The Ontario PC government will introduce legislation Thursday to upload responsibility for future Toronto transit projects to the province, despite having reached no agreement with the city in ongoing talks about sharing responsibility for new lines.
The province announced the move in a news release ahead of a speech Wednesday by Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek at the Toronto Region Board of Trade that was expected to detail the province’s plans. Legislation enabling the subway upload will be included in a larger bill that will also address road safety and red tape.
According to the release, the Getting Ontario Moving Act would “would make sure new subway lines are built quickly to get Ontarians to work faster, to home sooner, and to family and friends quicker.”
“We campaigned on a promise to take action to transform public transit and that is exactly what we are doing,” Yurek said in the release.
The legislation would give the province control over new subway builds and expansion. The Progressive Conservatives have previously said they plan to introduce a law to take ownership of the existing TTC subway sometime next year.
While the province pitched the bill as a way to speed up construction of badly needed transit lines, the move to introduce legislation while talks with the city are still ongoing will likely be used as ammunition by councillors who have argued the Ontario government hasn’t been negotiating in good faith.
The upload proposal is seen as critical to Doug Ford being able to carry out the $28.5-billion transit plan he unveiled last month. The plan focuses on four projects, including adding two stops to the Scarborough subway extension and replacing the city council-approved proposal for a relief line subway with a lighter and longer rail project called the Ontario Line.
Ford said his government would contribute $11.2 billion to the plan and called on the city to make its own contribution — while also claiming Ontario would pay for the whole thing if no other funding materialized.
The province’s plan would significantly alter projects the city had already been pursuing, and council has yet to endorse Ford’s new map. Critics at city hall have cited a lack of information from the province about the proposal as a major stumbling block.
As part of the premier’s transit announcement in April, the Ontario PCs said they intended to introduce legislation this year to take responsibility for future Toronto transit projects, but would wait until 2020 to execute a takeover of the existing TTC subway network.
The relationship between the city and province has turned openly acrimonious in recent weeks after Queen’s Park unexpectedly announced cuts to public health funding.
More to come.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr