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Rob Ford, Dalton McGuinty agree
to hash out new transit plan

by Anna Mehler Paperny

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford emerged from his first tête-à-tête with Dalton McGuinty armed with a commitment from the Ontario Premier to work on a new transit plan.

The message from the Premier’s office: The province won’t go ahead with a transit plan the city doesn’t want. And Mr. Ford has made clear he doesn’t want Transit City, the multibillion-dollar light-rail plan the province has already spent $130-million on.

And in Mr. Ford’s mind, he doesn’t need council’s approval to kibosh Transit City entirely.

“As you know, there was never a vote on council for Transit City, and if there was I’d like to see that. We never voted on Transit City. As you know, (incoming TTC chair) Karen Stintz is a very, very capable councillor - she’s setting up our TTC commission with some very good councillors,” he told a crush of reporters outside the Premier’s office afterward.

“We’re going to work with the province to implement our plan, our subway plan. And our subway plan is to go underground. That’s what I campaigned on, that’s what the people want. They gave us a very clear message that they want subways. They do not want streetcars.”

The province has said it won’t add to the funds it has already committed to Transit City, one of five regional transit commitments under Metrolinx. This means the money already spent, plus any cancellation fees resulting from the existing $1.3-billion in contracts already signed, would come from that envelope.

Mr. McGuinty also committed to funding half the city’s Ontario Works costs, which will work out to about $52-million this year, and agreed to stop collecting the city’s vehicle registration tax starting in January, if council votes to abolish it as they’re expected to do this month.

Ontario Works - the source of a a long-standing disagreement between the City of Toronto and the Ontario government - helps unemployed residents with basic living expenses such as food, shelter and clothing,

“We had a very productive meeting,” Mr. Ford said. “We’re going to have a very good personal relationship.”

Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, however, said she expects council to have a say in the fate of Toronto’s transit.

“City council was part of that discussion and, I believe - and I’ve been consistent in this - that city council and the mayor need to have this discussion at city council,” she said. “My understanding is the projects that are under way were voted on by city council. Maybe not all as one package, but in parcels; and so I think my position that city council needs to weigh in on this is consistent with the way the projects were developed.”

She reiterated that the province won’t be putting forward any new cash, so the additional costs of any new subways would have to come out of money already committed.

“The plan that was developed was developed collaboratively, and we’re going to work in that way going forward,” she said.

“We’ve said as a province we’ll work with the mayor, we’ll work with city council. But we need to understand what it is they want to be doing going forward.

“These are not unilateral decisions to be made.”