Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: Councillor wants Scarborough subway funds held in reserve

January 31st 2014

Tess Kalinowski

Toronto Star


The SRT (Scarborough Rapid Transit) is set to be replaced with a subway. But Councillor Josh Matlow thinks a light rail transit system would be money better spend and he plans to try and stop the subway.


Councillor Josh Matlow is vowing to fight on against plans to build a subway rather than an LRT in Scarborough.


The councillor for Ward 22, St. Paul’s, said he plans to try again at city council’s Thursday budget meeting to stall the subway project.


Matlow wants council to approve a delay in spending any of the $12.2 million it collects this year for the Scarborough subway until after the municipal election Oct. 27.


The 0.5 per cent subway levy on the property tax bill, which amounts to about $12 per household in the first year, to be held in reserve until then, he said.


“I would rather it not be collected in the first place. But if council wants to do that, at least don’t sink costs… that would just end up being wasted money if the next mayor and the next council decides to go a different route,” said Matlow.


City council is expected to pick up more than $85 million in sunk costs as a result of the cancellation of the LRT it originally planned to replace the Scarborough RT. That includes a the cancellation of Bombardier light rail vehicles, design and engineering work. Matlow argues not enough is known about the cost of operating the subway or potential construction cost overruns.


On Wednesday, his motion to have the subway levy considered separately from the general property tax failed by a single vote.


“Now council has decided to tax residents for this boondoggle, at the very least the money should not be sunk into this project before the next election,” he said.


Matlow wants to return to the original seven-stop LRT to replace the aging Scarborough RT rather than the three-stop subway that was supported by Mayor Rob Ford and outgoing TTC chair councillor Karen Stintz, who is running against the mayor in the upcoming election.


The subway levy on the property tax would be used to leverage a 30-year debenture, pushing the city close to its debt ceiling.


“This subway could kill another subway,” warned Matlow referring to the relief subway to downtown that he says should be the city’s next subway priority.


“It hurts the city’s ability to respond to major unexpected expenditures,” he added, citing the December ice storm, crumbling Gardiner Expressway and summer flooding.


Matlow said the decision to build a subway was a political decision that some councillors supported based on what he calls, “the myth of the 100-year subway.”


Subway tunnels last about 100 years but they require maintenance, not only of the tunnel walls, but the track bed as well as new trains.


The TTC is looking at how to repair the 60-year-old track bed between St. Clair and Eglinton that should have been rebuilt 20 years ago, without a prolonged shutdown of that section of the Yonge subway.


“LRT lasts 50 years, not the 30 year figure that had been bandied about,” said Matlow.


Meantime councillor Gord Perks suggested Thursday that council could contribute more to another fund such as an extreme weather reserve rather than the subway.


While that may be within council’s power, there could be legal consequences if council reallocated funds it had previously agreed should go to the transit project, said the city solicitor.


“If there are approved motions to use that 0.5 per cent for a purpose other than what is set out in the motion, I would seriously suspect that there would be a legal challenge and there would be consequences to that,” said Anna Kinastowski.


The subway is expected to cost about $3 billion. The provincial and federal government have committed to paying two-thirds of the cost, leaving the city to find $910 million.


The transit levy on the property tax – to cost the average household about $41 a year once it’s fully phased in – is expected to raise about $745 million. A development fee hike is expected to raise another $165 million.


To read this article in its current form, click here.


Leave A Comment

Please leave a message of support for residents and frontline staff.

Page Reader Press Enter to Read Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Pause or Restart Reading Page Content Out Loud Press Enter to Stop Reading Page Content Out Loud Screen Reader Support