Toronto's municipal election will be held on Oct. 25. Current mayor David Miller will not be seeking a third term.