Liberals the 'only people' funding subways, Murray says

Ontario's governing Liberals are growing impatient for progress on the expansion of Toronto's transit system, with the transportation minister saying Wednesday that they are "the only people" funding subways.

'Lots of opinions at city hall, not a lot of cheques,' minister tells reporters

Liberals make subway pitch

10 years ago
Duration 2:49
The Liberals propose extending the subway to Scarborough Town Centre.

Ontario's governing Liberals are growing impatient for progress on the expansion of Toronto's transit system, with the transportation minister saying Wednesday that they are "the only people" funding subways.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Glen Murray also took a few shots at the governments that have failed to expand the subway further into Scarborough, but an opposition member soon shot back that the Liberals are "backtracking" on their own stated intentions.

"We look forward to getting this on track, we're moving ahead," Murray told reporters, as he announced a proposal to fund an abbreviated extension of the Bloor-Danforth line from Kennedy Station to the Scarborough Town Centre.

"We are not asking for any money from the city, we are not asking for any money from the federal government. [It's] time to end the conversation and start delivering the results."

Murray pointed a finger at Mayor Rob Ford, who he said has talked a lot about building subways, but has not managed to deliver on those dreams.

"Lots of opinions at city hall, not a lot of cheques," said Murray, who at one point put a dime on the podium he was standing in front of, suggesting it was more money than the city had committed.

The minister also suggested that the mayor's like-minded colleagues on council and Conservatives within the federal government have failed to make subway improvements a reality.

"Given how many Conservatives there are in the three orders of government, it’s amazing they haven't delivered any real commitment for subways. So we want to move that forward," said Murray, suggesting that the Ontario Liberals are "the only people" funding subways.

Liberals accused of 'backtracking'

Doug Holyday, the newly elected MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, suggested later in the day that the governing Liberals had talked a lot about subways in a series of recent byelections just to get votes.

"After forcing Toronto Council to hold a vote, campaigning on a new subway and telling the people of Scarborough they would finally have world-class transit, Glen Murray has shown that this was nothing more than a tactic to buy votes during the byelections," Holyday said in a statement.

"It's pretty simple: The Liberals promised one subway route, and now they're backtracking."

Ford, for his part, welcomed the provincial government's subway proposal and rebuked the suggestion he hasn't done his share for Scarborough transit.

"I said we were going to build subways to Scarborough and that is exactly what we are doing," said Ford in a statement.

"I campaigned on extending the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line to the Scarborough Town Centre," he continued. "Over the last four years, I have fought against the LRT for a subway to Scarborough — because that is what Scarborough residents asked me to do." 

The province says the extension it is proposing would be 6.4 kilometres in length and would connect the Bloor-Danforth line to the Scarborough Town Centre.

During the news conference, Murray also suggested more stops could be added to the proposed extension if other levels of government can provide additional funds.

"I'm very open if the mayor, or Coun. [Karen] Stintz, or [Federal Finance Minister Jim] Flaherty have some change of heart, get hit by lightning, something happens, they can write a cheque and we can add another subway station," he said.

"God knows, we could name it after them."

The province had previously earmarked $1.4 billion to replace the aging Scarborough RT.

In July, city council opted for the more expensive subway option over light rail, which was fully funded by the province. That plan took a different route all the way up to Sheppard Avenue, but relied on city and federal money that has not materialized.

'Scarborough loses'

Several city councillors said they had concerns — or criticisms — about the province's proposal, when asked about it ahead of Wednesday’s news conference.

Coun. Gary Crawford, seen above, and Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker each said that any extension to the subway in Scarborough was something positive. (CBC)

"Ultimately, a subway is going to be going in, so that's positive for the residents of Scarborough," Coun. Gary Crawford said, admitting he was concerned about how the proposed project would impact the local community.

Coun. Josh Matlow tweeted that it was "absurd" to replace the fully funded LRT plan with a short subway extension.

"Scarborough loses," Matlow said in his tweet.

Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker saw the proposed subway extension as a good first step, but said it must be built out further so that those living further north can reap its benefits.

"To get a subway all the way up to the Scarborough Town Centre is something we’ve always dreamed about, but that's not enough," he said.

"The subway has to go north of the 401, all the way to Sheppard."

With a report from the CBC's Jamie Strashin