03/25/2013 05:58 EDT | Updated 05/25/2013 05:12 EDT

Discount TTC Passes For Low-Income Torontonians debate sidetracked by expansion

TORONTO - A proposal to introduce discount TTC passes for low-income Torontonians was sidetracked Monday by the ongoing debate over funding for transit expansion.

Toronto's Board of Health raised concerns that there was no way to fund such an initiative when the city is already struggling to raise enough money to expand public transit.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has previously talked about the need for what she calls new revenue tools — road tolls or some other kind of tax — for transit improvements in the southern Ontario.

Coun. Gord Perks spoke against using tolls to generate funds and said he would not be "railroaded" into helping the provincial government get away with being "the worst in funding transit in Canada."

"The transit system we all ride now... was purchased using provincial income tax... This whole exercise that we're in now about revenue tools to pay for transit is the province saying 'no, we won't pay for transit as we always have,'" Perks said.

Coun. Joe Mihevc, however, said that tolls are the "right way to go" because tolls discourage cars and the money can be used to improve roads and not go to public transit alone.

In light of the ongoing transit debate, Toronto's chief medical officer of health, David McKeown, said that this was the right time to be considering the plight of low-income Torontonians.

"We're in the process of reshaping how we move around the GTA. Seems to me that this is the time to be thinking about not leaving out the part of the population that are most dependent on transit," he said.

A report released earlier by McKeown recommended that Toronto follow in the footsteps of other cities like Calgary and Guelph in providing discount transit passes and tickets for low-income earners.

The Board of Health voted to forward the issue to the Community Development and Recreation Committee with a recommendation to consult with the TTC.

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