Mayor John Tory announced Friday he would appoint a Beaches-East York council candidate as his “relief line champion” if both are elected on Oct. 22.
At a campaign event at Main Street subway station, Tory said he would select Brad Bradford as council booster for the subway project, despite the fact Bradford isn’t running in one of the three wards through which the line would run.
Tory, who has previously said his administration was already doing everything possible to advance the relief line, didn’t specify what duties the “relief line champion” position would entail.
In an email, a spokesperson for the mayor’s re-election campaign said, “as a champion for the project, Brad Bradford will have a laserlike focus on the project and work with council and city staff to make sure the relief line gets built.”
“This is one more example of how Mayor Tory works with others to get things done for Toronto residents,” wrote Keerthana Kamalavasan.
Bradford, who is on leave from his job as an urban planner with the city, is in a competitive race against 15 other candidates in Ward 19, including former NDP MP Matthew Kellway.
It’s one of only two seats in the 25-ward election that isn’t being contested by any incumbents. Councillors Mary Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis, who represented the area under the outgoing 44-ward system, are stepping down.
In an interview Friday, Kellway said the mayor tapping Bradford for the relief line title was “clearly political,” and at odds with Bradford’s expressed support for the controversial Scarborough subway extension, which would add one stop to Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) at a cost of at least $3.35 billion.
“I don’t know how any councillor becomes a champion of both a one-stop Scarborough subway and a downtown relief line. These are very different transit priorities for the city,” Kellway said.
“I think whoever gets elected right across the city needs to be a champion of the downtown relief line … That’s certainly a role, whether I get the mayor’s designation or not, that I would take on.”
In a statement, Jennifer Keesmaat, who is running for mayor and is considered Tory’s main challenger, accused her opponent of “pawning off responsibility for one of the most important transit projects in this city to an unelected candidate.”
“The mayor should be the champion for the relief line and all transit in this city,” said Keesmaat, who claims she could get the relief line finished three years faster than currently projected.
She charged that “giving (a councillor) a made-up title will not get anyone home or to work any faster.”
The first phase of the relief line is estimated to cost more than $6.8 billion and would take pressure off the overcrowded Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) subway by linking the eastern end of Line 2 to downtown. It’s considered by many experts as the city’s top transit priority.
According to an alignment council approved last year, the eight-stop route would run between Pape and Osgoode stations, via Pape Ave., Carlaw Ave., Eastern Ave. and Queen St. East.
“The downtown relief line is the priority for the residents of Beaches-East York,” Bradford told reporters at the announcement Friday.
“It’s very important to the east end and it’s very important for the city of Toronto. And I’m happy to lend my experience and strong voice, co-ordinated approach, to getting that done in Toronto.”
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr