Ford’s hand-picked Sheppard Subway quarterback starts calling his own shots
Gordon Chong, now the chair of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Ltd., caused a bit of a stir over the weekend by telling the Toronto Star’s Royson James in a front-page interview that, essentially, building the $4-billion Sheppard Subway will actually cost taxpayers money. The ex–city councillor, ex–chair of GO Transit and ex–TTC commissioner provided something in the way of a reality check on Rob Ford’s great public-private funding plans—even though he’s the man Ford hand-picked for the job himself—suggesting that it’ll likely take new road tolls, congestion charges and other revenue tools in order to make the mayor’s subway extension dream a reality.
From the pages of the Star:
“Is there going to be the political will to look at all the potential tools? If you want to get back in the subway building plan you have to consider everything,” Chong says.
Besides tolls and congestion charges, the plan will need contributions from the federal government. And developers who benefit from the presence of subways near their property should have 20 per cent to 40 per cent of the increased value clawed back development fees, Chong says.
This is the problem with bringing in people who are known for their professionalism: they don’t always stay on message, like Ford’s oft-quoted belief that the Sheppard extension can be built without reaching into the pockets of city taxpayers (remember, if the money comes from other levels of government it still counts). Of course, in response, it took all of 48 hours for the mayor’s office to shoot down Chong’s road tolls and broader congestion charges with extreme prejudice.
But that really leaves just three options: (1) money from other orders of government; (2) Toronto raises the tax money itself; or (3) the Sheppard extension never gets built at all. At this point, we’re betting on the first one—but we can’t rule out the last one either.