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TTC cash not firm: Flaherty

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TORY ZIMMERMAN/TORONTO STAR

TTC riders may have to wait for the end of the year until a decision is made on a TTC extension that will service York University campus and beyond.

York U subway far from a sure thing, Tory warns

Decision on $2B project expected by year’s end

Aug. 22, 2006. 05:26 AM
ROB FERGUSON AND ROBERT BENZIE
QUEEN’S PARK BUREAU

Federal funding to help extend the Spadina subway line to York University and into Vaughan is far from a sure thing, warns Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

In his most pointed comments yet on the proposed $2 billion TTC expansion, Flaherty had some sobering news yesterday for subway riders.

“There isn’t any firm money on the table,” he told the Toronto Star.

While Flaherty said he has been having “constructive discussions” about the long-awaited subway extension with Ontario counterpart Greg Sorbara � including a private meeting Aug. 14 in Ottawa � a final decision is not expected until year’s end.

The federal minister noted the Conservative government is balancing competing transportation priorities, including new highways.

In a separate interview, Sorbara stressed the future looks bright for the new 6.2 kilometre line from Downsview station, through the York campus and across Steeles Ave. into the 905 area code.

“I remain optimistic that they will participate because of the importance of the project and the importance of transit in the Greater Toronto Area,” the Ontario finance minister said.

“At that meeting (Aug. 14) I agreed with Jim about the importance of the other components of transportation, including new highway infrastructure … (including) the extension of Highway 407, which goes right into his riding,” said Sorbara.

“I actually came out (of the meeting) feeling relatively positive within the context of how Jim Flaherty operates. He and his government are in the midst of a broadly based consultation on infrastructure … right across the country,” he said.

“I think Jim made it fairly clear he could not finalize the (subway) commitment in the midst of that process. On the other hand, I think we were successful in making the point to him that this is a vital link to begin a new generation of transit and transportation infrastructure.”

In the March 23 provincial budget, Queen’s Park guaranteed $670 million to the subway project with the expectation that the City of Toronto and York Region would contribute another third of the $2 billion needed and that Ottawa would fund the rest.

When Flaherty, who is Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s GTA political minister, tabled the federal budget in May, he pledged up to $1.3 billion in support of public transit infrastructure, including the subway.

But yesterday he stressed it is just one of many possible transit projects the federal government is considering because of the “serious challenge” caused by road congestion in southern Ontario.

“This part of the economic engine is sputtering when it comes to transportation and transport,” the minister said at a General Motors factory in Oshawa, where company and government officials announced workers there would soon revive the Camaro muscle car.

“One of the items that’s on the table is the subway,” added Flaherty.

“Some choices will have to be made, inevitably. We can’t do everything.”

Insiders note that partisan politics could also be at play. The extended Spadina subway line would run through ridings that are held provincially and federally by Liberals. That would likely help Premier Dalton McGuinty’s provincial Liberals in their re-election bid on Oct. 4, 2007.

But it is less clear how a new subway in that part of Toronto would be politically advantageous for Harper’s minority Conservatives, who could face the electorate as early as next spring.

Conservative sources point out that the federal largesse could be more fruitfully spent on other transit priorities in and around Toronto, where the federal Tories have a better chance of winning seats in the next election.




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