The Ontario government introduced legislation this week to transfer ownership of four transit expansion projects in Toronto to the province.
According to an Ontario news release, the Getting Ontario Moving Act, if passed, "would make sure new subway lines are built quickly to get Ontarians to work faster, to home sooner, and to family and friends quicker."
"We campaigned on a promise to take action to transform public transit and that is exactly what we are doing," said Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek. "And that is why… our government will… get shovels in the ground and get new subways built faster." Minister Yurek announced the plan to members of the Toronto Board of Trade during a breakfast speech at the Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre.
- the new Ontario line, extending the proposed Relief Line South subway project between the Ontario Science Centre and Ontario Place, using an as-yet-identified alternate rail technology;
- the Yonge north subway extension, costing $5.6 billion and opening "soon after the Ontario Line";
- the Scarborough subway extension, costing $5.5 billion and "delivered before 2030"; and
- the Eglinton Crosstown LRT west extension, now costing $4.7 billion because much of it will be underground and "delivered before 2031".
The projects require a total of $28.5 billion, of which the province has committed $11.2 billion. An April 11 Ontario news release added, "This funding over-delivers on the government's commitment to put $5 billion into subway extensions."
This week's legislation transfers ownership for these new transit projects to the Province of Ontario. Its regional transit agency, Metrolinx, will manage the projects. The legislation also prevents the City from continuing to work on these projects. If the Province determines that it wants to assume sole responsibility for other rapid-transit projects that the City is working on, Toronto must stop working on those projects, too.
The legislation also prohibits the City from developing other transit projects that are similar to or near these four projects. It also compels the City and its agencies (for example, the TTC) to comply with the provincial directives.
As for the future upload of the TTC rapid-transit lines, the Province can acquire some or all of the City's rapid transit assets with or without compensating the city.
Last February 12, Ontario and Toronto agreed to a terms of reference for uploading the TTC's subway network to the Province. Most of what we know about how uploading will work since then appears in the 2019 Ontario Budget.
In its budget, Ontario claims, "Most significantly, the upload will enable the Province to leverage its track record of infrastructure delivery to build the new subway transit plan better, faster, and more cost effectively. Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario have a history of on-time and on-budget delivery of major capital projects. The Province has tools to expedite planning and construction through various legislative and regulatory mechanisms and can enable true transit-oriented development through partnerships with the private sector."
What are the "tools" that Ontario will use? The authors of the 2019 Ontario budget explain, "The Province would simply not have had the confidence to make such sizeable financial contributions to subway projects without knowing that they were going to be delivered in a timely, cost-effective and properly designed way."
They continue, "The upload... enables the province to make even larger financial contributions to new subway projects, subject to the confirmation of the accounting impacts by the Auditor General of Ontario. Under municipal ownership, provincial contributions to the city would have had an adverse effect on the province’s books, whereas provincial ownership of the assets would allow the province to amortize its capital contributions, thereby treating subway builds in the same manner as other provincially owned infrastructure projects, such as hospitals and schools. This ownership transaction ultimately creates the fiscal space to allow the province to significantly deepen its commitment to transit and start projects immediately, not sometime in the distant future."
Not surprisingly, Leader of the Opposition Andrea Horwath condemned this plan. In a statement, she said, "Doug Ford is ripping up all progress made on TTC transit expansion, causing years of delays and wasting hundreds of millions of already-spent planning dollars--and now he's plowing ahead without even listening to the people who built, paid for, and use the TTC subway system. This is a hostile takeover of the TTC subways.
"Freezing out the City of Toronto, and Toronto families and commuters, will have devastating consequences for generations to come. Toronto families deserve a provincial partner at the table working with them, not against them in back rooms. Crushing overcrowding, long waits and frustrating commutes are going to continue if Doug Ford goes ahead with this destructive scheme to enforce his own will on Toronto, again.”
Bill 107, the Getting Ontario Moving Act, received first reading in the legislature Thursday, May 2.
Ontario says it will wait until 2020 to complete the rest of the upload process.
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