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War on car over, Ford declares

By Jonathan Jenkins
and Don Peat

He’s declared victory in the war on the streetcar but Mayor Rob Ford will face a battle getting council to agree with his decision to bury Transit City.

“Everyone’s going to have a discussion on that but I’m the mayor of this city,” Ford said Wednesday, on his first day as Toronto’s chief executive. “I have to lead by example and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I ran on a platform of building subways.

“Transit City is over, ladies and gentlemen.”

But councillors who supported the plan — former mayor David Miller’s legacy project to build 120 km of light rail in transit-starved areas — say Ford is overstepping his bounds.

None of the $8.15 billion committed to the project is Toronto’s — it comes from the provincial and federal governments — and all the proposed transit lines were approved by council, they said.

“We are for the first time expanding transit across this city that we’ve waited generations for, the mayor can’t walk in on day one and say it’s gone, it doesn’t work that way,” Councillor Janet Davis said.

Former TTC vice-chairman Joe Mihevc called Ford’s push to end Transit City “highly fiscally irresponsible” and hinted it was even undemocratic.

“The first lesson that the mayor needs to learn is that council is supreme, not the mayor,” he said.

Toronto Transit Commission Chief General Manager Gary Webster said after a meeting with the new mayor that the TTC will develop a new plan, and present cost estimates for both subway and underground LRT lines where Transit City proposed surface rail.

Surface LRTs cost about $75 million per kilometre, the TTC estimates, but burying them raises the price closer to the $300 million per km cost of subways.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said the province will work to find “common ground” with Ford on subways but stressed Ontario will not swallow any costs arising from killing Transit City.

“If there are changes to be proposed connected with the original plan, and there are costs associated with that, those will be visited upon the council and the people of Toronto,” McGuinty sad in question period.

“That will be an important factor for them to take into account.”