NEWS

Candidates clash over transit, conflict of interest rules

10/10/2014 05:08 EDT | Updated 12/10/2014 05:59 EST
As it has throughout the Toronto mayoral race, transit dominated the discussion during candidates' debate Friday.

Doug Ford continued to tout subways, saying he would build underground transit along Finch, Sheppard and on the downtown relief line, which has not yet been planned or funded.

Ford said opponents who favour surface rail will leave riders "standing around in the cold, waiting for an LRT."

"Everyone I talk to wants subways across the board," said Ford. "I'm the only candidate here that's worked with the TTC for four years. People want the best subway system in the world."

Ford stirred a response from Olivia Chow when he said LRTs "destroyed St. Clair Avenue."

"That's a streetcar on St. Clair, not an LRT," said Chow.

John Tory said he would not reverse council's decision to opt for a subway in Scarborough, and continued to push his SmartTrack plan, which calls for two high-speed rail lines into downtown, mainly by using existing GO Transit corridors.

SmartTrack questions continue

Tory's mention of SmartTrack triggered attacks from both Chow and Ford.

Ford said Tory's plan fails to connect properly with existing transit while Chow said there's no room in the Stouffville GO corridor to double-track the line.

"We need to let the experts plan transit," said Chow. "Mr. Tory has not been able to answer how many kilometres of his track would be buried underground."

Chow's transit plan involves investing to improve TTC bus service and opting for surface rail along Sheppard, Finch and into Scarborough.

Tory said Metrolinx has "plenty of land in the east-side corridor to add a second track" and said "no houses" would have to be demolished in the west end of the line.

"These are not insurmountable challenges," said Tory, who added that SmartTrack can be built in seven years, much quicker than other forms of transit expansion.

Ford asked Tory to name the engineering firm he consulted with before coming up with SmartTrack. Tory didn't answer this.

"I'm focused on getting something done that's bold," said Tory. "And of course, my two competitors are going to drag it down."

Will Tory be in conflict of interest over island airport?

Though transit dominated much of the debate, in a scrum afterwards Ford and Chow asked how Tory would avoid potential conflicts of interests over the proposed runway expansion at Billy Bishop airport.

Chow made specific mention of Tory's son, who is works for a company that operates at the airport. Council is expected to revisit in the new year a controversial proposed expansion plan that would allow jets to operate from the island airport. Currently only turboprop planes can fly there.

"It seems that [Tory] has a potential conflict," said Chow. "And if he does declare a conflict, he will not be able to talk to city staff. He will not be able to provide direction on a critical issue that is in front of the city."

Tory responded by saying that if elected, he will go over the rules with the city's integrity commissioner to ensure he's not in violation.

"I will follow all the rules," said Tory. "The proper time to do that is the day after I get elected."

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