Ontario holding Toronto 'hostage' through 'mystery' transit plan, councillor says
Ford government set to reveal details Wednesday, but city officials still out of the loop
The Ontario government is set to announce details of a $28.5 billion transit plan on Wednesday, but city officials are out of the loop and one councillor says the province is holding Toronto "hostage."
For the first time, Premier Doug Ford publicly shared an exact dollar figure on transit funding for the Greater Toronto Area during an event in Burlington, Ont. on Tuesday, and said more details will come during a news conference with transportation minister Jeff Yurek on Wednesday.
But on the eve of the announcement, Coun. Mike Layton questioned the lack of information flowing to Mayor John Tory and city manager Chris Murray from the province, calling it a "mystery plan."
"This is not how you build multi-billion dollar transit for any city... we have a government that is holding the entire city hostage," Layton said.
His comments come hours after Tory said the city still hasn't been "fully informed" about what the Ford government is proposing.
Tory said he won't be attending Wednesday's announcement because he's not in the loop on what's being unveiled, despite ongoing talks between city and provincial officials about the planned takeover of Toronto's subway network.
Yurek, however, claimed in Queen's Park on Tuesday that the province is keeping the city informed.
"We have been working closely with the City of Toronto for the last few months developing our terms of reference, which is leading toward's the final conclusion of the upload of the subway system, which is going to create a new partnership, which will allow us to move forward with the expansions," he said.
City could be 'on the hook'
Last month, the province's top priorities became clearer with the release of several letters from the team working on the "upload," including sweeping changes to four in-motion transit projects: the Scarborough subway extension, Eglinton West extension, Yonge subway extension, and the south portion of the relief line.
When it comes to the relief line, the province wants to use a different type of technology than the current subway system, but hasn't publicly shared details.
Ford government officials did recently tell CBC Toronto the province wants to be open to the possibility of using "automated train operation" — in other words, driverless trains.
But as of Tuesday morning, that's yet another area where city officials remain in the dark, Tory confirmed.
So far, Toronto has spent roughly $224 million on several projects — including the Scarborough subway extension and SmartTrack stations — and city staff are also warning any changes in direction could lead to added costs or delays.
"We could be on the hook for hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars," Layton said.
Anything that could interfere with the city's plans is cause for concern, according to Tory.
"The objective of mine remains the same, which is to build transit," he said. "And also, our objective remains the same as well on the broader issue of uploading, which is to keep the subway in the hands of the city of Toronto."
With files from Mike Crawley