Protest held as subway upload up for discussion at executive committee
RCAF aircraft fly past City Hall during a ceremony in which the Royal Canadian Air Force were presented with new ceremonial flags in Toronto on Friday, September 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, March 21, 2019 6:36AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 21, 2019 10:20AM EDT
Opponents of the subway upload held a protest outside city hall on Thursday morning as Mayor John Tory’s executive committee considered a motion that would allow staff to hand over confidential information as part of their ongoing discussions with the province.
Members of the transit advocacy group TTCRiders stood in formation to spell out the words “SOS” in Nathan Phillips Square just as Tory’s executive committee was beginning its monthly meeting inside city hall at 9:30 a.m.
The demonstration was held in response to the province’s ongoing efforts to assume responsibility for Toronto’s subway infrastructure, a move that that both TTCRiders and the union representing TTC workers have opposed.
At today’s meeting, executive committee will be asked to allocate $2 million from a reserve fund to provide funding for staff and third-party advice and services that are required as part of the discussions with the province. The city is, however, expected to ask the province to reimburse it for those costs, as well as any city or Toronto Transit Commission staff-time that is used to support the discussions.
Executive committee is also expected to vote today on a motion that would empower the city manager to release confidential information to the province so long as it is “deemed within the scope of the review.”
Speaking with CP24 ahead of the meeting, Mayor John Tory said that concerns around the potential subway upload are largely misplaced given that no decisions have been made on whether it is event something worth pursuing.
He said the idea would only have his support in the event that it would benefit TTC riders, employees and taxpayers.
“It wouldn’t be a day at city hall without a demonstration from TTCRiders but that’s fine, it’s great we live in a free country,” he said. “I will say that all we are doing at the moment is sitting pursuant to a terms of reference that have been agreed upon and those terms of reference contemplate the possibility of no upload at all, a partial upload or a complete upload. We are now defining what an upload is in discussions and based on all the evidence on the table whether any such uploads would be in the best interest of TTC riders, employees and the taxpayers. So we are engaged in those discussions but there has been no decision taken and no recommendation made.”
The terms of reference for talks between the province and the city were agreed to in February.
They state that officials will consider Ford's proposal for a full upload of the subway system to the province as well as an option where Ontario takes ownership of future projects but not the entire subway system.
There is also a third option being considered in which the province would assume responsibility for the delivery of future projects but would not actually own them.
In addition to the procedural motions regarding talks around a subway upload today, executive committee will also consider a motion from Coun. Josh Matlow asking for a public information campaign “regarding the importance of retaining control of Toronto's subways.”
That motion was forwarded to executive committee after being brought to city council in December.
“While staff-led negotiations continue, Premier Doug Ford's government has already begun efforts to frame the narrative, claiming that they are taking Toronto's subway in order get new transit built. Every day we see public statements from Provincial Cabinet Ministers and Members of Provincial Parliament outlining their rationale for uploading Toronto's subway system,” the Toronto-St. Paul's councillor, who has long opposed the upload, said in his motion. “The City of Toronto must also articulate the risks of a potential upload. Torontonians deserve to know the truth - that nothing is actually stopping the Province from building transit in Toronto right now.”