Provincial government will match billions in federal transit dollars committed to Toronto
Ontario infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli makes an announcement in Mississauga on Wednesday. (Twitter/@SousaCharles)
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Wednesday, March 14, 2018 3:03PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, March 14, 2018 5:57PM EDT
The provincial government will match billions of dollars in previously announced federal transit funding for Toronto, money that Mayor John Tory says will “finally” allow the city to get on with building long-discussed projects like the Relief Line and SmartTrack.
In July, the federal government announced that it would provide $4.8 billion for the expansion of Toronto’s transit networks over the next decade, an investment that included a previously announced commitment of $660 million for the Scarborough subway extension.
The funding, which is part of a $33 billion investment across Canada, was contingent on the province funding at least 33 per cent of the cost of eligible projects, however Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government did not immediately commit to doing so, drawing the ire of Tory and other civic leaders in the process.
That all changed on Wednesday, however, when Ontario infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli signed a bilateral funding agreement with his federal counterpart in which he committed to providing about $10 billion in funding to match Ottawa’s investment in Ontario transit. The funding arrangement would see Ottawa cover 40 per cent of the cost of eligible projects while the province chips in about 33 per cent.
The agreement means that the province will contribute more than $4 billion to Toronto transit projects while the rest will go to transit projects in other municipalities.
“For the first time, we now have all three governments dedicated to building the Relief Line, SmartTrack, the Scarborough Subway Extension, waterfront transit, and the Eglinton East LRT,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon. “After years of delays and divisive debates, we are finally getting on with expanding our transit system, we are getting on with working together to build up our cities.”
The transit funding will go towards the five projects that were included in the first phase of the City of Toronto’s transit network plan, which covers the next 13 years.
In his statement, Tory said that the journey to find funding for those projects began in 2015 and is finally paying off now “due to the cooperation and mutual respect between the city, the province and the federal government.”
He said that he is particularly grateful to a number of Toronto-area Members of Parliament who pushed for the money to be distributed on the basis of transit ridership rather than population, a formula that means Toronto will receive a greater share of the funding than it would have otherwise.
“Today is good news for transit in Toronto and for all of our residents,” Tory said.
Agreement comes ahead of deadline
Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi had given provincial and territorial governments until the end of this month to sign bilateral agreements for the awarding of transit funding, so the deal announced on Wednesday just beats that deadline.
In a statement issued late on Wednesday afternoon, TTC Chair Josh Colle said the agreement is “great news” for the TTC and all Torontonians.
“As I've said before, the TTC requires partnership, collaboration and innovation in order to be successful in delivering a world-class public transportation system that Toronto can be proud of,” he said. “This announcement is a huge step forward in achieving that goal and I am dedicated to working with the TTC Board and city council in my capacity as Chair to ensure these projects get built.”
The estimated combined cost of the five projects included in the city’s transit network plan is $17.5 billion, including $6.8 billion for the relief line.
In a message posted to Twitter on Wednesday, Ward 22 Coun. Josh Matlow thanked the Liberal government for the investment and expressed hope that city council will actually invest the money in “fact-based priorities.”
Meanwhile, the federal critic for Infrastructure, Communities and Urban Affairs accused the Trudeau government of failing to deliver on its infrastructure commitments in a statement provided to CP24.com.
“They continue to announce so-called new infrastructure spending across the country, however, their own budget tells a different story,” Wellington - Halton Hills MP Michael Chong said. “In their 2015 election platform, they promised billions in new spending on critical infrastructure but just a few weeks ago their own budget revealed that billions of infrastructure dollars have gone unspent and will continue to go unspent beyond 2023. This means fewer shovels in the ground and more Canadians stuck in traffic on dilapidated roads and bridges.”
With files from The Canadian Press