12/02/2013 03:39 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Transit issues too politicized, board of trade head says

The head of the Toronto Region Board of Trade spoke outside the city’s budget meeting Monday calling for transit issues to be less politicized and more fiscally responsible — referring, in part, to the Scarborough subway.

At least 100 speakers had signed up to have their say about the city’s 2014 operating budget.

Trade board president Carol Wilding was at the committee meeting. Wilding had issued a statement in November calling for the mayor to take a leave of absence and “put Toronto first.” At city hall on Monday, Wilding said moving the budget ahead was a step in the right direction.

“We need to be putting Toronto first and that is what today is about, putting Toronto first. We’re talking about $9 billion and a lot of city services and that’s what we want to talk about,” she said. 

Cost-benefit analysis needed

When asked if the board believes the controversial east-end subway extension should be scrapped, she said that is not what they are demanding but expressed concern regarding the Scarborough subway and its lack of cost-benefit analysis.

“We’ve advocated very strongly for a comprehensive regional system, we need a regional plan, so they all need to link together,” she said. “Then when you’re looking in the context of any particular line, you need to have a strong business case and a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

“In the case of the Scarborough subway, it’s not clear that was actually the case in the work that was done,” she told reporters at city hall.

Wilding went on to say that she believes the Scarborough subway issue has become overly politicized.

“When you see five decisions over the course of 12 or 18 months, we're never going to get on with building the infrastructure that we critically need,” she said.

But Coun. Doug Ford responded in disagreement.

“She might be the president, but she doesn’t represent the average member of the board of trade,” he told reporters following Wilding’s comments.

“I was a member of the board of trade for years. I know the folks on the board of trade; they love our fiscal, prudent message that we’ve done over the last three years and we’re going to continue.”

Last week city staff had said a residential property tax hike of 2.5 per cent (about an extra $64 per household) would cover the costs of the Scarborough subway, existing services and $14-million in new services.