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Editorial: Ford not only one with a mandate

On his first day in office, Mayor Rob Ford couldn’t have been more clear on the future of Toronto’s planned light rail network. “Transit City is over,” he told reporters Wednesday. “We will not build any more rail tracks down the middle of our streets.”

TTC officials have been instructed by Ford to report on building subways instead of Transit City’s light rail scheme. And the first task of TTC’s new governing board, to be appointed by city council next week, will be “to formally stop spending on a project we do not need anymore,” Ford said. He noted that he was elected with a strong mandate to make such changes.

Not so fast, Mr. Mayor. Each of Toronto’s 44 city councillors were also elected, and many of them campaigned on platforms to save Transit City, a legacy of David Miller’s mayoralty. They have a different mandate and deserve a chance to vote on cancellation of Transit City, which could involve huge costs to the city and set back the development of public transit for a decade.

Metrolinx has a mandate, too. It’s the provincial agency in charge of planning transportation across the Greater Toronto Area, including the proposed light rail lines in Toronto. Metrolinx believes that is the most cost-effective way to expand transit in the city.

Finally, Premier Dalton McGuinty has a huge say in what happens next since the province is covering almost the entire $8.15 billion cost of Transit City. It has already spent $130 million, and contracts worth than $1 billion have been signed. In essence, Ford wants to redirect the spending of another government’s money to suit his aims.

The mayor misguidedly considers light rail lines — along with bike lane expansion and Toronto’s $60 vehicle registration tax — as part of an ideological “war against the car.” And he’s determined to stop it.

But several city councillors appear equally determined to save Transit City. Ford “can’t just waltz in and declare an end” to light rail, Councillor Janet Davis said, after the mayor’s announcement. “This is a democratically elected government and we all are here to represent the interests of our communities. It’s not a government run by one person.”

The “war on the car” may have ended, as Ford suggests, but the war over Transit City has likely just begun.