Toronto forging ahead with subway plans, now with some suburban support

Mayor John Tory has new allies in his ongoing fight to get Queen's Park to commit to funding the future downtown relief line — three leaders from the 905.

Markham, Richmond Hill mayors will back downtown relief line, if Toronto extends Yonge north

Toronto wants a downtown relief line. York Region wants the Yonge subway extended to Richmond Hill. And so, an alliance aimed at pressuring the province to help pay for the projects has been born. (Giordano Ciampini/Canadian Press)

Mayor John Tory has new allies in his ongoing fight to get Queen's Park to commit to funding the future downtown relief line — three leaders from the 905.

The mayors of Markham and Richmond Hill, as well as the chair of York Region, came to city hall Tuesday to announce they'd support Toronto's push for the relief line as long as the city also keeps working on extending the Yonge subway north into the suburbs.

Last week, Tory threatened to stop planning work on extending the subway to Richmond Hill, but Tuesday, with the newfound support, his executive committee voted to forge ahead.

"We are in common cause on our two major projects," Tory told reporters.

"What we really want to have happen is to have these go ahead concurrently and know that they're both going to be funded by all three levels of government. That is the important point here."

Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti said he'll be sending a clear message to Queen's Park about the two projects: "No one gets a free ride here."

He also added he'll be putting that pressure on all three parties in the run-up to and aftermath of next year's provincial election.

Not everyone at city hall was on board with the union.

Coun. Josh Matlow said Tory is essentially tying the two projects together, a "reckless" and "irresponsible" move that he worries will put the relief line at risk.

Coun. Josh Matlow says he plans to speak out against Tory's plan at an upcoming council meeting. (John Rieti/CBC)

Matlow says he supports running transit to the suburbs, but he says the city's priority should be the relief line, especially as riders on the Yonge line are already struggling with overcrowding that leaves many watching several trains pass before they can get on.

"And once they're in there they're crammed in like a sardine," Matlow said.

Councillor welcomes 'alliance'

Coun. Paula Fletcher fired back at Matlow, saying it's a smart move to get outside voices to champion Toronto's needs.

"That relief line will be out in the ether for many years unless we get attention for it, unless we get funding for it and unless we get a commitment to build it," she said.

Fletcher, who represents Ward 30, Toronto-Danforth — one of the areas where the relief line is set to be built — also pointed out at this point, not a penny has been committed to the project and welcomed the "alliance" with 905 leaders.

The province has provided millions to help study the proposed lines, but none for the construction at this point. Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca has previously said that's because the projects are still in the early phases of planning.

The Yonge extension is further along in the process than the relief line.

City staff hope to have a Class 3 cost estimate for the downtown relief line and a schedule by 2019.


John Rieti is the senior producer of digital at CBC Toronto. Born and raised in Newfoundland, John has worked in CBC newsrooms across the country. In Toronto, he's covered everything from the Blue Jays to Toronto city hall. Outside of work, catch him cycling in search of the city's best coffee.


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