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No more federal funding available for Toronto subways:

by Natalie Alcoba

If Mayor Rob Ford is looking for more sources of funding to help pay for subways in Toronto, it doesn’t look like it will come from the federal government.

“Is there going to be new money for infrastructure in the next federal budget? I don’t think so,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told reporters during a stop in Toronto Friday.

“Canadians expect us to focus on reducing and eventually eliminating the deficit and we can’t do that if we continue this extraordinary program that was really created in a specific context of the global economic downturn, from which we have since recovered,” he said, referring to the stimulus program he said has invested $25-billion in infrastructure projects across the country. “Toronto has gotten it’s share of all of those dollars,” said Mr. Kenney.

The future of a multi-billion dollar plan to build light-rail transit lines in Toronto is in limbo after Mayor Ford declared it “over”. The provincial government is paying for most of the light-rail lines, but a route along Sheppard Avenue includes $333-million of federal funding. Mayor Rob Ford wants to scrap light-rail in favour of tunnelling underground, a more costly venture.

Mr. Kenney was in Toronto Friday to announce a $2-million investment from Ottawa to create “one stop shopping” for settlement services. Minister Kenney said the idea is to make it more convenient for immigrants to get the services they need to find housing, get a job, or learn English. Minister Kenney said he expects Canada to have accepted nearly 270,000 permanent residents this year, which he said is a record. Ontario accepts about 110,000 immigrants every year and most settle in Toronto.

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Mayor Rob Ford were on hand for the announcement. “This is a phenomenal day, absolutely phenomenal. This benefits so many people across the city and across this great province,” said Mayor Ford in brief remarks. “I think it’s a hand up, not a hand out, and I think this is what everyone expects.” He did not stay for questions because his staff said he had to prepare to greet Governor-General David Johnston, making his first official visit to City Hall.

The Governor General and Mr. Ford entered City Hall on a red carpet. They chatted about the mayor’s volunteer work as a football coach, and signed the guest book in the mayor’s protocol lounge as a bank of photographers captured the moment.