Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: Toronto Transit: Councillor says robocalls targeting him for supporting LRT

March 16, 2012


Toronto’s subway war is the latest issue to prompt allegations of inappropriate robocall messages.


Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) tweeted Friday that a resident in his Ward received a recorded robocall recently instructing them to threaten to pull their political support if he votes for LRTs over subways.


“I got an email from one resident and I was told by another resident that they received such a call,” Matlow told the Star. He said staff are going to contact the residents Monday to confirm exactly what was said and who the source might be.


Toronto council will vote Wednesday on the future of transit along Sheppard Ave. E, into Scarborough. The two primary options are above-ground Light Rail Transit or underground subways.


Matlow’s tweet stated: “A resident of my ward has told me he received an anti-LRT robocall 2 days ago asking him to threaten me re: my transit vote & next election.”


He went on to tweet that some people unfortunately use “misinformation” and “threats” to make their case.


A short time later, the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition, which calls itself a non-partisan advocacy group, issued a statement denying its robocalls sent out since last Saturday targeted Matlow.


“ … in no way did we target any City Councillor and (we) certainly did not encourage our supporters to threaten politicians with electoral defeat,” stated Matthew McGuire, the group’s President.


The group posted an audio file of the robocall on its website. It urges residents to contact their MPPs and ask why they didn’t support subways, but does not mention any Toronto councillors or withdrawing support in future elections.


Matlow said he does not believe it was the Toronto Taxpayers Coalition that’s responsible for the calls described by his constituents.


“I don’t know why they released that public statement, there’s certainly no allegation from me.”


Matlow said he is interested to find out who’s behind the calls described by residents, particularly to learn who has the kind of money to fund such a campaign, not that there’s anything wrong with it, he added.


“If you really want to get the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck, you’ve got to do that,” he said.


TTC Chair Karen Stintz said in a tweet Thursday night that a Sheppard subway could be built without taxpayer funds only if the line carried volumes of more than 15,000 people per hour, per direction. “Year 2031 Sheppard projection? 3,000,” she wrote.


Councillor Josh Matlow also tweeted: “With big promises, bumper sticker rhetoric and no actual plan, no one has stopped Rob Ford from building subways other than Rob Ford.”


Addressing the rally in Scarborough, Patrick Sherman, spokesman for SAFE (Subways Are For Everyone), announced that Toronto was due for another town hall meeting on transit. Moderated by John Tory, it will he held Monday at the Scarborough Civic Centre.


Residents of Toronto have seen their fair share of town halls over the past few weeks. LRT advocates Councillor Josh Matlow and Ms. Stintz held a town hall at Eglinton Avenue three weeks ago. The Taxpayers Coalition, a subway-advocacy group, organized a town hall at the Civic Centre on March 8 to a crowd of a few hundred people.


“The last meeting tapped into that anger, that passion. This meeting is going to be about information — it will bring about facts that have tended to be ignored,” said Councillor Norm Kelly.

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