Olivia Chow calls on the province and the feds to fund Toronto’s Downtown Relief Line

Olivia Chow calls on the province and the feds to fund Toronto’s Downtown Relief Line

Olivia Chow at a transit-related press conference on March 20. (Image: CP24/Screenshot) Olivia Chow at a transit-related press conference on March 20. (Image: CP24/Screenshot)
 

Olivia Chow has a problem. Fellow mayoral candidates are criticizing her relentlessly for not committing to building the downtown relief line right away. Meanwhile, if she were to suggest a realistic plan for accelerating the line’s construction using city money (by taking on debt and hiking property taxes, say) she’d almost certainly be branded an NDP candidate—a tax-and-spend socialist with no grip on reality.

In an op-ed in today’s Star, Chow attempts to break through this policy impasse with a two-pronged assault. On the one hand, she says the relief line is a priority—but not the only priority—for public transit in Toronto. On the other, she acknowledges, as she has in the past, that the new subway line would be incredibly expensive to build (around $8 billion, by one estimate), and that ultimately the project hinges on financial contributions from higher orders of government.

“I urge premier Kathleen Wynne and her government to spell out a finance plan for Metrolinx and the TTC, including a viable plan to finance the new relief line,” Chow writes. “Senior levels of government keep the lion’s share of taxes paid our city…They have a responsibility to invest in important priorities, just as the city has a responsibility to propose the right ones.” (Interestingly, Spacing’s John Lorinc totally called this particular line of messaging.)

This is nothing we haven’t heard before. In fact, Wynne has already said that she’ll be announcing a plan for funding transit, although so far we only know what it won’t contain. The interesting thing here is that Chow is saying what the other candidates, so far, haven’t: there’s no easy way to build this subway line in the short term, and there are other things we can be doing while we wait. It will be interesting to see if any of the subway-hawk candidates—particularly John Tory and Rob Ford—are able to come up with anything as cogent. They still have time.