John Tory entering Toronto mayor's office with transit and housing in 'crisis'
Mayor-elect gives wide-ranging speech on city affairs
Less than a week before he takes office, Toronto mayor-elect John Tory revealed that the city has two growing crises on its hands in traffic and housing.
Tory gave a kitchen sink-style update on the state of the city, covering everything from debit payments for transit tokens to urging citizens to get behind the Pan Am Games, which the Toronto area is hosting next summer.
But he highlighted problems in both transit and housing that he called crises, and subtly suggested those were a result of the previous mayor and council.
Tory spoke from his transition office with city manager Joe Pennachetti and Toronto Transit Commission CEO Andy Byford by his side.
The mayor-elect remarked that traffic remains a huge issue in the city that affects everyone.
"With respect to traffic and congestion, I of course talked about this a lot during the election campaign, and I believe it is at the level of a crisis," Tory said.
He said the issue is estimated to cost the economy billions of dollars a year, which is part of the reason Tory believes that most people in the city would agree with him that it is a crisis.
Tory also spoke about commute times and the environmental concerns tied to traffic. He suggested too little was done by the previous administration.
"There have been some improvements undertaken. I would point out that some of them were undertaken at the very last minute at the very last city council meeting, so they can't really be in the category of actually having been undertaken," he said. "Regardless of all that, we need to much more and to do it faster.”
Transit 'reeling' from cuts
Tory said he is concerned about the state of the TTC, specifically bus routes that were cut in the previous council term with sign-off from the TTC.
"The TTC system is still reeling from operating cost cuts," he said.
Tory wants to restore nearly 100 bus routes that have seen service cuts over the last term of council. He also said buses have been taken off the roads.
"I've asked Mr. Byford and his staff to look at ways to restore service," Tory said.
Tory did point out progress in the TTC, highlighting:
- The phasing in of new streetcars.
- Accelerating the implementation of WiFi in subway stations.
- A $562-million upgrade to the subway signalling on Line 1 (the Yonge-University line), which he said would increase capacity, to be completed by 2020.
- And the ability of all subway stations to accept debit and credit card payments.
He expressed concern about the delays on construction to a planned extension to the Spadina subway line.
Tory listed off a number of statistics around Toronto Community Housing and homelessness.
He said repairs on TCH buildings will be costly and numerous, totalling $2.6 billion in repairs over the next 10 years.
He said the homeless population was becoming more diverse, with an increase of seniors among those living on the streets. He said aboriginals represent one per cent of the city's population, but nearly 20 per cent of its homeless population. He said the push to eradicate child poverty has stalled, which he called "unacceptable".
This all amounts to a crisis, he said. He said it will come down to funding.
"This problem will not be solved with the resources of city taxpayers alone," the mayor-elect said. "The dialogue with the other governments...has been basically non-existent. And I will be moving to change that."
Council needs 'discipline'
Tory said his predecessor, outgoing mayor Rob Ford, was not focused on big-ticket budget items.
He said Ford zeroed in on councillor budgets and expenses, which he said represented less than 0.002 per cent of the budget.
He instead would look at projects like the restoration of Nathan Phillips Square.
He suggested that the last group of councillors lacked discipline in managing large scale projects, which he said "routinely go over budget and over time."
The new term of council begins next week.