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Ottawa's demand for review 'crazy,' Miller says


November 24, 2007

The “ideology” of the federal Conservatives is needlessly delaying the extension of the Spadina subway north into York Region, Mayor David Miller charged yesterday, accusing the government of demanding a “crazy” financial review of the project.

Last March, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised $697-million for the $2.1-billion, 8.6-kilometre subway expansion, already approved by the province and by York Region.

But no cheque from Ottawa has been signed, Mr. Miller said, because the federal government is forcing the Toronto Transit Commission to review the project in order to determine whether the private sector could be more involved in a so-called public-private partnership.

“They’ve promised it. They’ve announced it. The Prime Minister came and announced it. There’s no federal money. And they want to go though a process and evaluate whether it should be done in a different way than we’ve already proposed,” Mr. Miller told reporters yesterday. “That is crazy.”

He said the private sector is already involved in the project, since private firms would actually be building it. But the province, Toronto and York Region have agreed that the TTC, and not a private company, needs to be responsible for its own subway.

“The TTC knows how to build subways. We’ve built these for a hundred years,” Mr. Miller said. “The TTC is responsible for the safety of passengers. It has to be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the tunnels and the tracks.”

He blamed the delay on the Conservative government’s politics.

“It’s an ideological view that we have to reinvent the way we do these things. And it causes enormous delays when there’s an existing project that we’re actually moving on that the federal government in effect is saying stop until you review it through our ideology,” Mr. Miller said. “And they’re going to come to the conclusion we’re doing it the right way anyway.”

In an e-mailed statement from his office, federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said Toronto was not being singled out.

“Mayor Miller is aware that ALL projects under the Building Canada Fund where the federal investment exceeds $50 million need a [public-private partnership] screen study,” the statement reads. “The federal Government is not slowing down any projects for Toronto and the GTA.”

Mr. Miller spoke to reporters after the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority, on which he sits, approved $791-million worth of proposed “quick win” transit projects across the region that it will ask to see in the province’s budget next year.