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Analysis: Why David Miller's still protesting
revised Transit City

Provincial officials put a positive spin on revisions,
but the mayor isn’t buying it

By Tess Kalinowski
Transportation Reporter
Robert Benzie
Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

As they move ahead without his support, provincial officials continue to scratch their heads over Toronto Mayor David Miller’s continued opposition to the revised Transit City light rail scheme.

Even a call from Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday failed to quell the mayor’s cynicism about the province’s commitment to the plan since it delayed $4 billion of the $8.15 billion promised for the projects.

Metrolinx doesn’t need Miller’s approval. Council has endorsed the new streetcar lines on Sheppard, Eglinton and Finch and the reconstruction of the Scarborough RT. Queen’s Park is assuming he won’t prohibit the TTC from working on the projects, and 95 per cent of the money will be spent after Miller has left office anyway.

“The next conversations about transit are going to be with another mayor,” Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said Tuesday.

Meantime, “I don’t see why he doesn’t see this as a victory for the people of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area and particularly the people of Toronto. I do understand he was disappointed at the funding delay, but I don’t understand why, fundamentally, he wouldn’t see this as a significant part of his legacy,” she said.

Behind the scenes, senior provincial officials say Miller has already won. He gave the Transit City file enough urgency to ensure the Toronto projects will be included in the province’s 10-year capital plan, likely to be tabled next spring.

But McGuinty made a personal appeal to Miller, saying the delayed Transit City schedule is still a priority for the cash-strapped province. In a 5 p.m. chat from his home Monday, McGuinty implored Miller to trust him on the issue, even though the new lines will be funded over 10 years instead of eight.

“I told him specifically that I really appreciated his passion and his commitment, and I don’t doubt his sincerity in terms of the approach that he is taking, the representations he is making,” McGuinty told reporters Tuesday.

“But I also asked him not to doubt my sincerity in terms of the approach we are taking and the steps we feel we are obligated to make, given our financial circumstances.”

No sooner had he put down the phone than Miller repeated his skepticism.

“It is not honest to say to Torontonians that the Finch and Scarborough RT are going to go ahead when there isn’t a funding commitment for it. That is the fact. There’s no money for those lines. And those lines are essential,” he told reporters at city hall Monday evening.

“All the money on offer will do is build part of an Eglinton LRT. That’s all. So you’ll get essentially a subway from Leaside to Forest Hill, … but people in Jane-Finch, Rexdale and Scarborough, particularly Scarborough, are not going to get the transportation they need,” Miller said.

Retired Ryerson University planning professor Jim Mars supports Miller’s position, given that Toronto has a large transit-dependent population and has already invested heavily in improving TTC bus service.

“Honestly, if I were in his position — I don’t know what else he has to do except to pressure the province. It’s really the only thing he brings to the table as he approaches being a lame duck,” he said.

U of T political science professor Nelson Wiseman thinks Miller is wise to be skeptical.

“The provincial government could change. I only trust budgets for one year, and when I hear ‘five-year plans’ you’re telling me you’re not doing it now.”

With files from Robyn Doolittle