March 26, 2012
Toronto city councillors have voted 24-19 in favour of a motion for building light-rail transit on Sheppard Avenue East.
The vote effectively ends Mayor Rob Ford’s push for extending a subway line across Sheppard Avenue.
Asked what his message was, Ford didn’t mince his words.
“I’d ask them, don’t fund streetcars, don’t fund LRTs, put it toward subways, thank you very much for your support,” Ford said.
Despite delay tactics by Mayor Rob Ford’s allies on Wednesday, many had expected council to confirm support for light-rail.
LRT is generally considered a cheaper option that would serve more people sooner. The funding for such a project is already in place.
Councillor Josh Matlow said there is a power vacuum right now in the mayor’s office. He accuses Ford of failing to provide the decisive leadership his office demands.
“Mayor Ford needs to step to the plate. If he believes in something, he needs to provide evidence and make an argument that’s convincing,” Matlow said.
Matlow said the city is effectively now being governed by the political left and centre of council, not the mayor.
However, deputy mayor Doug Holyday reluctantly agrees.
“They might well be. They’re the balance of power here — we know that — and we’ve been able to win votes with them on our side, but seems to be impossible to keep them on-side at all times,” Holyday said.
Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli said, in a statement released Thursday, “The government respects the will of the city’s democratically elected councillors and they sent a message today to the province and to Metrolinx that light-rail transit is their preference.”
The McGuinty government has committed $8.4 billion to Toronto transit.
Many criticized the mayor for being absent for most of Wednesday’s meeting and not taking part in the transit debate.
In a statement released after the debate, Thursday, Mayor Ford said “I respect the will of council. However, I do not agree with Council’s final decision. It was my hope that Council would respect the wish of taxpayers.”
“I will continue to advocate for subways as part of future rapid transit expansion in Toronto.”
The special council meeting on Wednesday went on for almost 12 hours, ending before a possible vote could take place.
Councillors from both sides butted-heads over the transit issue that has divided Torontonians and council down the middle.
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