Toronto

Stephen Harper promises funding for Toronto's SmartTrack transit plan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the federal government will provide funding for up to one-third of the cost for Toronto's SmartTrack transit line.

Funding of one-third of the cost would begin in 2019

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Toronto on Thursday to announce future funding for Mayor John Tory's SmartTrack transit plan. 3:03

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the federal government will provide funding for up to one-third of the cost for Toronto's SmartTrack transit line.

But the city will have to apply for the funding — a billion dollars per year starting in 2019 — just like other cities in Canada. The municipal portion of the funding for SmartTrack remains undecided.

"This answers a lot of questions about funding," said Mayor John Tory about SmartTrack, a transit plan that he proposed during the mayoral election.

Harper highlighted the funding for Toronto's transit system, which was outlined in April's federal budget, alongside the mayor and Finance Minister Joe Oliver, who is also a Toronto MP. Tory called the funding "historic" at the time of the budget, and repeated that on Thursday.

The trio made the announcement at the Toronto Transit Commission's Hillcrest Complex in midtown Toronto. 

Harper said SmartTrack would deliver a "better, faster commute for hundreds of thousands of people" in the city.

He called the plan "innovative" in that it crosses municipalities.

The funding pledge comes at the end of a tough month for Tory, who is dealing with a host of policing, budgetary and transit issues in council.

"What a great day for the city of Toronto," he said, grinning.

Oliver 'dedicated to transit'

Tory emphasized his private discussions with the finance minister, who he said was dedicated to building better transit in Toronto.

Oliver said the funding is all about making Toronto a liveable place for citizens and efficient place for job-creating businesses. 

"We are an engine of the Canadian economy, the heart of the Canadian advantage," he said. 

"If we can't get people moving in the GTA, our engine will splutter."

That budget included $750 million over two years, starting in 2017-18, and $1 billion for each year after, for a new public transit fund to help cities fight traffic congestion by encouraging public-private infrastructure projects.

Harper's announcement took place near Oliver's Eglinton-Lawrence riding. Harper also appeared with Oliver at an event in Toronto just two weeks ago.

Oliver's political future has been questioned of late, with rumours he may not run for re-election — although he has given no official indication he won't be a Conservative candidate again.

Former Conservative colleague-turned-Liberal MP Eve Adams is in a tough nomination fight in Eglinton-Lawrence and the hotly-contested Liberal nomination suggests a tough battle for the seat once the writ drops. 

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