January 23, 2015
Councillors say they have been kept in the dark for more than a year about the costs of cancelling the Scarborough LRT, after the city has already budgeted for what could be $75 million owed to the province.
Councillor Josh Matlow, a vocal opponent of the Scarborough subway, said council was never briefed on the real cost of doing an about-face on light rail.
“I’ve been asking for a lot of information for a long time that was never forthcoming,” he said Friday. “I think the public should be very concerned about the dearth of accountability and transparency.”
In 2013, council changed course on a fully funded, $1.4-billion, seven-stop LRT in Scarborough, for which the city already had an agreement with the province, by a narrow 24-20 vote. In its place, it adopted a plan for a $3-billion, three-stop subway the city would have to help pay for.
Council also directed city manager Joe Pennachetti to negotiate any non-recoverable costs attached to that decision with Metrolinx and the province. He was to report back to council on an agreement with Metrolinx as to the costs the city should pay, as independently verified by a third-party auditor.
Matlow says that never happened.
Pennachetti did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
What is more concerning, said TTC chair Josh Colle, is that council has never seen a breakdown of where the money was spent and why Metrolinx originally pegged the amount at $85 million. “Absent of any construction happening, where is this supposed money?” Colle said Friday.
Metrolinx has said most of it was spent on planning and design. But Colle said studies for other major transit projects have cost far less than the figure cited.
On Friday, Metrolinx said the costs were audited by Price Waterhouse Cooper, including program oversight and management, part of which are Metrolinx salaries and administrative costs; costs attached to major planning, design and engineering consultants; and TTC program management costs dating to when it was handling day-to-day project activities. There was no cost attached to renegotiating a contract with vehicle supplier Bombardier.
On Thursday, Pennachetti told the Star the city has already agreed to pay Metrolinx those costs, which were budgeted for in the 10-year capital plan. But he refused to give a figure, saying the budget committee would hear those details in February.
Councillor Paula Fletcher said she was concerned about the size of the bill but also the prospect of the city wearing the entire cost.
“Let’s not forget the provincial government ran a byelection on the Scarborough subway, with their candidate, Mitzie Hunter, named as a subway champ for Scarborough. To come back and say the onus is all on the city is a bit disingenuous,” she said.
It’s shameful and tragic that tens of millions of dollars that could have gone to community services such as daycare and transit have been wasted, said Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam.
“We now have to pay this money and there’s nothing built for it. If anything, it’s put us in a negative position because we’ve lost time and time is money.”
Wong-Tam said it was also disturbing that councillors had to learn about the cost in the Toronto Star.
“The fact that it’s embedded in the budget for us to adopt leaves me to ask what other expenses are embedded in the budget that we don’t know about. Do we need to ask for analyst notes?”
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