February 26 2013
City council, not Mayor Rob Ford will decide whether Toronto residents pay their fair share of a massive regional transit expansion expected to cost about $2 billion annually for the next 25 years.
That was the response among some city councillors and transit experts on Thursday to concerns raised by Oakville Mayor Rob Burton.
He told the Star he feared 905-residents would be on the hook for more than their share of taxes and user fees because Ford refuses to talk about dedicated regional transit taxes.
John Tory, chair of CivicAction, a group of civic leaders pushing for dedicated transit taxes and tolls, downplayed Burton’s fears at a Toronto transit forum Thursday evening.
“Ford is one member of a 44-member council. The people in this case are ahead of their mayor,” the former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader said at the meeting, which included Burton, Mississauga councillor Bonnie Crombie and Oshawa Mayor John Henry.
Metrolinx CEO Bruce McCuaig, who seldom comments on municipal politics, confirmed that the province would be looking for Toronto’s corporate position on funding the regional transit plan, The Big Move.
Although Metrolinx has to listen carefully to Ford’s views, “In the end, what’s going to be really important to us is to understand what the corporate position of the city of Toronto is. That’s the piece that becomes the formal position,” said McCuaig.
Toronto is conducting its own consultations on transit funding and council is expected to look at the results of those consultations in March and April, said McCuaig.
Toronto councillor Josh Matlow said he understands Burton’s frustration but Ford’s position doesn’t reflect his views.
“Just because Mayor Ford has not been willing to have an honest and adult conversation doesn’t mean council supports his position,” he said. “There’s evidence the vast majority of councillors want to work with (Oakville) and the rest of our partners in the region and the province to see the Big Move through to fruition.”
Councillor Gord Perks pointed out Ford has found no support for any of his transit policies at council.
But he echoed Burton’s call for more specifics on how the province expects people to pay for the improvements Oakville’s mayor estimated could cost about $1,000 per year per household.
“We’ve lost a couple of years because the province and Metrolinx have been reluctant to put their cards on the table,” said Perks. “We should be further down the road than we are.”
McCuaig said Metrolinx has taken a systematic approach to the discussions about money-making strategies dedicated to funding transit. More details of how some taxes and fees work in other areas will be published in March and April, he said.
Crombie said 905 municipalities are looking for the province to protect their interests too.
“There are those of us in the 905 who believe Toronto has got the lion’s share in the past,” she said, adding she would like to see Mississauga’s LRT proposal receive the same support the province has given Toronto’s light rail projects.
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