Mayoral candidate David Soknacki says he’ll reverse the city’s course on the Scarborough subway, again

Mayoral candidate David Soknacki says he’ll reverse the city’s course on the Scarborough subway, again

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Well, that didn’t take long. Two weeks in, the 2014 mayoral election has already produced its first sweeping policy announcement, and it’s this: former city budget chief David Soknacki says that, if elected, he’ll scrap Rob Ford‘s beloved two-or-three-stop Scarborough subway extension in favour of the seven-stop light-rail line that was originally planned for the corridor.

In an audaciously misleading rhetorical flourish worthy of Ford himself, Soknacki’s press release claims that the move would “cancel Mayor Rob Ford’s $1 billion property tax increase needed to pay for the subway option, delivering the largest tax cut in Toronto’s history.”

It’s true that the city’s expected share of the subway extension’s construction costs amounts to about $1 billion, but so far city council hasn’t put up the majority of that money. All that’s on the table right now are modest tax hikes over the next three years. So, there would be no billion-dollar tax cut, only an avoidance of possible future tax increases. Elections aren’t won with facts and accuracy, though, and the claim is at least partially true, so we’ll give Soknacki a pass this time.

Assuming Soknacki were to be elected, and assuming he was able to scuttle the Scarborough subway, it would be only the latest in a long series of politically driven reversals for the transit corridor, currently served by the rattletrap Scarborough RT. The fate of the line was most recently debated in October, when city council reaffirmed an earlier decision to abandon the Scarborough light-rail line—which it had previously endorsed—in favour of the subway. Rob Ford, who championed the subway extension against the advice of transit planners, claimed victory—but there’s no such thing as a done deal when it comes to transit planning in Toronto. Soknacki says returning to light-rail would mark “a return to evidence-based transit decision-making in Toronto,” and that much, at any rate, is true.

We expect plenty more transit proposals over the next few months. Election day is still almost 10 months away.