Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray said Thursday the Ontario government will pay two-thirds of the cost of extending the Bloor-Danforth subway into Scarborough, leaving the city far short of paying the full cost of the project.
Murray made the announcement one day after council voted to replace the aging Scarborough RT with subway instead of the cheaper and fully funded light rail option.
Murray said the province will contribute $1.4 billion to the $2.3 billion subway and called on the federal government to help make up the difference. That figure falls short of the $1.8 billion the city was expecting from Queen’s Park.
"We think[Federal Finance Minster Jim] Flaherty and our colleagues in Ottawa owe people in Toronto and owe people in Scarborough," he said. "Clearly we need to find more money."
Following the minister’s announcement, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he was pleased with what the province was willing to offer at the outset.
"If they committed to $1.4 billion in less than 24 hours, I think that’s a pretty good start," Ford told CBC News in an interview on Thursday.
The mayor suggested that he would work to find that $400 million elsewhere.
"I think we're off to a great start," Ford said.
TTC Chair Karen Stintz expressed disappointment with Murray's announcement on Twitter: "The Provincial commitment to replace the SRT was always $1.8 billion. It was a Metrolinx number. The subway needs the full contribution," she wrote.
The Provincial commitment to replace the SRT was always $1.8 billion. It was a Metrolinx number. The subway needs the full contribution.— Karen Stintz (@karenstintz) July 18, 2013
Funding strategy uncertain
Council's vote for the subway was contingent on the province contributing the full $1.8 billion, meaning uncertainly remains about how the Scarborough subway project will be paid for.
Coun. Josh Matlow, who opposed dumping light-rail in favour of a subway, said on Twitter that Murray's announcement effectively invalidates the pro-subway vote council made Wednesday.
Council's decision was, if Province doesn't pay 1.8 billion, plan to replace the SRT with a traffic separated LRT could be back on track.— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) July 18, 2013
So far the federal government has made no commitment to the project, though council wants a response from Ottawa by the end of September.
"We await a formal proposal from the city and the province and we will examine it under our new infrastructure plan," Kathleen Perchaluk, a spokeswoman for federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in an email to The Canadian Press.
Wednesday’s vote was a victory for Ford, who has long promised a subway for Scarborough. He said yesterday the subway is a transit investment that will "unlock the true potential of Toronto."
When he spoke to CBC News on Thursday, Ford said he is simply delivering what the people of Scarborough want.
"They want a subway and that’s exactly what I’m going to give 'em," he said.
The project’s opponents, however, say its funding uncertainties could leave the city on the hook for extra costs.
The Ontario Liberals were originally opposed to a subway, but softened their position in recent weeks.
The Liberals have denied the change of heart has anything to do with the Aug. 1 byelection in a Scarborough riding, one of five seats up for grabs that were previously held by members of the government.