Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: Councillor Josh Matlow wants to put Scarborough subway on hold — along with the tax hike

January 28th 2014

Betsy Powell

Toronto Star


Councillor Josh Matlow will move a motion Wednesday asking council to delay the proposed $14.5 million allocation for the Bloor-Danforth subway extension.


A councillor wants his colleagues to hit the brakes on the Scarborough subway plan as Toronto council meets to finalize the budget for 2014.


A motion by Josh Matlow on Wednesday will ask council to delay the proposed $14.5-million allocation for the Bloor-Danforth extension and cancel the 0.5 per cent property-tax increase that will serve as a down-payment.


For Matlow, it’s the first step in killing the project, which he calls “fiscally irresponsible.”


“The three-stop subway extension will provide less service to Scarborough residents, for a lot more money,” said Matlow, (Ward 22, St. Paul’s.) “It will also saddle city hall with increased debt and Toronto residents with higher taxes to pay for it, for decades to come.”


But Matlow’s motion faces a tough fight.


“I’m not going to support it, but I understand why he’s doing it,” said Councillor Ron Moeser (Ward 44, Scarborough East). Moeser voted yes for the subway last fall. “It was a tough decision for me, it really was, but still, OK, we’ve made a decision so now we have to say, ‘Let’s get on with it.’”


Mayor Rob Ford is staking his political fortunes on “subways, subways subways,” and Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, another Scarborough councillor (Ward 40, Scarborough Agincourt) and subway backer, said Tuesday he will urge councillors to support the subway levy.


Last October, council voted 24-20 to replace a $1.8-billion provincially funded LRT (light rail transit) plan with a subway extension projected to cost $3.5 billion, not including unknown cost overruns, operations and maintenance.


Toronto residents are on the hook for those and for LRT cancellation costs, Matlow said.


Councillor Shelley Carroll (Ward 33, Don Valley East), the budget chief under former mayor David Miller, said she believes the impact of council’s subway decision is starting to sink in with residents in wards outside Scarborough.


She recently gave a budget presentation at Downsview Secondary School, a “west-end heartland,” and heard many residents say: “I’m not paying for that (subway), no way, not with property tax.”


Alex Mazer, a candidate running against Ana Bailao (Ward 18, Davenport), calls the Scarborough subway extension “a very poor use” of public money. Bailao supported the subway.


“We don’t have the facts on many things,” said Mazer, a lawyer and public policy adviser. “The record is not good … (on) capital projects coming in on-budget and on-time.”


Mayoralty candidate David Soknacki, who has pledged to revert to the Scarborough LRT plan, calls Matlow’s motion a “constructive first step.”

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