Toronto

City remaining at the table with Ford government despite 'real concerns' over province's transit plan

"We've had some preliminary indications both from the province, and from officials here, that some of these changes could prove to cause a delay," Mayor John Tory told reporters on Wednesday.

Mayor John Tory: Both province, city officials say changes could cause delays

Toronto Mayor John Tory says staff report raising questions about the province's plan for transit will "form the basis of discussion" with Ford government. (CBC)

After a morning of debate among councillors on the future of transit in Toronto, the city will be remaining at the table with Premier Doug Ford's government to get crucial questions answered on the province's transit plan.

Wednesday marked the second day of discussion about the city's current transit priorities and a new report from city manager Chris Murray on how the nearly $30 billion transit plan announced last week impacts those in-motion projects, including the long-awaited downtown relief line and Scarborough subway extension.

The report featured 61 preliminary questions the city wants the Ford government to answer, including ones around key details like cost and schedule estimates.

"I think we've taken a step forward today," Mayor John Tory told reporters in council chambers after the debate. "We have set out a number of questions, and a number of real concerns we have that can now form the basis of discussion."

If Toronto winds up satisfied with those discussions and the impact of the province's redrawn transit map, Murray's latest report recommends the city consider allocating part of its pool of federal funding to several of the Ford government's priority projects. 

During Wednesday's council meeting, Coun. Joe Cressy gained support for a motion calling on the city to only consider endorsing the province's plans if there's confirmation they won't cause "unreasonable delay."

He also asked for an update from Murray at the June council meeting.

At that time, "it will be for council to determine whether that is unreasonable," Cressy said.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford announced his multi billion dollar plan for transit in the region. (CBC)

Changes could cause 'delay,' Tory says

But already, city staff have raised red flags about several of the province's claims over being able to build a new transit network faster and cheaper than the city, suggesting both delays and cost overruns are possible.

The current one-stop Scarborough subway extension approved by the city, for instance, is ready to proceed to the construction phase and is now expected to cost nearly $4 billion.

The province's three-stop proposal would cost an estimated $1.5 billion more and wouldn't be ready until 2030 — four years after the aging Scarborough RT is slated to go offline.

The province also claims it can build its proposed $10.9 billion, 15-kilometre Ontario Line, instead of the city's shorter downtown relief time, in the next decade, or potentially as early as 2027.

It would be a free-standing artery, provincial officials have said, using a separate technology from the current TTC subway system.

"We've had some preliminary indications both from the province, and from officials here, that some of these changes could prove to cause a delay," Tory said.

"But that's not to say that, at the table, there's not changes to the projects so they don't cause delay."

Earlier in the day, Coun. Paula Fletcher argued council needs to come together and let residents know the city had a plan of its own before the province's announcement last week — one that has included roughly $224 million being spent already on multiple in-motion projects.

"Either we're standing behind our plan, or we might as well move up the street and sit in Queen's Park," Fletcher said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauren Pelley is a CBC News reporter based in Toronto. Currently covering how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting Canadians, in Toronto and beyond. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

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