Councillor Josh Matlow

National Post: Lottery can’t fund Sheppard subway extension: OLG

March 1, 2012


Councillor Doug Ford is floating the idea of a lottery to pay for a Sheppard subway extension — a venture that was flatly rejected by the chairman of the board of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.


“The idea is not very practical as far as we’re concerned,” Paul Godfrey said on Thursday. “If we did a special purpose lottery for Toronto, how long do you think the line is going to be of municipalities across Ontario that would ask for similar things for swimming pools or skating rinks?”


If someone had asked him about it, “I would have told them right off the bat, this is a project that has no chance of being successful at all.”


Mr. Godfrey’s comments come as pressure mounts on the Ford administration to come up with tangible ways to pay for underground transit, and specifically the Sheppard extension Mayor Rob Ford campaigned on.


Mayor Rob Ford promised in his 2010 campaign. On John Tory’s Newstalk 1010 radio show, the Mayor nixed talk of reinstating the car tax after discussing the idea and other revenue sources with councillors.


“The last thing I would ever do is to bring back the car registration tax…. I’m the one who eliminated it,” he said. “There will not be any new taxes administered by my administration.”


Last month, city council overruled Mayor Ford’s blueprint for underground transit expansion in Toronto. Instead of a provincially funded light rail under Eglinton Avenue, a majority of councillors endorsed a cheaper, partially surface corridor that could free up money to build light rail on Finch Avenue, and, potentially, light rail on Sheppard Avenue. A special meeting to hear from an “expert advisory panel” on what is best for Sheppard has been postponed a week, to March 21.


The jousting has spread to Queen’s Park, with Conservative leader Tim Hudak meeting on Thursday at North York’s Emery Village with Doug Ford, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti and local business owners concerned about transit on Finch. Mr. Hudak said he will introduce a motion next week in the legislature urging MPs to support the Mayor’s subway vision, prompting Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli to accuse Mr. Hudak of “zero credibility on transit” because he was part of the government that halted construction of an Eglinton subway in the 1990s.


Councillor Ford, in turn, lashed out at the provincial government.


“The Premier says he’s losing patience? I’ve got a message to the Premier, the people of Ontario are losing patience with the Premier,” Mr. Ford told reporters at City Hall. “We’re tired of paying $9-billion a year in interest alone to service the debt that he just went right out of control in spending, we’re going to be in the shape of Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain.”


As for how to finance the Sheppard subway, big-name developers who met with the Mayor this week said it is feasible, according to the Mayor’s subway point man, if the administration considers tolls and taxes.


Councillor Ford said tolls on existing roads is a non-starter, but suggested that adding lanes on the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway, “at a nickel a kilometre, it will bring in $200-million a year.”


Mr. Ford was especially interested in unconventional methods of financing, such as a casino or a lottery.


adding that “we’re in the middle of talking” to the OLG about the possibility.


“Nobody has talked to me or anyone else at the OLG about this,” said Mr. Godfrey, who is also president and CEO of Postmedia Network.


OLG carries out lotteries and gaming for the province, and proceeds go back into general coffers. Anyone who wants a portion of that revenue should deal with the province directly, he said.


“The Ford brothers were elected on rhetoric they were going to run the city efficiently,”said Councillor Josh Matlow, who is strongly promoting light rail expansion. “Only when they are challenged to provide a realistic plan [to pay for transit] do they start scrambling to provide answers to questions they should have asked long ago.”


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