Councillor Josh Matlow

680News: Council to reconvene debate on Sheppard transit future Thursday

March 22, 2012


The special council meeting to determine the future of transit on Sheppard Avenue East will resume, Thursday. Live streaming of council will begin at 9:30 a.m.


After almost 12 hours of debate, Mayor Rob Ford abruptly ended the debate before a vote Wednesday night.


Councillors are debating whether to build a light-rail system or extend the subway line from Don Mills to the Scarborough Town Centre.


“We had to do what we need to do today to ensure that subways are still on the table, and subways are still on the table,” said Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti. “There hasn’t been a vote and subways are still no the table.”


Councillor Josh Matlow meanwhile said he thinks they are only wasting time.

“It just doesn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do, to keep putting off the inevitable, which is, making a hard decision,” Matlow said.

The majority of councillors are expected to support the light-rail transit option, which they said is a cheaper option that would serve more people sooner. The funding for such a project is already in place.

However, Councillor Doug Ford told CityNews it’s not over yet.

“It’s going to be an extremely close vote. This is going to determine the transportation system for the future,” Ford said.

An expert panel commissioned by council has endorsed the Sheppard LRT as the best option, but Mayor Ford has said the panel is biased.

Fiery discussions continued throughout the day Wednesday, as councillors from both sides butted-heads over the transit issue that has divided Torontonians and council down the middle.

Ford has long opposed light-rail transit and has said he would prefer subways, despite the much higher cost of construction.

In a move that stands in stark contrast to Ford’s strong anti-tax message, Mammoliti and Ford’s other allies on council are suggesting special taxes be brought in, including a one per cent hike dedicated to pay for a Sheppard subway extension.

“Those of us that feel strongly about subways have got to find a financial formula that works,” Mammoliti said. “If we don’t, then I think we’re stuck in losing this vote today.”

“There are a number of other things like parking fees, that could be considered,” said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong. “I think all those things should be put on the table.”

“Parking levy is appropriate because it gives us the fastest income if you will – about $90 million – that’s been indicated from that,” agreed Councillor and budget chief Mike del Grande, adding that left-wing councillors have been arguing for such measures for quite some time.

“Councillors have said – a number of them – ‘well, show us the money. Show us the plan’. We’ve provided a plan to do just that.”

However, Councillor Adam Vaughan was surprised, considering Mayor Ford’s reputation as a tax fighter.

“What he’s now proposing and getting his allies on council to put forward that we understand as motions, is a series of massive tax increases,” he told 680News.

“This really is a last-ditch desperation effort not based on much thoughtfulness at all,” said Councillor Joe Mihevc, who also found it bizarre that right-leaning councillors are discussing increasing taxes.

“This story just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” he added. “Is

[Ford] going to stick to his guns around the subway or is he going to stick to his guns around being the tax slayer that he claims he is, so he’s in a bit of a pinch today.”

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the transit panel, Professor Eric Miller, is currently at a conference in Peru and is being allowed to address the council through computer video link. Councillor Mary Fragadakis was delighted to try out the Skype connection.

However, Councillor Norm Kelley expressed dismay that he was not allowed to bring in a second expert.


“I want this to be a level playing field, so please – and I’m pleading with you – I need two-thirds support,” he said before his request was denied


“I want a fair, honest debate and I think that if you only have one source of information, you may not have all the facts.”


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