At a meeting of TTC Commissioners yesterday, five councillors voted to block a TTC staff report on possible construction and alignment alternatives for the Eglinton LRT. Only the TTC Chairperson, Karen Stintz, and Commissioners Maria Augimeri and John Parker stood opposed.
The move is an attempt by Commissioners allied to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford to block or delay discussion of a proposal to revert the design of the Eglinton LRT from an all-underground alignment to a subway-surface alignment costing up to $2 billion less. For the past week, Karen Stintz and other councillors had been working towards a compromise proposal that would bring the Eglinton LRT to the surface at Brentcliffe and into the middle of Eglinton Avenue east of the Don Valley Parkway. The savings realized by this move could then be put to extending the Sheppard subway to Victoria Park and installing bus rapid transit along Finch Avenue.
Ford loyalists voted to gut staff recommendations on working with Metrolinx to finalize a framework for construction of the Eglinton project. The effect was that staff were not instructed to continue working with Metrolinx, and in theory detailed information about alternatives for the Eglinton project won’t come forward to the TTC or Council.
Stintz has now effectively lost control of the Commission, and the true-blue Ford team has decided to run the show as they see fit. How long she will stay as chair remains to be seen given the procedural manoeuvres required to unseat her.
Council now must seize the initiative. Everyone has been trying to be oh-so-conciliatory, saying things they hoped Mayor Ford and his team would take as overtures for compromise, but Ford wants none of it. It’s subways all the way.
By his actions, Ford has shown he only knows how to fight for turf, and that’s a disappearing quantity. Ford Nation is becoming Ford Island.
The next few weeks should be interesting ones on council as councillors respond to these tactics from the mayor’s office and to the fact that requests for compromise have been effectively rebuffed. As other commentators have noted, there are procedures available to councillors wishing to force this debate, and the matter will likely come to a head at the city council meeting in March. As the Mayor’s Office appears to be turning this issue into what would be a motion of confidence in a provincial or federal parliament, the lobbying on both sides is expected to be intense.
What can you do about this? Regardless of your point of view, it comes down to the same thing: if you want your voice to be heard at city hall, you need to write, call or e-mail your local councillor and Mayor Ford himself. Whether you support the all-underground alignment of the Eglinton LRT or prefer a subway-surface alignment with more money spent on other projects around the city, let your elected representatives know what you think. This will be critical in helping everyone make up their minds between now and March.
Steve Munro: Ford Attempts Coup to Stall Debate on Transit City. Personal Editorial: The Hill He Chose to Fight on