Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says his party would commit federal dollars for the Ford government’s proposed Ontario Line subway project in downtown Toronto.
Scheer announced Tuesday that, if elected on Oct. 21, a Conservative government would commit federal funds to the $10.9 billion transit project that has become a political football between Premier Doug Ford’s government and Ottawa.
The Conservatives are also promising to fund the Yonge subway extension, a $5.6 billion extension to the TTC’s Line 1 that would run 7.4 kilometres between Finch Station and Richmond Hill.
“For those of you here in the GTA, that means a new Conservative government will work with the provincial government to get shovels in the ground for these two critical projects,” said Scheer at a press conference in Markham Tuesday morning.
“These are the types of projects that will deliver real relief to everyone who drives and takes transit in the GTA.”
The Ford government proposed the 15-kilometre Ontario Line as part of their alternative to Toronto council-approved plans for a massive expansion of the GTA’s rail network. The proposal would replace the city’s plans for a relief line subway, but is still intended to take pressure off the TTC’s Line 1.
Toronto city staff have made positive noises about the plan, but little design work has actually been completed. In June, the city’s preliminary assessment of the “conceptual plans” for the Ontario Line said the proposal had “some positive aspects,” but would require further study. A more detailed assessment is expected to go to Mayor John Tory’s executive committee within weeks.
The Ontario Line has become yet another pressure point in the tense relationship between Premier Doug Ford’s government and Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.
Ottawa is asking for an actual business case and formal plans for the project before ponying up the funds requested by the Ford government — $4.4 billion, or about 40 per cent of the Ontario Line’s overall cost.
Trudeau’s Liberal government has pledged $4.9 billion to new Toronto transit projects, but a substantial part of that money is already dedicated to other projects.
In June, Ontario Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton urged Trudeau to “put his money where his mouth is” on transit infrastructure funding.
In a statement Tuesday, Toronto Liberal candidate Marco Mendicino accused Scheer of “playing political games.”
“Andrew Scheer should call up his friend Doug Ford and ask why he didn’t submit a business case for these projects until August, on the eve of the election,” Mendicino said in a statement.
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Mendicino took aim at the Conservatives for holding back their full platform, and suggested the party would not be in a position to make infrastructure investments because “he needs to make massive cuts.”
A Star analysis of the Conservative promises to date shows the party would run significant deficits — including a $24.62 billion deficit in 2020-21 — over the course of their five-year planning horizon. The party has promised a fully-costed platform, including how they would balance the books over that period, before the election.
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