Updated Dec. 8, 2010 at 7:45 am: On Sept. 30, 2009, Council voted to fund continuing work on Environmental Assessments, and to enter into an agreement with Metrolinx for funding of the Sheppard, Eglinton, Finch and SRT projects.
Updated Dec. 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm: This post has been updated with additional info supplied in a comment by a reader. See the body of the article for the change which documents a vote in 2009 reaffirming Council support for Transit City.
In the brouhaha of Mayor Ford’s inauguration, his brief meeting with Premier McGuinty, and the question of whether Council will support ditching the LRT plan in favour of a subway network, a question comes up often: did Council ever actually approve the Transit City plan, or was this just done by the TTC Commission itself?
I rummaged through Council minutes (with no thanks to the recent changes in the City’s website that made finding material from the critical year, 2007, rather difficult) and could only find references to actions taken after the fact — funding of environmental analysis work, public consultation and preliminary designs for specific lines. An embrace of the overall plan didn’t appear to be there.
Earlier today, I learned that there was a vote, but it was part of a larger package of items to move forward with the Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan. Within this plan is the following directive:
RE: MAKING MORE SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION CHOICES
8. City Council recognize that approximately one-third of the locally generated greenhouse gases and a significant portion of smog causing pollutants come from the operation of motor vehicles and that over one-half of the comments received during the public engagement process expressed a desire to see a more sustainable transportation system, and that City Council:
a. direct the initiation of appropriate environmental and engineering studies for the Transit City plan and request the General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission to submit to Executive Committee in 2007 a schedule for the completion of aforementioned studies and a financial plan including funding sources and revenue tools;
Source Council Minutes for July 16, 2007, Item EX10.3 at page 25
The vote on this item was 37-0 with the following in favour:
Councillors: Augimeri, Bussin, Carroll, Cho, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Feldman, Filion, Fletcher, Ford, Grimes, Hall, Heaps, Holyday, Jenkins, Kelly, Lee, Lindsay Luby, McConnell, Mihevc, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Moeser, Moscoe, Nunziata, Palacio, Pantalone, Perks, Rae, Saundercook, Stintz, Thompson, Vaughan, Walker
None of the proposed amendments to the overall report mentions Transit City, and there was no attempt to change the plan at this stage.
[Updated Dec. 7 at 10:30 pm begins here]
In January 2009, Council dealt with a report on the proposed extension of the Yonge Subway to Richmond Hill. Among the motions approved at that meeting was the following:
3. City Council direct the City Manager and Chief General Manager of the TTC to commence discussions with Metrolinx, the Province of Ontario, York Region and Government of Canada for the purposes of securing the appropriate funding and service agreements on the basis of the following requirements:
l. Metrolinx be requested to prioritize the Downtown Relief Line within its 15-year plan, noting that Transit City is the first priority for the Toronto Transit Commission and the City of Toronto; and
The clause above was inserted via an amendment from then Commissioner Suzan Hall which itself amended text proposed by Councillor Michael Thompson. This carried 32:11 with the recorded vote as follows:
In favour: Ainslie, Ashton, Augimeri, Bussin, Carroll, Cho, Davis, De Baeremaeker, Del Grande, Di Giorgio, Filion, Fletcher, Ford, Giambrone, Grimes, Hall, Heaps, Jenkins, Lindsay Luby, McConnell, Mihevc, Miller, Moeser, Moscoe, Nunziata, Palacio, Pantalone, Perks, Rae, Saundercook, Thompson, Vaughan
Opposed: Holyday, Kelly, Lee, Milczyn, Minnan-Wong, Ootes, Parker, Perruzza, Shiner, Stintz, Walker
Absent: Feldman, Mammoliti
In the final vote on the item with all of its amendments, the vote was 42:2 with only Councillors Kelly and Mihevc(!) opposed, and Councillor Feldman absent. Joe Mihevc was voting against the Richmond Hill subway.
Therefore, Council has explicitly voted on the priority of Transit City, and this has been supported by now-Mayor Ford on both occasions. Thanks to those who dug up these references.
On September 30, 2009, Council passed the following motion:
1. City Council increase the 2009-2013 Approved Capital Budget and Plan by $134.5 million gross, to continue work on the priority Transit City lines, with $125.8 million gross to be funded by the Province through Metrolinx and the balance of $8.7 million for environmental assessments for other Transit City lines to be funded through offsets within the TTC’s 2009 Approved Capital Budget, and report back to the Budget Committee on the offsets.
2. City Council authorize the City Manager to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement on behalf of the City, with Metrolinx and the TTC, wherein Metrolinx will provide interim funding for the implementation of components of the Sheppard East LRT, Finch West LRT, Eglinton Crosstown LRT, and Scarborough RT transit projects.
The vote was 30:3 with Councillors Ford and Stintz, among others, absent. While this is over two years after the announcement of Transit City, it continues a pattern of Council support.
[Update ends here]
In theory, Transit City can be changed by a vote of only the Transit Commission, a body packed with Ford allies. However, Queen’s Park has clearly stated that they will respect the will of Council on this. Mayor Ford’s position is unclear as he has stated both that the issue would come to Council, and that it didn’t need to. Considering that he has asked the TTC for a report on alternate networks, and this won’t be ready for Council consideration until February 2011, Council won’t even know what it is deciding on for the next two months.
This small detail may not bother the Mayor, but it bothers those of us who believe Councillors have an important role in making City policy. Back in the Miller days, his opponents cried out about the powers of the Mayor and how he ignored his opposition. It’s time for Ford and Company to take some of their own advice and stop prejudging the outcome.