Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

The Ontario Government is backing down from stealing our subway, but issues remain

Published on October 16, 2019

This morning, the Ontario Government and Mayor John Tory made some big transit announcements on the subway upload, the Ontario Line, the Scarborough Extension, the Yonge Line extension, and the Eglinton West LRT. 

Act Now:
🡆 Have your say on the Ontario Line. Send a message to Trudeau, Tory, and Ford now.
🡆 Join us at our rally before the City Executive meeting at 9.00am Wednesday Oct. 23
rd at 100 Queen St West as we call on City Council to make sure they support transit projects that work for Toronto. 

It’s important we build transit that benefits people. Transit in Toronto should be publicly owned, be fully part of the TTC, and cost a TTC fare to ride. All levels of government should work in partnership with experts to build the best transit we can as quickly as possible, and community concerns should be heard and respected. 

Here’s a breakdown on what we learned from today’s transit announcement

  1.   The Ontario Government is backing down from uploading the TTC to the province. This is a victory for all of us who fought to keep our TTC in Toronto’s hands.  We stopped the subway upload. We should be able to set our own transit service levels and priorities, not MPPs in Barrie or Ottawa.
  2.   The City will be responsible for operating the TTC, as well as operating the new transit lines. The Ford Government has refused to say whether the TTC will continue to maintain transit lines, which means the privatization of maintenance - which is bad for riders - is still on the table.
  3.   Transit riders will be waiting longer for new transit projects to be built. The Ontario Government has promised it can build the Ontario Line by 2027, two years quicker than the project it replaced - the well-thought-out, shovel-ready Relief Line. History tells us this is wishful thinking. Never in the history of Ontario has a transit project been built in less than ten years. We have a good transit plan ready to go. Why are we cancelling it?  
  4.   The Ontario Government has agreed the City doesn't have to contribute funds, and can spend its previously expected contribution to the four priority transit projects (about $5 billion total) on critical state-of-good repairs instead. Given that the TTC needs $33 billion over the next 15 years for maintenance, this is a smart call. This money can now be invested in useful projects, like installing elevators at all TTC stops, new subway cars, and automatic train control.
  5.   The Ontario Government is still gung-ho on having transit delivered by the private sector. This is going to cost us more. In her annual review of the Ontario Government’s books, the Auditor General Bonnie Lysk has concluded time and time again that it costs Ontario more to have big business deliver public infrastructure projects than it would have if the public sector had done it. So why are we doing it?   
  6.   No one, not even the Ontario Government, knows exactly what the Ontario Line is, when it will be built, how much it will cost, what technology will be used, exactly what route it will take, where it will be above-ground or below-ground, how it will cross the Don Valley River, or if it will cost a TTC fare to ride once it’s built. In today’s technical briefing, Michael Lindsay, the Ontario Government’s transit advisor, said many of these decisions will be decided by whatever company and financier wins the bid to build the project. Even the City of Toronto’s report on the upload, said it’s impossible to assess whether the Ford Government’s estimates on cost and timeline are accurate. We simply don’t know, and neither do they. 
  7.   The Ontario Government has said it will work with other municipalities to ensure they pay their fair share of operating costs for transit that runs through their area. This is fair. Currently, the TTC is shouldering the responsibility of paying for riders that live in other regions, such as those using the Line 1 extension from Vaughan.
  8.   Some transit projects are being sidelined. The Eglinton East LRT, the Waterfront LRT are not being funded by the Ontario Government or the Federal Government, leaving communities in Scarborough and Etobicoke-Lakeshore behind.  
  9.   The Ontario Government will own the four new transit lines. Having different levels of government own different transit lines makes it more difficult to provide seamless reliable service, and it creates a whole host of unnecessary logistical, technical, and financial complications.  For instance, how do you divide up fare revenue from a rider that travels on different modes of transit owned by different governments? 
  10.   The public have not been consulted at all.  Not one little bit. Since the Ontario Government’s big transit announcement in April, all negotiations have been in secret behind closed doors.  I have been contacted by many residents who live along the proposed Ontario Line who are worried about the noise and pollution impacts of having trains run by their homes every 90 seconds. These residents, along with all residents in Toronto, should be able to have a say before multi-billion dollar decisions are cancelled and new ones are made.
  11.   The Ontario Government has promised to reimburse the City for its costs to advance the Relief Line, estimated at about $200 million. This might be good for the City’s budget but it’s a waste of money for taxpayers because, regardless of which government pays for it, they’re playing with our money.