Rob Ford won’t get an advance on surplus transit funds, but clings to his Sheppard subway fantasy anyway
Mayor Rob Ford’s dreams of a privately financed Sheppard subway extension have been on life support for some time now, and news that the extension could open one station at a time—nothing like Ford’s original promise—suggests the project isn’t exactly proceeding according to plan (if there is a plan at all). To make matters worse, the province’s new transportation minister, Bob Chiarelli, says the province won’t pony up an advance on the leftover Eglinton crosstown cash that the Sheppard project desperately needs.
The Toronto Star has the story (and a bizarre photo of Ford eating what appears to be a beef patty):
“We’re certainly working to be under budget and we’re certainly going to honour that commitment if the money is there,” Chiarelli said Wednesday. “But we can’t give an answer now—we can’t advance money now on an amount that’s unknown.”
The news prompted Joe Mihevc, a Ford foe and former TTC vice-chair, to say in an interview: “I think that the Sheppard subway is dead.”
After Ford unilaterally scrapped plans for the provincially funded Transit City light rail network, he got the province to agree to bury most of the Eglinton line while, he said, the city would fulfill his campaign promise to extend the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre.
Just in case there was any ambiguity in that Mihevc quote, the former TTC vice-chair literally spelled it out: “All signs point to Sheppard being dead—D-E-A-D, dead.” Of course, none of this should be that surprising. That the province would balk at offering an advance on funds that may never materialize—especially given that digging a tunnel under the Don River valley looks like it’s going to be, you know, really, really expensive—isn’t particularly far-fetched. And did anybody actually believe the private sector would jump at the chance to finance a public subway in the first place?
But the strangest part is Ford’s unwavering commitment to this particular campaign promise. Like Chris Selley, we can’t help but wonder why the mayor insists on clinging to his grand vision for an extended Sheppard subway line when he’s more than willing to break other seemingly more important promises. At this point, the project can’t be good for Ford’s public image—every time a Sheppard story makes headlines, Ford looks even more unwilling, or unable, to accept reality.
(Images: Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; Yonge-Sheppard subway, gloom)