Transit reaction from Mayor Tory
Toronto Mayor John Tory delivered the following remarks at City Hall following the transit expansion announcement by the Premier and Ministers on April 10, 2019.
Today (April 10) the Province announced its plans for transit in Toronto and the GTA.
First off, the best news I heard today was that the Province will commit to supporting the lines and projects that Executive Committee endorsed yesterday to receive the $4.8 billion in federal funding that is available right now for transit expansion.
Message from CEO Rick Leary, April 10, 2019
That’s a commitment to working together.
It is extremely important and hadn’t previously been agreed to.
The Province has agreed with Toronto’s transit priorities for the $4.8 billion in federal funding available now for transit expansion.
This makes sure we are moving forward together on a key part of the funding for the Relief Line, Smart Track, the Scarborough Subway and the Bloor-Yonge subway station expansion.
That is a significant win for the city – that we have secured the Province’s support for the work we have done up to this point on the priority of those projects.
This is a direct result of our ongoing discussions with the Province and my own ongoing conversations with the Premier.
Secondly, we have also heard the Province commit today to investing up to $28 billion in transit in the city of Toronto itself and in significant neighbouring areas of employment.
We need more details on that investment, but at the end of the day, it is important to see the Province making a long-term, multi-billion-dollar investment in building transit in Toronto and the GTA.
Thirdly, the Premier has indicated the government’s intention to build on the work the city has done on these transit projects, recognizing that will help to actually get them built and take advantage of the investment and planning already done.
There are changes proposed to some of the plans currently in place for projects like the Relief Line, the Scarborough Subway and the Eglinton West LRT.
Even after the announcement this morning, we still have many questions about those proposals and the only place those questions can be asked and answered is at the table, working together with the Province to build as much transit as we can, as quickly as we can.
And so, our city staff have just now begun to study the proposals announced today and their impact on our transit plan.
Big questions to be pursued include the very important question of whether or not there will be delay to our progress on certain projects.
With the Ontario/Relief Line proposal, it appears as if we might be able to get it done faster, whereas the opposite may be true in the case of the Scarborough Subway.
I am committed to continuing to work together, to pursue those questions, get those answers, with the overriding objective always being the same: to keep all three governments working together to get as much transit built as soon as possible.
My job as Mayor is to support transit progress and to do whatever I can to avoid delay.
I have been clear that any decision on uploading as it affects our current subway system and/or an expanded system needs to be in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees, and that the people of Toronto and the city of Toronto must be completely involved and consulted.
That remains my position.
The Province committed today to continuing those discussions so that we can try to come to an agreement on transit, both on the question of uploading, or possible uploading, itself and on the all-important details of these proposals and their impact on our ability to move transit forward.
I was very encouraged by the Premier’s clearly-stated commitment to these bilateral discussions, which reflects my continuing representations to him about the crucial need for us to work together.
I am committed to working together because I believe it is the only way we will be able to assess every detail of the Province’s plan, clearly articulate our desired changes and, ultimately, find a way forward to get transit built as soon as possible – a goal I know they share.
This business-like approach that I bring to this process has yielded positive results: on transit funding, on funding for the waterfront and on support for Toronto community housing, and I believe it is the responsible course to take.
Am I willing to go to a table to discuss the Relief Line and how we can get it done even faster? You bet I am.
I know that’s what the people of Toronto would have me do.
You can’t get answers to your questions or put forward your own ideas if you’re not talking to the others involved.
I am absolutely determined to get on with building and improving transit. No Mayor, no Premier, no Prime Minister builds transit alone. But one Mayor, one Premier, or one Prime Minister can easily block transit progress.
I have worked with City Council for five years to move our transit plans – including the relief line – forward as fast as possible.
We have made progress and now I will be looking for opportunities to achieve more.
I have worked with two Prime Ministers to make sure our transit plans did not suffer delay due to a change in the federal government.
I worked with the previous Premier and provincial government on transit and I am determined to keep working with this Premier and this provincial government to make sure that progress is not derailed.
That is the job I was elected to do.
We know that we cannot build transit alone – we need all three governments to work together to get transit funded and get it built.
The Premier was clear today that his government remains committed to work closely with the City and I will be working to make sure these discussions continue in a spirit of co-operation, but committed to building as much transit as we can as soon as possible.
City Manager Chris Murray will be attending another meeting on Friday (April 12) and yet again meeting next week to get the all-important details and answers to the many questions, which arise out of today’s announcement, especially on issues of timing and my desire to avoid delay.
He will have an update for City Council next week (April 16).
In those discussions there will be an obvious focus from our end of the Province’s proposed changes to the scope of projects or their technology, and we will look forward to their responses on the risks and the rewards, especially as they relate to timing.
I will also be asking our City and TTC staff to identify a way in which we can accelerate work on the Eglinton East LRT and Waterfront Transit projects as a city.
These are important community and employment connectors and I want to see us continue to move them forward.
Every step of the way, there have been those who would have us walk away from discussions with the Province. They would rather see the City tip over the negotiating table. Walking away absolutely ensures nothing gets built for a long time.
I believe had we refused to even engage with the Province on the upload exercise, we’d be in a different place today with no involvement in our own transit destiny.
But thankfully, calm heads on Council prevailed and we are continuing those discussions and focused on finding a way to get more transit built together and faster.
Building Toronto transit faster should be our focus.
I am encouraged by Minister Yurek’s comments that “everything is up for negotiation.” He acknowledged yesterday that in order to build transit, the Province must “partner with the City of Toronto to make it happen.”
That doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements or that one day we won’t find ourselves opposing Ontario’s plans. But today, we have a Premier committing to $28.5 billion to be invested in GTA transit – promising that the Province will backstop the entire amount itself if needed.
We owe it to Toronto residents to explore every aspect of today’s proposals and the possibilities they present for progress.