Updated February 12, 2012 at 10:40 pm: Remarks attributed to Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday were in fact spoken by Councillor Doug Ford. This article has been revised to correct the error which arose from mis-transcription of my notes.
This article continues the discussion of City Council on the question of whether to approve the original Memorandum of Agreement between Toronto and Queen’s Park for the Metrolinx 5-in-10 plan of 2009, or the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Mayor Ford in 2011.
I have not included every speech by every member as some of them added nothing significant to the debate. However, I wanted to give readers a sense of how each member wanted to get their oar in, and how it can take hours to reach a vote on issues.
When we returned for the announced 2:00 pm resumption of debate, a large block of Council was not present — Ford’s people — in an attempt to break quorum. Deputy Speaker John Parker was in the chair, and the left were furiously counting heads and rounding up members to ensure that the meeting could continue. It did, and the afternoon was taken up by speeches and motions. This little charade chewed up 20 minutes.
Mayor Ford moved that the issue be referred to the City Manager for an expert panel to review options for Eglinton East. Speaking in favour of his motion, Ford said that Council was here to see who sounds better [not, by implication, to learn who has the better argument]. He listed all the things people allegedly don’t want including “the St. Clair disaster”.
Subways get people where they want to go fast, and this is a perfect opportunity for subways. “I campaigned on subways” and that’s what Council has to do. This is not the time to play politics [laughter throughout the Council Chamber]. People do not want a streetcar city. The Province and Metrolinx have clearly stated that “subways are the way to go”. The Province is going to make the final call and Ford is confident that they will continue with subways.
[This statement was resoundingly refuted by both the Premier and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. Their statements and the history of their attempts to discuss the matter with Ford show how out of touch he is with the opinions of people he does not control.]
Deputy Mayor Holyday said that a 30 day wait for expert assistance would not hurt, and talked about the history of a close vote for the Sheppard Subway years ago. [The LRT vote would turn out to be not the squeaker Holyday described and evidently expected.]
Councillor Mammoliti asked that communities who don’t want LRT be considered and given more time so that maybe there would be a subway in their future. [He still seems to think that Finch West would warrant a subway line where one has never been proposed.]
[After a few more speakers, the crowd in the gallery is getting restless, and Speaker Nunziata tries on her standard routine of threatening to recess Council. This is another of the Ford crew’s anti-democratic tactics, although it is rarely used. A recess can be called by the Speaker without debate or challenge from Council. She thinks better of her threat, and debate resumes.]
Councillor Stintz notes that her proposed deferral of a Sheppard decision [still not formally introduced] is in fairness to the Mayor, but that nothing is going to change in 30 days on Eglinton or Finch.
Councillor Thompson says that the Mayor still has a lot of control and cards he can play, but does not go into specifics. This suggests that Ford intends to attempt to block any anti-subway move however he can regardless of Council’s vote.
After a few more speakers, Councillor Cho launches into an open attack on the Mayor. Cho noted that the proposed chair of Ford’s panel would be a Ford supporter, and the panel itself would reflect Ford’s view. Instead of a panel, we would have the voice of one man “acting like a dictator”. [This sort of feeling is spoken regularly around City Hall, but this is the first time I have heard it on the floor of Council. Cho later withdrew this remark and apologized to the Mayor.]
Councillor Doug Ford was annoyed by the choice of language, and spoke about the need for voters in suburban parts of the city to remember who voted against subways. Mayor Ford has a clear mandate to build them, while LRT will guarantee traffic congestion and 15kph transit.
Councillor Parker commented that the remarks aimed at the Mayor were seriously unfair and uninformed. The Mayor does not need political cover to buy time, and Parker would take his chances with the Mayor’s panel. However, Parker did not feel he needed cover either — he does not need the advice of Ford’s group to make up his mind. [It is clear at this point that Parker will support Stintz even though he was not one of the signatories on the petition calling this Special Meeting of Council.]
Councillor Pasternak felt that attacks on the Mayor are unfair, and thanked him for his focus on subways.
[At this point, Councillor Cho rose to apologize. He has more class and dignity than members of Team Ford who routinely insult their opponents, especially members of the public who have no standing to challenge these remarks.]
Councillor Di Giorgio spoke about the fact that subways cannot be financed only with development charges and TIF (tax increment financing). We need debt and more provincial revenue as well. [This is an odd position for a Ford supporter as it shows at least one of them understands the limits of the City’s ability to raise capital for very expensive projects.]
Councillor Lee noted that the Mayor’s motion only talks about Eglinton, but that travel is over an entire trip and not one short portion. Time savings must be viewed from origin to destination, not just for one short section of a journey [the portion of Eglinton that would be underground in the Mayor’s plan].
Councillor Shiner moves to amend the Mayor’s motion by adding in for study a series of other route proposals that are part of the Stintz motion. [This appears to be an attempt to shore up support for the deferral and study scheme.]
Councillor Nunziata argued that if Council does not support the referral, they condemn York [specifically the part of the old City of York at Weston and Eglinton] to expropriations. She claimed that was why the subway was cancelled [by Mike Harris?]. York is already to get the Maintenance Facility [spoken of as if it were some blight on the neighbourhood]. Council would be reinstating Transit City.
[The reference to expropriations is a leftover issue from the Eglinton Environmental Assessment, and is an example of how political and bureaucratic manipulation of an EA can lead to neighbourhood resentment and come back to bite proponents. The whole question of an alignment for the Eglinton line between Black Creek and Jane remains unsettled. During the EA, residents called for it to be underground so that, like the more affluent parts of Eglinton, Mount Dennis could be spared the effects of surface construction and the space requirements for Weston Station.
[The TTC and Metrolinx, desperately trying to contain project costs, did not want to pursue this option and fought strongly against it. Weston Station is constrained by the tight fit between the rail corridor east of Weston Road, and particularly by the TTC’s desire for a three-track section in a tunnel beyond Weston Station. Both the surface and subway alignments would require demolition of a row of houses built right to the sidewalk line on the north side of Eglinton west of Weston Road. This is a design challenge to be met regardless of the technology chosen for the line.]
After a few more speakers supporting the deferral, it was time to vote. The motion by Councillor Shiner to amend the Mayor’s deferral with additional studies passed by 23 to 20. However, the vote on the referral as amended failed on a vote of 19 to 24. It is now just after 3:20 pm, and we have spent an hour on an attempt to delay the vote.
Councillor Stintz introduced her two motions — one to approve the MOA and the 5-in-10 plan for subway-surface LRT on Eglinton, conversion of the SRT to LRT with an extension to Sheppard and eventually to Malvern, and construction of a Finch West LRT from Keele to Humber College; the other motion would create an expert panel to review proposals for Sheppard East as well as a number of other transit schemes including the Downtown Relief Line.
Stintz argued that cities build subways and LRT and bus systems, and that what Toronto needs are plans that will survive election cycles. This is not a Stintz plan, but a Council plan. Toronto needs to get construction underway, and he motion will ensure that Eglinton and Finch get build, while giving Mayor Ford a chance to deal with his subway proposal. Now is the time to get work completed.
Councillor Thompson spoke of his concerns about 50-foot tractor-trailers being forced to make tight turns. [This is a reference to the proposed left turn schemes in the Eglinton EA that would require U-turns as part of left turn design. This is one of the weakest parts of the “Transit City” scheme for surface operation, and yet another example of intransigent technical staff not listening to the concerns of affected neighbourhoods and businesses.]
Councillor De Baeremaeker’s speech was accompanied by illustrations mined from the Light Rail Transit Association’s website. He spoke of how the Transit City plan was highjacked. Everyone wants subways, but many people will not get better transit service with a subway-only plan.
Councillor Matlow talked about how the 14 new Councillors elected in 2010 came to City Hall thinking they had been elected to make decisions, but found they did not get to vote on the Transit City cancellation nor on the Mayor’s MOU. He argued that Council needs to make evidence-based decisions and that transit should go underground where it needs to go, in the fiscal and technical senses. The Left of Council has been advancing a conservative plan to build more with available funding. Meanwhile transit service is overloaded and people want more now. This is not about populism or what people in Tim Horton’s say — we have to listen to Starbucks and the Second Cup and Timothy’s too. [This is a reference to Mayor Ford’s “man in the coffee shop” view of the world, and to debates on the relative merits of Tim Hortons and libraries.] The majority rules, but the minority should be heard in debate. No matter what happens, transit wins and nobody should impede the progress of a resolution of Council.
Councillor Cho moved that Council write to Ottawa and Queen’s Park asking for funding of infrastructure, operations and maintenance. When Mayor Ford campaigned on a subway for Sheppard, people thought it would come to Meadowvale and Malvern [not just to Scarborough Town Centre]. Cho complimented Karen Stintz and Gary Webster for their courage. He talked about Malvern and its need for rapid transit. Cho would be happy for Eglinton if it got an underground line, but we need “fancy service” for other areas too. If we had enough support from other governments, we would be able to do everything, but without that support the Stintz motion is the best option.
Councillor Cho’s motion eventually passed.
Councillor Wong-Tam moved an amendment to include representatives from the Toronto Women’s City Alliance and from Social Planning Toronto on the expert panel. She noted that public transit services have a gender bias. Only two TTC Commissioners are women and any attempt to remove them would go against City policy [on equity]. Women make more trips and shorter trips, and their mobility needs are different. Wong-Tam talked about “care work” and the need to take ferry children from place to place or to make household-based trips [shopping etc.], and argued that transit planning does not take these into account.
This amendment eventually passed.
Councillor Mammoliti spoke again of the Finch Subway, and moved to redirect available funds to it. In a show of poor taste, he said that the only difference between the Stintz plan and the Giambrone [Transit City] plan was the absence of a leather couch. [This refers to a scandal involving former Councillor Giambrone and a liaison said to have occurred in his Council office. At Toronto Council, it appears that making sexual slurs against former members is OK, but calling the Mayor a “dictator” is not.]
Mammoliti’s motion was eventually ruled redundant given Council’s adoption of a motion favouring the Finch LRT.
Councillor Peruzza attempts to derail Mammoliti’s motion for a Finch Subway with an amendment changing it to LRT. This was a spurious amendment and it never came to a vote.
Deputy Mayor Holyday Councillor Doug Ford bemoaned “short term thinkers” and praised “long term visionaries” speaking of band-aid solutions. He attacked Councillor Lindsay-Luby (absent from debate as she was on a pre-arranged cruise) for misrepresenting her ward in central Etobicoke. Personal agendas were at play, said Ford, and there is still a culture of entitlement at City Hall [by implication among those who already have subways]. If there were a referendum, every Councillor in the room would be defeated. Ford attacked Premier McGuinty saying that he was listening to Councillors who don’t live in the suburbs where people don’t want “trolley cars” running down the middle of roads.
Councillor Crawford talked about how Scarborough residents love their city, but they need connections to other part of Toronto. The SRT was an inefficient, ineffective system that needs to be replaced. Subways encourage more riders and are effective over the long run. Council support for LRT is not from Scarborough. He spoke of the Queen streetcar versus a subway, argued that Council cannot waffle and adopt plans for the short term gains of “streetcars”.
Councillor Layton noted that the Mayor’s proposal does not serve much of Scarborough or North York either. Alternative schemes don’t have funding. Other cities use the flexibility of LRT, and Toronto needs to provide a plan for service to the most people. Layton found attempts to pit neighbour against neighbour in this debate “disgusting”.
Councillor Kelly moved to amend Stintz’ motion by removal of the studies of additional lines in the interest of avoiding confusion. He spoke of how “Scarborough has been screwed”, and conflated “LRT” (really ICTS, or the SRT) with a true LRT line. Scarborough is going to be a “growth city” in coming decades.
Procedurally, this issue was handled in a very clumsy way, Kelly said. If Chair Stintz had problems with the Mayor’s plan, she should have brought her concerns to the TTC and then to Council. People will look back on Council’s lack of vision with immediate or short term or politically correct or personal issues taking precedence. [All this is rich coming from one of the TTC Commissioners who voted against having staff bring more information about options for Eglinton forward at the last Commission meeting.]
Councillor Kelly’s motion eventually lost.
Councillor Peruzza moved that Council support an early implementation of the Finch West LRT, and that the City Manager and TTC Chief General Manager report back to Council on the future feasibility of a Finch subway, its cost and construction timing.
This motion eventually passed.
Councillor Mammoliti claimed that according to the TTC, buses (BRT) on Finch would be faster than LRT, and asked whether businesses on Finch will be happy about contruction of an LRT. Peruzza replied that the businesses on Finch are malls, not storefronts as on St. Clair, and would not be disrupted in the same way.
Councillor Pasternak made two motions in the interest of improving Stintz’ proposal. The first involved changes to wording so that the expert panel would “advise City Council” rather than “determine” the outcome for Sheppard East, and that the panel would consider “project funds” rather than “funds currently allocated”. The second involved a long set of reports on financing of public transit.
The technical amendment passed, but the financing amendment was referred to the expert panel.
Councillor Lee moved that a representative from the Sheppard East Villiage BIA (Business Improvement Area) be added to the panel. Lee supports the Stintz motion. He noted that the press got the Gordon Chong report (on the Sheppard subway) almost a week before Council, and study is needed to see what it can do for us. The lobby for subways via email is very strong with support running 50-50 for subways and LRT. Lee wanted to be sure he made the best decision for all of Toronto. The Mayor ran on a platform of subways, while Lee himself ran on LRT and won against pro-subway opponents.
This motion eventually passed.
Councillor Milczyn moved that alternate financing schemes be added to the Sheppard review. He congratulated Karen Stintz and expressed respect for Gary Webster. Staff do their jobs. The problem of what to do with so much money is quite unusual. We want “transformative” transit, and LRT isn’t transformative enough. [At the end of his speech, Milczyn walks over to Stintz and gives her a big hug.]
[As the debate proceeds, Mayor Ford has been out of the room for an extended period, and many Councillors from the Left can be seen having chats sitting in Ford’s chair and those around it.]
Councillor McMahon spoke of the need to build a transit system. We have played the transit name game [to call a network “Transit City” or something else] long enough. Her daily commute is more and more crowded, and she dreams of a DRL.
Councillor Palacio showed a video of congestion on St. Clair at Keele and at Old Weston Road. Oddly enough, this is a very narrow stretch of St. Clair where the full right-of-way design could not be implemented. Palacio hammered away at the mismanagement of the St. Clair project and the lack of attention to details. Nobody wanted to listen to neighbourhood concerns during construction.
Councillor Carroll spoke as if she were directly addressing Premier McGuinty. We need to work together, and sometimes we need to speak truth to citizens. Sheppard needs to be a shared process. Karen Stintz is not about parroting back what people may want to hear. Speaking of the importance of transit, Carroll wants every route her daughter may have to take, and her grandchildren after her, to be possible on the TTC.
Councillor Colle noted that Toronto subway lines already come above ground. What people want is for Council to decide. It is time to get over transit modes Councillors may hate and to concentrate on what is appropriate.
Councillor Parker stated that we are not just trying to determine best way of moving people from A to B. If we were, then subways make sense. But a transit system does more — we are building a system, a city, and the kind of city you build with surface transit has more general development vs high density at nodes. This is not a matter of LRT as second best, but as the better of two options. The Mayor may feel honour bound to deliver on election commitments, although he has been sensitive to Parker’s having a different position. Subway lines are not on offer. Given the alternatives, Parker opts for Eglinton on the surface east of the Don.
Councillor Crisanti moved to amend Mammoliti’s motion by requesting a report on Finch bus lanes. The previous administration tried to stretch the budget for “value”, but only achieved a poor option. Stintz’ motion means that northern Etobicoke must wait 10 years for anything, it will cost $1b and will not do better than today’s service. A TTC report says that queue jump lanes would be faster than LRT and cost only $45m. Council should not be shortsighted.
Crisanti’s motion was eventually ruled redundant given the approval of a conflicting motion regarding the Finch LRT.
Councillor Vaughan noted that the many amendments proposed today show how everyone is pillaging the $8b. He talked about the Spadina Subway, originally proposed to run along the waterfront and up Dufferin, then changed to Bathurst, and then over a dinner break at Metro Council changed to Spadina, an alignment chosen to protect the expressway plans. Cities do not build transit to open fields, but to areas where demand already is. Toronto would have done this if they had chosen the Dufferin route. On Sheppard we hope to borrow against a line we cannot pay for while we are still trying to make Spadina profitable.
This is not a decision about where you live, it is about how Toronto gets transit to many neighbourhoods. We can explore new revenue tools, but getting something built is most important. There are long commutes everywhere, and this debate is about more than saving a few minutes on Eglinton.
Councillor Robinson came as a new member to City Hall, but still does not know where her parking space is. The biggest complaint she hears is congestion and TTC overcrowding and delays. We need to address TTC operations and get people where they are going quickly. She would have appreciated another month to consider the matter, and felt she had heard a lot of misinformation. There is only so much money and we have to work within this. When the engineers start analyzing Eglinton, they may find reason to put a lot of it underground. She will base her vote on feedback from her residents. [Although this speech gave no indication of how Robinson was leaning, she wound up voting for Stintz’ plan.]
Councillor Augimeri wants to give riders what they want — better service — and the “Metrolinx LRT plan” gives them this. The Finch Subway won’t happen, and telling people it will come is a lie. We need to fix the mistake made by building a subway on Sheppard. Augimeri joked that today the subway in Torino froze, but the LRT kept working, and showed a video of crowding conditions on the Finch West bus.
Councillor Bernardinetti spoke of development coming to her ward near Eglinton and Victoria Park, and said that density is coming even without the LRT. She read a letter from a former City Clerk into the record. It contained many errors, but these went unchallenged as the debate was over and it was time to vote.
Councillor Stintz’ first motion primarily involving approval of the Eglinton LRT, Scarborough LRT and Finch West LRT as contemplated in the 2009 MOA was approved by a vote of 26 to 17. The item was reopened as Councillor Kelly wanted to change his recorded vote claiming to have voted in favour in error. On a revote, the item again carried by 27 to 16. Councillors Minnan-Wong and Nunziata had voted the wrong way, and the item was reopened again with a final vote of 25 to 18. (Note that two of the 45 members were absent.)
Councillor Stintz’ second motion regarding the expert panel, Sheppard East and other matters for study passed by 28 to 15.
By 7:15 pm, everything was done except a few procedural matters and the press scrums.
For all of the gory details, please refer to the meeting minutes.