TORONTO - There was no threat to unleash Ford Nation during the Oct. 6 election campaign, but Toronto's mayor made it clear Wednesday he'll support the provincial party that makes his city a priority.
Rob Ford emerged from a 55-minute meeting with Premier Dalton McGuinty to say they'd had a "good conversation" about subway funding, day care, public housing and public health nurses.
However, with an election less than two months away, the mayor said he would also be meeting with Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath.
"I asked the premier, and I’ll be asking Miss Horwath and Mr. Hudak the same questions: what are they going to do for Toronto? More specifically, the Sheppard subway," Ford told reporters. "We had a very, very good, positive conversation."
There was no joint photo opportunity or appearance following the meeting, and while Ford said it was a straightforward get together, he admitted he didn't have a particularly strong relationship with the Liberal premier.
"I’ve obviously known Mr. McGuinty for a long time — my dad was in the legislature at the same time he was — so I don’t have a great friendship because I’ve never known him that well," said Ford. "I think the whole city knows what we need and hopefully the next premier on Oct. 7 will put Toronto as a priority."
Ford insisted he wasn't looking for new money from the province, and McGuinty agreed he would help secure some federal money for the Sheppard subway line that had been allocated for another transit project advocated by the last Toronto mayor, David Miller.
"New mayor, new deal," McGuinty told reporters as he explained there was $333 million "at risk" if the province didn't work with the city to convince the federal government to relocate the funding.
However, McGuinty said he couldn't promise to give Toronto up to $650 million in provincial funds that could go to the Sheppard subway if it isn't spent on the Eglinton line, which the province is funding.
"We could make up to $650 million available once we fully determine what our costs are associated with the Eglinton line," he said. "And it’s pretty hard to make that determination at this point in time."
The two also discussed the future of Ontario Place and Exhibition Place, two aging tourist attractions on Lake Ontario that McGuinty said are underused.
"What a better use is I don’t know, but at some point we should work together to ensure it’s something that invites people here, that is an important tourist draw," said McGuinty. "I think we should take a look at what the possibilities might be."
McGuinty also had a different take on Ford's request for more provincial day care funding, disputing the mayor's claim that he wasn't looking for new money.
"Obviously that wouldn’t be old money," quipped McGuinty.
The New Democrats said they would meet two of Ford's requests by returning to 50 per cent provincial funding of public transit, as long as fares are frozen, and would fund more day care spaces. However, the NDP would not agree to Ford's request to sell off 900 publicly owned homes in the city.
The Tories said they would invest $35 million on public transit and roads to ease gridlock.