What's next for Toronto after Kathleen Wynne kills Gardiner, DVP tolls

Premier Kathleen Wynne shocked the GTA by rejecting Toronto's plans to put road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. Now, everyone at city hall is wondering what will happen next.

Mayor John Tory says province has to 'step up' if it won’t let city make money from commuters

After Kathleen Wynne nixed Toronto's road toll plan, Mayor John Tory vowed he will be 'relentless' when it comes to finding new ways to pay for $33 billion worth of unfunded infrastructure projects. (John Rieti/CBC)

Premier Kathleen Wynne shocked the GTA Friday by rejecting Toronto's plans to put road tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

But after the drama subsided at city hall, the question, "What's next?," was left hanging.

Here are a few key questions that will have to be answered in the coming months.

Will Toronto get more investment?

Wynne may have axed Toronto's toll dream, but the Liberal government did commit to eventually doubling payments from its gasoline tax. Wynne said the additional $170 million a year, set to be spent on transit projects, is the same amount that the city would have made from the tolls — though Toronto had hoped to generate between $200 and $300 million a year.

Mayor John Tory thanked the province for the new cash. But Tory also warned Wynne that if her government won't let the city use its powers to generate revenue, then Ontario would have to invest more.

"I don't know where it leaves us, quite frankly," a frustrated Tory told reporters on Friday, before adding he would be "relentless" when it comes to finding new revenue.

As the city finalizes its 2017 budget — which doesn't include any revenue from the tolls — Tory has asked the province for several investments, including, but not limited to:

  • More money to help pay for the building and repair of affordable housing.
  • Some $4 million in occupancy grants to school boards that house child-care centres.
  • More money for child-care subsidies in the city.

Wynne and Tory are set to meet next week, at which point some of these potential investments could come up.

How will Toronto pay for infrastructure?

The city hoped to generate between $200 and $300 million per year from road tolls on the Gardiner and DVP. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The city has $33 billion worth of unfunded infrastructure projects, including the downtown relief line. And that money isn't likely hiding under couch cushions.

Tory said he would have to re-examine what revenue tools the city uses, but said he won't consider major property tax hikes.

"They were never meant to sustain double-digit increases to finance billion-dollar capital projects," he said.

Tory said the province told the city not to implement its own alcohol tax, which it also has the power to do, and has also been urged to back away from municipal income taxes or sales taxes.

"I have had no take-up. Like, how about none," Tory said.

Will Wynne and Tory's relationship change?

Tory said he still has an "open" and "strong" relationship with Wynne, but plenty of reporters had questions about how the toll breakup went down.

Tory said he'd spoken with Wynne many times during the process and never been told to stop pursuing tolls.

For her part, Wynne said she consistently told Tory that there needed to be alternative options to driving for the tolls to go ahead, and that the timing would have to work, as well.

Coun. John Campbell said even if the relationship between the two is strained, it must continue, because both sides need one another.

"Fighting," he said, won't get the city anywhere. "You have to move on."

Does this change the plans for the Gardiner?

Toronto city council narrowly approved John Tory's hybrid plan for redeveloping the eastern Gardiner Expressway. But will councillors revisit that decision with tolls off the table? (Matt Llewellyn/CBC)

Tory said Friday's decision won't change any of the city's infrastructure plans, even though Gardiner drivers were going to be paying to repair the Gardiner.

The city has to keep repairing the aging highway, but without the toll money some councillors may make another push to back away from Tory's "hybrid" redevelopment plan for rerouting the eastern part of the elevated expressway and move toward the cheaper ground-level boulevard version.

The province's move also left some wondering if it would offer to retake control (or, upload, in government language) either the Gardiner, the DVP, or both. But Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said there are no plans for that.

How will drivers react?

Coun. Denzil Minnan criticized Wynne's move, saying it was politically-motivated. However, he said drivers in his Don Mills-area ward will be happy to hear the news.

"Any time when a new tax is not implemented is a good day for the residents of the city of Toronto," Minnan-Wong said.

Josh Ladouceur, a contractor who comes into the city for work, said he sees how nixing the tolls is "not exactly fair," to Toronto, which pays to maintain the highways. However, he also sees road tolls as a bit of a "cash grab" designed by politicians making enough money to afford to pay them.

"Go to the people who don't make that much money and ask them if they're still OK with paying that toll, and that's where I think Kathleen [Wynne] saw it from," he said.

Online, drivers' opinions were mixed, with some overjoyed to be saving money, while others wonder how Toronto will be able to pay for its roads in the future.