Transit showdown brewing as rumours fly that Rob Ford will try to kill Transit City tomorrow
Despite some speculation that Rob Ford was going to make peace with Transit City after his election win, the National Post is reporting that he is as anti–light rail as ever, looking to put a stop to the LRT project during his first day of business tomorrow.
According to the Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer:
A little more than three weeks after the election, on Nov. 19, Rob Prichard, the chairman of Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority, and Bruce McCuaig, Metrolinx CEO, met on the 16th Floor of City Hall’s west tower with four members of Mr. Ford’s transition team: Nick Kouvalis, Mr. Ford’s chief of staff; Mark Towhey, his director of policy; and former city councillors Gordon Chong and Case Ootes.
Metrolinx sought the Ford team’s blessing for the light-rail plan, but got nowhere.
“There was no sense of backing off,” said a source. “They are pretty keen on a subway.”
If the Post is right, it looks like naming Karen Stintz to the post of TTC chief wasn’t actually a peace offering to the Transit City crowd after all. We can hear the sound of hopes being dashed all over the downtown core.
Of course, there’s any number of problems with the Ford plan: it will cost a ton of money, possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in cancellation fees (that ought to be a problem for the “respect for taxpayers” mayor). Then there’s the fact that Dalton McGuinty is basically saying that there’s no way Toronto is getting the extra money for a Scarborough subway. Finally, the lesson of the state of New Jersey is worth following here: since Chris Christie cancelled a much-needed transit rail project, it isn’t just that the state gave up federal money it had coming to it—the feds also want their money back.
The province is already making similar noises, saying that on top of whatever fees Toronto would pay to firms like Bombardier, the province would demand the city pay back the money it’s already spent on Transit City. Kuitenbrouwer quotes a provincial source all but putting a gun on the table: “If we spent $140 million on Transit City, the province isn’t going to eat that… The province is going to want to get paid back.” If Ford wants to put nearly a billion dollars on the line out of spite for David Miller’s legacy, he’d better come up with a better argument for it—and fast.