A Toronto city councillor says that Premier Doug Ford is only interested in taking over the subway system so that his government can gain control over valuable real estate and sell lucrative air rights to pad their own coffers.

Toronto-St. Paul’s Coun. Josh Matlow made the comment to CP24 on Wednesday afternoon as he discussed a petition he has launched to rally support for keeping the subway system “in the hands of Torontonians.”

“What I am concerned about is that Doug Ford is making all these political promises rather than evidence based commitments. He wants to go in like a fire sale, take away our land and our air rights along the subway corridors and once that is done it is gone forever,” he said. “What I would rather see is that we move forward with evidence-based plans, improve transit, provide relief, build out more connections to different regions but do it in a way that makes sense.”

Premier Doug Ford has indicated that his government will be able to build new subway infrastructure more quickly if they control the subway due to its ability to amortize capital costs.

Matlow, however, said that he believes Ford’s government is only interested in Toronto’s subway for its “very valuable land and air rights,” which could be sold to developers.

“Doug Ford has been spinning that he wants to upload the subway to get transit built. The fact remains he can build transit right now if he wants to,” he said. “There is no correlation between taking over the existing subway and expanding the subway or any other kind of transit. The subway has been expanded to Vaughan and they didn’t need to take over the subway to do that.”

According to the ground rules for talks between the city and the province regarding a subway upload, a total of three options are being considered: Ford’s proposal for a full takeover of subway infrastructure, a second option where Ontario would only take ownership of future subway projects and a third option where the province would assume responsibility for the delivery of future subway projects but would not actually own the infrastructure.

While a number of councillors have spoken out against any subway upload, Mayor John Tory has said that he is willing to support the proposal, but only if it is proven to be “in the best interests of the people of Toronto, including transit riders and employees.”

For his part, Matlow told CP24 that the city shouldn’t be participating in discussions around a potential upload, which he likened to “handing over the code to our alarms.”

“I don’t believe that they are there to negotiate in good faith,” he said of the province. “I think that that Toronto will be duped into believing that they are.”