Sunday, 11 March 2012

Scarborough Wants Subways

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 North York.

[Originally printed at]

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