Doug Ford is trying to 'steal' the TTC's subways, public transit activists charge

Opponents of the provincial government's plan to take over some elements of Toronto's subway network protested on Thursday, alleging that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is trying to "steal" the TTC's "most valuable assets."

Legislation to upload parts of subway network is likely coming early next year, transportation minister says

The province has said previously that the city of Toronto would continue to operate the subway system and keep the revenue it generates. (Mike Wise/CBC)

Opponents of the provincial government's plan to take over some elements of Toronto's subway network protested on Thursday, alleging that Ontario Premier Doug Ford is trying to "steal" the TTC's "most valuable assets." 

About a dozen members of the group TTCriders rallied at Queen's Park station on Line 1 and handed out literature to morning commuters. The organization, which has ties to various unions and says it advocates on behalf of public transit riders, has been a vocal critic of the Progressive Conservative government. 

The protest was part of a "transit day of action to stop Doug Ford's TTC takeover," the group said in a statement. The NDP's transportation critic, MPP Jessica Bell, also attended. 

Shelagh Pizey-Allen, executive director of TTCriders, said she believes the province's endgame is privatization of the city's transit agency.

"Breaking apart the TTC will create a two-tier transit system with higher subway fares, and opens the TTC up to privatization," Pizey-Allen said. 

"To fix our long, overcrowded commutes, Premier Ford needs to fund the TTC with a fair operating subsidy, not steal its most valuable assets." 

Ford signalled during the spring election that his government would transfer responsibility for building and maintaining new and existing subway lines to the province. In August, he appointed a special adviser, Michael Lindsay, to explore how it might be accomplished "efficiently and effectively."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford appointed a special adviser, Michael Lindsay, to explore uploading parts of the TTC's subway network to the province. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

The city of Toronto would continue to operate the system and keep the revenue it generates, Ford has previously said. 

The province has argued the change will allow for more new transit to be built more quickly. Jeff Yurek, minister of transportation, said last week that the provincial government will be in a better position to finance major transit projects because the it can amortize costs over a longer period of time. 

Lindsay is expected to issue a report to cabinet within a month, and serious discussions with the city should begin early in the new year, according to Yurek.

Some have cautioned that while uploading new transit projects to the province could streamline approvals, the TTC's existing infrastructure could suffer for it. 

Former TTC chair and outgoing city councillor Josh Colle said he is concerned that the "obsession" with expanding Toronto's subway network could ultimately lead to financial pitfalls for the transit agency. 

"My worry is that money gets spent on the new, shiny stuff — which is needed in the city — but then the local government and, in this case the TTC, are left starved for cash for day-to-day nuts and bolts issues," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning.

He added that recent service improvements, such as expanded express and night bus routes, could be clawed back if the TTC finds itself strapped for cash. 

Further, Colle said, the provincial government may be less interested in investing in small but necessary fixes and upgrades.

"Why would a provincial government want to spend money on a new elevator at Lawrence West Station? Or replacing track on Line 2? It's hard to do a ribbon-cutting for that," Colle said.

"And it's hard to win votes that you need for that."