Toronto

Tories won't commit to Sheppard subway funding yet

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Frank Klees wouldn't say if his party would provide $650 million in provincial funding for Toronto's Sheppard subway line as requested by Mayor Rob Ford, but indicated general support of his transit plans.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford met with McGuinty Wednesday to ask for the delivery of $650 million for construction of his Sheppard subway line before 2014. (Canadian Press)

Progressive Conservative transportation critic Frank Klees wouldn't say if his party would provide $650 million in provincial funding for Toronto's Sheppard subway line as requested by Mayor Rob Ford, but indicated general support of his transit plans.

The Tories have pledged $35 billion in spending province-wide over the next three years to infrastructure if elected, and Klees said "much of that will be focused on transit and transportation and without question, the city of Toronto will be a priority under that program."

Klees said Thursday "we have yet to discuss" funding for Ford's new Sheppard subway line.

"We want to support the mayor if the people of Toronto who voted [for] him to take leadership," Klees said as part of a discussion on CBC's Metro Morning with Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne and NDP transportation critic Cheri Di Novo.

"As the premier's indicated, a lot of details have yet to be worked out and we look forward to working those out with the mayor."

Klees's comments come one day after Ford asked  Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to provide $650 million in funding for Sheppard line by 2014. Without that money, Ford said $333 million in federal transit funding for the new $4.7-billion subway line could be in jeopardy.

Under Ford's March transit accord  with the province, the old Transit City light rail plan was scrapped at the mayor's request. As a result, it is now up to the City of Toronto to fund and construct the Sheppard line, while the province would bear the full $8.2-billion cost of the Eglinton Crosstown underground light rail line. 

The mayor said Wednesday that he was not asking for new money for the Sheppard line; rather, the province had already agreed to provide $650 million in Sheppard funding when it acceded to his transit plan.

Sheppard funding contingent on Eglinton budget

But McGuinty said the March agreement with the mayor stipulated that up to $650 million would be dedicated to the Sheppard subway only if the new $8.2-billion Eglinton Crosstown underground light rail line was constructed under budget.

The final costs of the Eglinton line — which will be borne entirely by the province — will have to be determined before provincial funding is committed for Sheppard, McGuinty said.

Klees also criticized the McGuinty government for its involvement in Toronto transit plans, suggesting the provincial government shouldn't play as prominent a role in transit planning.

"It's not for the province, contrary to the way the McGuinty government has been conducting itself, to impose its vision on the people of Toronto," said Klees.

Transportation Minister Wynne disagreed, saying the government talked with the mayor and agreed to scrap Transit City as he requested.

"Our priority is to get the lines built that we have committed to," said Wynne. She criticized the Tory Harris government for stopping work on an Eglinton subway line in the 90s.

"Mr. Klees, you know perfectly well there was a hole dug along Eglinton for an Eglinton subway and in 1995/96 you guys filled in that hole. So one of the reasons we're so far behind is because previous governments have not made the investments," she said.

The NDP's Di Novo lambasted the Liberals for "killing Transit City" in the 2010 budget, when it said it would delay the delivery of some $4 billion dedicated to the proposed light rail network.

"That was the beginning of the downfall as it were. We're 20 years behind in terms of our transit strategy in this province and in this city."

The NDP, she said, would take on 50 per cent of all operating costs for municipal transit systems so long as municipalities promise to freeze fares for four years.

Ford said Wednesday he hoped to speak with the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP about what they would be willing to provide for Toronto transit.

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