We’ve seen it before: when cornered on an issue, Mayor John Tory will get defensive, flustered, and counter with disingenuous remarks. Police carding was one such issue, so was the Gardiner East. Today, as Mayor Tory defends his SmartTrack proposal, he’s doing the same thing.
After a staff report on SmartTrack — originally planned for a week ago at the scheduled Executive Committee — became public, we learned more details about the watered-down transit plan that was Tory’s signature campaign promise. (Read Steve Munro’s article in Torontoist for more details.)
- In 2014, John Tory promised that his “London Style” surface rail subway would open in just seven years. Now, we find out that it won’t be completed until 2025-2026.
- Only six new stations will be added to GO Transit’s existing stops on the Kitchener and Stouffville corridors; the GO RER system planned by Metrolinx will stop at the same stations as SmartTrack, blurring the lines further between the province’s plans and Tory’s promises.
- The City of Toronto will be on the hook for all LRT operating expenses, while the Province/ Metrolinx will continue to own the infrastructure.
- The City of Toronto would be on the hook for some of the GO RER expenses, such as 15 percent of required grade separations, such as at Steeles and Finch Avenues in Scarborough.
- The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT west extension to Pearson International Airport, which replaced part of the original SmartTrack alignment planned using outdated Google Maps satellite imagery, may not be built beyond the planned Renforth Gateway Hub, the eastern end of the Mississauga Transitway.
- Tax Increment Financing (TIF) will not be enough to fund the construction of SmartTrack and the LRT extension; development charges and a property tax hike would be required to fund SmartTrack’s construction.
The original SmartTrack plan that John Tory campaigned on in 2014
These are serious concerns, and it is worth asking whether Toronto should remain committed to this plan. After all, the Relief Line Subway remains unfunded, even though it is a top priority for city planning staff. And there’s that $3.2 billion one-stop subway extension to Scarborough Centre, which might become even more expensive if so-called “Subway Champions” Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker and Liberal MPP Brad Duguid get their way with a proposed realignment.
(Interestingly, a SmartTrack/RER stop at Lawrence East may not be able to be built before the one-stop subway extension is opened — a Scarborough RT station is in the way. This isn’t good news for transit riders on the 54 Lawrence East bus, which will lack a rapid transit connection in Scarborough.)
Mayor John Tory’s response is to ask “what’s their plan?” instead of listening and responding to critics. It’s certainly not a productive or mature reaction to very valid concerns.
There were several alternative plans made by rival candidates in 2014 — Olivia Chow and David Soknacki backed returning to the cheaper and longer Scarborough LRT replacement, and building the Downtown Relief Line subway. Chow also proposed additional bus services, which was mocked by Tory’s campaign as no real plan for transit. Once Tory was elected, the TTC ended up implementing much of Chow’s bus plan, including restoring most of Rob Ford-mandated service cuts and adding new express and night routes.
Last week, John Tory also rejected — yet again — the new ward boundaries recommended by the Ward Boundary Review Team, independent consultants who came up –twice — with a 47-ward solution meant to reflect population growth (especially downtown and in central North York) and imbalances in ward populations and councillors’ workloads. The Executive Committee voted against the mayor, backing the 47-ward option, but staff warn it might be too late now for the 2018 election. That might suit Tory’s political agenda, but it’s a blow against local democracy.
Bottom line: Olivia Chow has no plan for transit. She is not a leader.
– John Tory, 2014
So no, John Tory, you’re not a leader. You have failed to acknowledge your errors, you haven’t listened to critics, you’re stubborn, and you lash out when things don’t go your way. And you won’t listen to experts because you don’t like what they have to say. At one point, you claim your critics don’t have any alternative plans to SmartTrack, at other times, you mock the very plans that critics suggest.
So far, John Tory’s critics have been correct about his transit plan. Maybe it’s time to listen.