Councillor Josh Matlow demands judicial inquiry into $3.35B Scarborough subway project

A Toronto city councillor is calling for a judicial inquiry into the Scarborough subway project, blasting it as an example of "dysfunctional" transit planning.

Matlow proposing a Superior Court probe modelled on inquiry into computer leasing scandal

City council has repeatedly voted to replace the Scarborough RT line by extending the Bloor-Danforth subway by one-stop to Scarborough Town Centre. However, one councillor wants a judicial inquiry into that decision. (John Rieti/CBC)

A Toronto city councillor is calling for a judicial inquiry into the Scarborough subway extension, blasting it as an example of "dysfunctional" transit planning.

Coun. Josh Matlow, a sharp critic of the $3.35 billion project, is set to introduce a motion calling for an outside investigation at next week's council meeting. Matlow wants the Superior Court of Justice to lead the inquiry, suggesting it could look like the investigation into the city's computer leasing scandal that started in 2002.

It's unclear how the move will go over with the majority of councillors, who have repeatedly voted to go ahead with extending the Bloor-Danforth line by one stop to Scarborough Town Centre.

Matlow's complaint focuses on the debate over a 2016 briefing note from city staff that led to council shutting down the original seven-stop light-rail plan, which is his preferred option for the area. That LRT line would have "the same top speed as a subway, travel in its own corridor, and be fully-funded by the province," reads the motion.

That briefing note did not say that the light-rail line was a Metrolinx project, with the provincial agency responsible for the cost, Matlow's motion continues.

The complaint also outlines a number of what Matlow calls "inaccurate, misleading or incomplete" pieces of information that have guided council's decision-making on the project. Those include three hand-drawn sketches of station designs that were part of a document used by city staff, Matlow's motion says.

"There are, I think, very reasonable and important questions about the objectivity of some senior staff and the majority of council, along with the mayor, when it comes to the outcome of transit in Scarborough and across the city," Matlow told CBC Toronto.

"I'm not making any allegations about motive or intent," he added. "But the reality is that council is making decisions that will impact the future of transit in the city."

Motion a 'publicity stunt,' mayor's office says

On Wednesday night, Mayor John Tory's office fired back, calling the motion a "publicity stunt."

"While there is always a variety of views on different issues across city council, there seems to be no limit on the extent to which this Councillor will go to gain personal publicity on the issue of the Bloor-Danforth subway extension to Scarborough," said Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, in a statement.

"The decision to proceed with this expansion to transit in Scarborough — which has been affirmed many times by Council, the Ontario government and the Government of Canada — is now actually being implemented."

Peat did not comment on the specific concerns raised in Matlow's motion.

The city has "far too often neglected evidence-based transit priorities while approving proposals that serve the fewest people for the most money," the motion reads.

However, Toronto's auditor general found "no evidence of any lack of integrity" nor any evidence of "political interference" in connection with the briefing note.

Because Matlow's request is in a member's motion, it would require the support of two-thirds of council to go forward.