The taxpayers of Scarborough are clear. They want subways.
That was the common trend of a town hall meeting hosted by the Toronto
Taxpayers Coalition at the Scarborough’s Civic Centre. Karen Stintz, Chair of
the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and Glen DeBaermaeker, Councillor for Ward
38, walked into the Council Chambers to the former City of Scarborough on
hostile ground. They came to defend the construction of the Eglinton Cross-town
Light Rail Transit (LRT) line out to Scarborough. But their pleas went unheard.
Their introductions were greeted with boos. Their responses to questions were
met with demands for resignation.
There to defend Mayor Rob Ford’s vision of subways along Sheppard Avenue and
Eglinton Avenue were Dr. Gordon Chong, author of the Sheppard Subway Report,
John Morand, former City Manager, and Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun columnist. They
spoke for the vast majority of those in attendance. They came with a clear
message: “A world class city deserves subways.”
The crux of the issue is this: funding. Dr. Chong’s report outlined a number
of different revenue tools. However, the majority of them were based in new
methods of taxation. There are a few problems with these proposals; the first
being that the Mayor was elected on a platform of keeping taxes low. The greater
problem exists in the amount of power the City of Toronto actually has to
implement new taxes. To implement such suggestions as a sales tax, the
Legislative Assembly of Ontario would first need to grant the City of Toronto
the ability to do so via legislation. This is something the Minister of
Municipal Affairs Kathleen Wynne has refused to do. This really leaves potential
private sector investment as the only option. That has been Mayor Ford’s plan
all along. The problem is, as of yet, no one has come to the table.
There are a few points that should be taken away from this meeting. Those in
attendance made their positions very clear. Subways are the only option. They
would prefer no new transit to the construction of the LRT. Additionally, and
frankly surprising given the Toronto Taxpayer Coalition’s organization of the
event, they are willing to pay higher taxes to fund the expansion of Toronto’s
(specifically Scarborough’s) subway system. This leaves City Council with a few
interesting options to debate on 21 March 2011 when they next meet to debate how
to spend the remaining $1 billion of the province’s allocated funding.
There is one point I would like to leave with readers: while those in
attendance did not seem to mind, it is a point that did stick with me. If the
City of Toronto and the TTC used all available funding to extend the Sheppard
subway line east it would end at Victoria Park. That is to say it would end in
[Originally printed at WomensPost.ca.]