Visions of new subways seem to swirl around Scarborough in election campaigns.
But now, thanks to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, an ex-Toronto councillor with a seemingly bottomless love for underground transport, several municipal candidates in Scarborough seem convinced they’re about to receive a giant gift from Queen’s Park.
Before he became premier, Ford pledged a return to the “original” three-stop plan for the so-called Scarborough Subway, the controversial Bloor-Danforth line extension.
Ford also said he would extend the Sheppard line eastward from Don Mills to form a loop with the Bloor-Danforth line at Sheppard Avenue and McCowan Road, keeping a promise his brother Rob made as mayor.
Ford’s Progressive Conservative government is studying whether it should take over building and operation of subways in Toronto, giving subway boosters in Scarborough higher hopes their dreams will be realized.
Tory maintains the LRT line — now further extended on paper to Malvern — is going ahead, despite the city lacking funds for its construction.
On Friday, his spokesperson, Keerthana Kamalavasan, said Tory’s plan, approved by Toronto city council, “will ensure we move ahead with several projects at the same time,” including a relief line downtown, SmartTrack and the Scarborough extension.
“The biggest risk to our transit plans right now would be electing a mayor and a majority of councillors who want to go back to the drawing board on our transit plan or open old debates on transit,” she said.
“That would mean nothing gets built and residents are left with no new transit and more traffic congestion.”
But a debate appears looming if certain Scarborough incumbents, emboldened by Ford’s subway promises, return to a smaller council this fall.
“It will be subway until we get it or it’s my dying breath. By hook or by crook, I’ll deliver the damn thing,” Jim Karygiannis said about a Sheppard extension through Agincourt.
“With 25 councillors, and less councillors downtown and less councillors from the left, this is going to happen,” added the former Liberal MP.
The premier’s commitment, however, seems less than ironclad.
An inquiry to Ford’s office last week on his Scarborough intentions was answered by a statement from the office of Transportation Minister John Yakabuski, saying the province is now “focused” on a plan to upload city responsibility for subways.
“Our decisions on how to improve public transit will be based on what is best for the people of Scarborough,” the statement added.
Toronto council voted in favour of a three-stop subway extension from Kennedy Station to McCowan and Sheppard in 2013.
Michelle Holland-Berardinetti, running for re-election in Ward 20, said a return to the three-stop extension is “very much wanted by the residents and very much needed.”
She said she believes the subway will continue to Don Mills Station next, along Sheppard.
Running in Ward 21, Michael Thompson said he’s calling for “a review” of the one-stop extension, adding many constituents believe the original plan should be restored, and arguing the area will see growth.
Norm Kelly, another incumbent facing off against Karygiannis, said he’s “hoping the (pro-subway) rhetoric of councillor Ford becomes action under Premier Ford.”
Asked what would happen to provincial funds needed for a downtown relief line or Eglinton East LRT if Ford chooses to spend billions more to extend the Scarborough subway, Kelly said those are questions for Ford.
For merchants of the Sheppard East Village Business Improvement Area (BIA), between Midland Avenue and Markham Road, the topic seems never-ending, said Ernie McCullough, the BIA’s executive director.
Cancelled when Rob Ford took office, the Sheppard East LRT would have been running by 2014. The BIA spent three years working with the city on the project before it vanished.
“We were told a subway was going to built on Sheppard in 2011, when the LRT was cancelled,” said McCullough.
Mike Adler is a staff reporter for the Scarborough Mirror and InsideToronto