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The Ontario Liberals have rejected Mayor John Tory’s calls to match federal transit funding in their 2017 budget, despite his warnings that if Queen’s Park doesn’t come up with the cash, the city can’t hope to pay for its priority lines.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Tory charged that the province “appears to have missed an opportunity to partner in the historic investments made by the federal government in much needed future transit expansion.”
The “clarity that Toronto requires for its pressing . . . transit needs has not been delivered today,” the mayor lamented.
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In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s provincial budget announcement, Tory made a series of public appearances in which he pressured Ontario to come up with billions of dollars for the city’s priority projects, which include the relief line subway and Eglinton East LRT.
Tory had called on the province to match Ottawa’s commitment to fund up to 40 per cent of the cost of new projects, which would leave the city responsible for 20 per cent of the price of the new lines.
The city expects to receive $ 4.5 billion to $ 5 billion from Ottawa over the next decade through a new federal transit infrastructure fund.
The mayor’s appeals for more provincial funding appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
While Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s budget reaffirmed the province’s pledge to double the amount of gas tax proceeds the city can use to pay for transit to $ 340 million, and to continue funding transit projects already underway, there was no money dedicated to new lines.
In a statement of his own, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca responded, “No government in the history of this province has invested more in Toronto transit.”
He pointed to the $ 6.4 billion the province is spending to build the Eglinton Crosstown and Finch West LRTs, as well as the $ 3.7 billion it’s investing to expand GO Transit service within the city. The GO expansion is crucial to Tory’s SmartTrack plan.
Del Duca didn’t rule out spending more money on new projects in the future, saying the province would “continue to work with the federal government . . . including collaboration on additional new projects.”
The minister made no commitment to match Ottawa’s 40-per-cent contribution, however, and a section of Thursday’s budget states that cost-sharing agreements with Ottawa should remain “flexible” to avoid “unexpected fiscal costs” for the provinces.
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City council has designated four priority transit projects to receive federal funding, and these are estimated to cost a combined $ 13.6 billion: SmartTrack, estimated at $ 3.7 billion; the relief subway line ($ 6.8 billion); Waterfront transit ($ 1.5 billion), and Eglinton East LRT (about $ 1.6 billion.)
The city has allocated about $ 2 billion to SmartTrack, but the other three priority projects remain mostly unfunded. These include the Eglinton East LRT, a key part of a planned Scarborough transit network that includes the controversial one-stop subway extension.
Taking into account the federal funding, $ 660 million of which was previously allocated to the subway extension, the city is still roughly $ 7 billion short on its priority lines.
TTC Chair Josh Colle told reporters Thursday that the province’s decision not to match the federal funding was “a disappointment.”
Asked how Toronto can hope to complete the projects, he said it’s possible that the city and federal government could increase their contributions to make up the difference, “but based on the scale of our projects . . . it’s probably not . . . feasible.”