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Executive committee approves cost-sharing transit plan with province

Last Updated Nov 1, 2016 at 7:42 pm EDT

Mayor John Tory’s executive committee has voted in favour of a transit plan that would see the city and the province share the $7 billion pricetag for SmartTrack.

Under the proposal, the city will pay $3.3 billion for six new SmartTrack stations at Unilever, Liberty Village, St. Clair West, Gerrard, Lawrence East and Finch. The province would contribute $3.7 billion to cover additional track capacity and to electrify the GO network.

The final vote goes before city council on November 8. The province had given the city until Nov. 30 to finalize how much money it would commit to the project.

Earlier, Tory defended his transit vision for the city after a report released Monday suggested a hike in property taxes may be required to pay for it.

The report suggested a two per cent property tax hike, or other revenue streams, to make up the city’s end of the significant bill.

But Tory insisted he would keep his election promise not to hit up homeowners for the costly project.

“Property taxes are not going to pay for SmartTrack,” he told CityNews on Monday. “In the report it says property taxes or other streams of income. We are looking at what those other streams of income should be.”

If the transit funding plan is approved, it could lead to a two per cent residential tax increase for Toronto residents. CITYNEWS/Adrian Ghobrial
If the transit funding plan is approved, it could lead to a two per cent residential tax increase for Toronto residents. CITYNEWS/Adrian Ghobrial

 

On Tuesday, Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne met to discuss the cost-sharing plan ahead of the executive committee meeting.

The funding agreement also covers the Eglinton West LRT (light-rail transit), Eglinton Crosstown, and the Finch and Sheppard LRTs.

The province will pay 100 per cent of the costs of building and maintaining the Finch and Sheppard LRTs over their life-cycle. However, the city is responsible for operating the lines and day-to-day maintenance. The city will keep the fares.

Tory mentioned the possibility of a hotel tax to raise badly needed transit money and said Wynne showed “some willingness to consider that.”

In the meantime, the mayor said he’s awaiting a KPMG report on potential revenue streams that should be completed within the next two weeks.

He’s also hitting back hard at his detractors, like Coun. Gord Perks, who on Monday called the proposed funding deal with the province “a real failure for Mayor John Tory.”

“This is nothing like what we were promised by Mayor Tory during the election,” Perks fumed. “There are billions of dollars of costs here to the City of Toronto.”

A day later, Tory fired back.

“I would say to those people who have nothing but criticism about the plans I’m putting forward, ‘What’s their plan?’ Because at the moment they don’t have a plan. They are just content to criticize the plan that I’m putting forward and my plan is based on one simple proposition: We need to build transit, we need to build it now …”

Tory still committed to Downtown Relief Line

Absent from Monday’s report was any talk of a sorely needed Downtown Relief Line (DRL).

When asked if the province and city were properly aligned when it comes to transit needs, Tory stressed that the Downtown Relief Line remains an important part of the city’s future.

“This notion that is put out by some people … that it is somehow a choice between SmartTrack … or the relief line, is false. We are doing both, but one (DRL) has always been a much longer-term project …”

The province has already earmarked $150 million to study the DRL.

“It will get done (but) the whole idea of SmartTrack is to get something done much sooner that is going to allow people inside the city to have another transportation option available to them and that work is going ahead, as is work on the Downtown Relief Line …”

Despite Tory’s initial promise that SmartTrack could be completed in seven years, Monday’s report suggested it would take about 12 years to finish.

$7B transit plan could mean 10 years of construction. Watch the video below or click here to view it.