Mayor John Tory's immigrant talk 'crossed a line' in Scarborough subway op-ed: Josh Matlow

Coun. Josh Matlow says that Mayor John Tory "crossed an ethical line" when he implied that Torontonians living outside of Scarborough don't care about providing transit for the area's largely immigrant population.

Editorial 'not meant to be divisive,' Tory spokesperson says

Coun. Josh Matlow is in favour of scrapping the Scarborough subway extension and putting the money toward 25 light rail transit (LRT) stops in the area instead.

Mayor John Tory "crossed an ethical line" when he implied that Torontonians living outside of Scarborough don't care about providing transit for the area's largely immigrant population in an editorial in support of the subway extension, Coun. Josh Matlow said.

"To bring up immigrants just saddens me," Matlow told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Tuesday. "No one should suggest that one group of Torontonians care more or less about immigrants because of a transit plan."

Matlow was referencing two lines in Tory's Toronto Star op-ed where he wrote that many of the extension's critics don't live in Scarborough, "where more than half the population is born outside of Canada. When they say this is too much to spend on a subway, the inference seems to be that it's too much to spend on this part of the city."

The councillor for Ward 22 (St. Paul's) said that the statement is "factually untrue" and those who are against the subway extension, himself included, are still in favour of bringing more transit to Scarborough.

"I don't know anyone who's saying 'let's not spend money to provide transit in Scarborough,'" Matlow said.

The councillor is in favour of the light-rail line plan the city had previously proposed and moved to create with both the capital and operating costs paid for by the province. The LRT plan would have seen 25 stops built in the area instead of one subway stop, but the plan was scrapped at a cost of $85 million.

'Not meant to be divisive'

In a statement issued to CBC Toronto after Matlow's interview, Tory's director of communications Amanda Galbraith said the mayor's editorial "was not meant to be divisive but to point out an inequity in our transit system that needs to be addressed."

Tory was warning that cancelling the Scarborough subway extension would cause delays, impact relationships with other levels of government "and leave the people of Scarborough without transit even longer," Galbraith said.

"He also pointed out that Scarborough, which has a large population of new Canadians, remains the only part of Toronto not connected into the subway system.

"The bottom line is Scarborough is underserved by transit. Dramatically so compared to the rest of the city. Many of the people who live in Scarborough are newcomers to our city, and they need opportunities for mobility on transit."

'They're asking for transit'

In Tory's op-ed, he cited an analysis by the city's chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat and her department that "favoured an express subway extension" over an LRT line.

"There are Scarborough residents who feel just as strongly about this as I do," the councillor said. "They're asking for transit, they don't want to commute for two to three hours every morning."

Matlow said their commute could be reduced faster by adding LRTs, a plan that he said would be quicker to implement.

When asked whether or not he thought Tory really meant to say that those that don't live in Scarborough don't care about providing the area with transit, Matlow said he "can only read what [Tory] wrote."

with files from Metro Morning