Looks like Rob Ford was wrong: Ottawa says it doesn’t need a pile of provincial cash to help with Sheppard after all
Okay, this is just weird. Today the Toronto Star is reporting that Ottawa is willing to provide $330 million for the Sheppard subway extension even if the province fails to kick in the full $650 million the mayor’s office had insisted was a condition of securing federal funding for the project. It turns out that since the Sheppard LRT no longer exists, Ottawa is willing to be more flexible with its transit cash. Just yesterday, we accused them of being too inflexible, and we’re more than happy to be proven wrong in this case (although we have to admit we’re more than a little surprised).
The Harper government already intends to give the city the $333 million, said Vanessa Schneider, spokesperson for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Minister Denis Lebel. The province would need to be a “partner” in any funding deal, she said, but would not necessarily need to contribute $650 million.
The $650 million in provincial money and the $333 million in federal money were tied together only under the former Transit City agreement to build light-rail transit (LRT) on Sheppard, Schneider said. Ford abandoned that agreement in favour of his subway plan.
What makes this story even weirder is that it’s good news for Sheppard but bad for Rob Ford. There are now some rather embarrassing questions that the mayor’s office with have to answer—for instance, why didn’t Ford and co. know that the feds were willing to open the public purse even if the province was not willing to open theirs? The Star wonders whether Ford was deliberately trying to mislead the premier’s office—which would be a very bad idea (it’s currently being denied by a “senior official” in the mayor’s circle).
But that doesn’t change the fact that this development is good news for the Sheppard extension. Now the main issue that still needs to be resolved is Queen’s Park’s opposition to spending new money on Sheppard before the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT is completed. The only way that will change is if Ottawa drops its requirement that Ontario provide matching funds—or if there’s a change at Queen’s Park come October.