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City doesn't need council vote to cancel Transit City

by Natalie Alcoba

Mayor Rob Ford suggested on Tuesday morning that he does not need council support to kill the light-rail plan called Transit City.

“As you know, there was never a vote on council for Transit City. And if there was, I would like to see that. We never voted on Transit City,” said Mayor Ford following his first meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty at Queen’s Park. “We’re going to work with the province to implement our subway plan. Our subway plan is to go underground. That’s what I campaigned on, that’s what the people want.”

Premier McGuinty said the province isn’t going to “force a transit plan on council that they’re not prepared to accept”, but it is accountable for how the $3.1-billion the province has earmarked for the first phase of transit expansion is spent.

“Obviously we’re going to need to work together to lend shape to a new transit plan, if that’s the direction they wish to pursue,” said Mr. McGuinty.

It remains unclear who has the authority to scrap Transit City. The premier refused to get into “a potentially internal debate” about what the process for changes should be, but Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne said the projects underway were voted on by city council, “maybe not as one package but in parcels”.

“These are not unilateral decisions to be made. And that’s why council needs to weigh in, there needs to be a conversation and we will work with them once that’s happened,” said Minister Wynne.

Added the premier: “My responsibility is to listen to the new voice of the people of Toronto, and I intend to do so.”

There are financial consequences to scrapping the light-rail plan known as Transit City. Metrolinx, the regional transportation agency, and the TTC have already spent $130-million on it, plus committed $1.3-billion worth of contracts. The province has said repeatedly it won’t spend any more than the $3.1-billion earmarked for the first phase of transit expansion.

Councillors who oppose shifting gears to subways say council must have a say on decisions that cost the city money.

Mayor Ford and the Premier’s office said Tuesday’s meeting was fruitful.

The province committed to paying for half of the costs, $52-million, of administering Ontario Works, and said it was prepared to stop collecting the vehicle registration tax by Jan. 1, if council voted to cancel it.

Mayor Ford will make an address Tuesday afternoon at the inaugural council meeting.