Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek introduced Bill 107, the Getting Ontario Moving Act, in the Ontario legislature on May 2, 2019.
This is an omnibus bill amending several other Acts to implement various policies, one of which is the first stage of the “upload” of responsibility for subway extensions and new builds from the City of Toronto. Schedule 3 of the Bill amends the Metrolinx Act. In brief, the amendments provide for:
- The Cabinet (legislatively known as “The Lieutenant Governor in Council”) may “prescribe a rapid transit design, development or construction project as a rapid transit project that is the sole responsibility of Metrolinx”. For such projects, the City of Toronto and its agencies are barred from taking “further action” on the project, and all of the project’s “assets, liabilities, rights and obligations” can be transferred to Metrolinx. Such projects are known as “sole responsibility projects”.
- The Cabinet may prescribe that a project is “subject to the Minister’s direction”, and for such projects “the Minister may issue directives to the City of Toronto and its agencies”, and the Cabinet may require that “a specified decision about the project be subject to the Minister’s approval”. Such projects are known as “direction and approval projects”.
These provisions address two separate types of project organization. In the first case, control of and responsibility for a project is transferred completely to Metrolinx. In the second, a project could remain in the City’s hands but be subject to Ministerial direction and approval.
Sole Responsibility Projects
Where a project is declared to be a sole responsibility project, the City of Toronto is barred from undertaking a project “that is substantially similar and in close proximity to” such a project. Why Toronto would attempt to duplicate a provincial project such as the extension of Line 2 in Scarborough is a mystery, but Queen’s Park clearly wants to ensure this does not happen. An exception provides that the Minister “may authorize” the City to undertake work on a sole responsibility project.
The Cabinet may order the transfer of City assets related to a sole responsibility project “with or without compensation”. The list of “assets” is quite extensive and includes real estate. This begs the question of how such property becomes “related” to a project as opposed to simply being property previously owned by the City.
The City is required to participate in this process and “take all such actions as are necessary and practicable to give the Corporation possession of property transferred”.
Direction and Approval Projects
A project could be left nominally under the City’s control, but subject to Ministerial direction, in particular that “a specified decision with respect to the project” could be subject to Ministerial approval. The City is barred from taking action that would arise from a decision without such approval. In other words, the City cannot launch work that could be in conflict with a Ministerial approval that has not yet been granted.
Many of the amendments address the transition of projects from the City to the Province and preclude legal action against the parties for the implementation of the new regime.
What the Legislation Does Not Address
The legislation is completely silent on matters of capital or operating costs of projects undertaken by or under the direction of the province. Specifically, there is nothing to explain:
- Any aspect of capital cost sharing that might be sought or imposed by the Province on the City of Toronto or other municipalities for sole responsibility projects.
- The future operation of projects created under the “sole responsibility” or “direction and approval” regimes.
- The subdivision of “maintenance” costs between the Province and the City of Toronto or any other municipality.
The “other shoe” still to drop is the question of uploading the existing subway network. This is a much more complex transfer that will be the subject of future legislation.
This is the bare bones of legislation needed to give Metrolinx control over rapid transit construction so that Ontario can “get on with the job” of building transit, but much more is involved in actually doing the work.
Minister Yurek is good at repeating his talking points including the bogus claim that there has been no rapid transit expansion for decades. Taking pot shots at the City for alleged chaos in transit planning is easy, although both Premier Ford and the Conservative Party have rampant amnesia about their own contributions. Now Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario will have to deliver rather than just posturing.
There are many jurisdictions where metro/systems traversing municipal boundaries (as the TTC subway does) is owned by states/provinces and things work out just fine. This subway upload thing is a non-issue.
Steve: The issue is not the upload per se, but the highly politicized environment in which it might occur. In particular, there is a genuine concern that the quality of service and maintenance will fall because the province will starve the TTC, nominally still the operator of the subway for funding. We know already that the Tory’s estimate during the 2018 election of the cost of capital maintenance was well below actual TTC spending and future requirements. A related issue is the future of the gas tax for which an increase had been expected, but was cancelled. That money would, in part, have paid for necessary subway capital maintenance, and it is not clear that QUeen’s Park is prepared to actually spend that money.
International examples of regional transit systems do not include an element of outright spite where the senior government is grabbing an existing local system to settle old political scores. Add to this a substantially revised transit plan for which the province has still not provided any detail beyond a simple map of the new “Ontario” line, and vague description of a revised Scarborough extension. Moreover, over half of the cost of this “provincial” network is expected to come from other governments including the City of Toronto which could be forced to contribute to lines it does not want thereby taking money from other needed spending areas.
This is not a question of “finding efficiency” or “getting Toronto moving”. It is a pure power grab by a petulant Premier who is at war with the City.
Steve in response to Kyle mentioned that Premier Ford is taking over the subway out of spite to settle political scores against Toronto but that argument does not hold water as Premier Ford is simply doing what the Liberals did with Line 5 (Eglinton LRT). Therefore, Premier Ford is waging war against Toronto no more than Kathleen Wynne.
Steve: No, Wynne “took over” Line 5 (and actually it was McGuinty who did it) while providing 100% funding for the line. Ford wants to own the whole system, but does not want to have to pay for it. His proposal is a 1/3 share for each of Ontario, Canada and Toronto for new builds, and a takeover of the existing system possibly without compensation. That is in the legislation.
There is no comparison.
I’m really worried about Metrolinx being put in charge of more construction in the city. They never bother communicating anything to residents, and don’t care about the impacts of their decisions on local businesses and residents. They don’t reply to emails and their information office isn’t staffed whenever I try to drop by. Eglinton Ave is suffering from all the construction. Many local businesses have gone bankrupt as a result. By the time the Eglinton streetcar is done, I’m not sure if there’s going to be anything of Eglinton Ave left.
I regularly wonder how many people have gotten injured by the clearly inadequate pedestrian crossings at Yonge-Eg. Since Metrolinx refuses to explain any of their construction decisions, it’s impossible to know, but I suspect the project is plagued by sloppy engineering planning and that they’re mostly making things up as they go.
I’m several blocks from the nearest station, yet Metrolinx has still thought it appropriate to put ridiculous things in front of my home like a cement factory (which I think ended up being useless), employee parking, a storage area for sticking random pieces of metal (which sat there for several months, causing some local businesses to go under), and most recently, a noisy and polluting diesel generator running 24/7. They completely disrespect the generosity and tolerance of the local community and just do whatever they want.
I’m not a political person, but even I’m thinking of protesting in the streets.
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Honestly though local businesses go bankrupt as result of street-side construction. That’s what they do. They did it in Vancouver along Cambie too. If some local businesses don’t go bankrupt as result of Scarborough Subway Extension, it’ll only be because there are no small businesses near the stations being built. The alternative is to build not along a main street, but then the stations tend to end up in not great locations. Given the property values, we’ve probably passed the days when we could build the Bloor-Danforth line 30 metres north of the street and bulldoze everything along the alignment….
(And of course to some extent it’s because some businesses see that the neighbourhood will change as result of new transit so they figure they shut now before they lose more money later. That too comes with new construction.)
If you want new construction you have to accept local businessmen telling you they’re suffering. If you don’t want new construction, well, I’m sure the 50 buses an hour were great?
That’s not to say that Metrolinx is doing things particularly well, and as a provincial agency they’re not accountable to locals. Small businesses are not a particularly great indicator of that however.
With the way that the province has been pro developer of late, I wouldn’t put it past them to change the province from a fair market value system for expropriation to an imposed value system to ensure they can do things like that and sell the air rights.