POLITICS

Rob Ford Willing To Hike Taxes To Fund Scarborough Subway Extension

07/12/2013 03:45 EDT | Updated 09/11/2013 05:12 EDT
AP
TORONTO - Toronto taxpayers would see a small tax hike to fund a subway extension in the city's east end, but "the deal's dead" if the province and the federal governments don't pony up their share, Toronto's penny-pinching mayor said Friday.

A beaming Rob Ford said he's pleased the provincial Liberals are willing to switch from funding light rail transit to a subway in Scarborough, which would tack on an estimated $1 billion to the $1.4-billion project.

But he needs all the money Ontario originally pledged — $1.8 billion — "and not a dime less," Ford said. The federal Conservatives also need to pitch in with millions of dollars.

"I'm not here to play games. We have to get this going," he said.

"They've always said, you know, put some skin in the game. Our skin's in the game now."

Ford said he's willing to raise taxes by 0.25 per cent starting in 2015, even though the city manager recommends the city start with a 0.5 per cent increase a year earlier.

What he's proposing would be the equivalent of $5 per household, Ford said.

"We all know new subways come with a price," he said.

City manager Joe Pennachetti, who released a report Friday about the cost options for the proposed subway extension, recommends a 1.1 to 2.4 per cent hike over three years to pay for the multibillion-dollar project.

The project would require a 2.4 per cent tax hike only if the provincial government doesn't meet its $1.8-billion commitment and there's no federal funding, he said.

Ford said he's "satisfied for the most part" with the report, but Pennachetti needs more time to come up with a more detailed financing plan.

"As he develops this financing plan, I've asked the city manager to take every possible step to minimize the burden on the Toronto taxpayers," he said.

The mayor said he'll push federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty for subway money when he speaks with him on Saturday, and will talk to Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray on Monday.

Murray said Thursday he was open to the proposed extension, just two months after nixing the idea. But he said Friday that the province has made no commitment to funding a subway as part of the $8.4 billion it's spending on transit in Toronto.

If council approves it on July 16, Murray said he wants a "viable business plan" that creates jobs and brings the federal government to the table, among other requirements.

It's encouraging that Ford has finally recognized that subways cost money and "the taxpayer is going to have to pay for subways in the city," said TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz.

Since the subway extension would be considered a new project, the city will be in a better position to access federal funds to help pay for it, she said. The LRT wasn't eligible.

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