03/07/2012 10:35 EST | Updated 05/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Toronto Transit Debate: McGuinty Accuses Tories Of Playing Politics With TTC

TORONTO - Premier Dalton McGuinty is accusing Ontario's Progressive Conservatives of playing politics with Toronto transit.

Opposition Leader Tim Hudak should respect the will of the city's council when it comes to Ontario's $8.4-billion contribution to the transit expansion project, McGuinty said Wednesday.

Hudak is pushing the governing Liberals — who are picking up most of the bill — to order Toronto to build subways, even through a majority of city councillors are backing light rail.

Mayor Rob Ford, who favours subways, faces a key transit vote March 21.

The Tories, who were shut out of Toronto in last fall's election, are "looking to align themselves with a particular group of folks in the city of Toronto," McGuinty said.

"They're playing politics," he added.

"To me, it's plain and simple. And I don't think you should play politics with an $8.4-billion investment in public transit. And I don't think you should play politics when it comes to respecting the will of the council."

The province must accept that there will be "some controversy" over whether the city should build more subways or go with light rail, McGuinty said.

"But in the end, you've got to allow people to make the call for themselves, and that's the council as a whole," he said.

That's why the province's funding agreement with Ford requires him to get council approval for any transit plan, McGuinty added.

Hudak tried to pass a motion Tuesday calling on the province to fund subways, but the Liberals and NDP combined to defeat it.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she agrees that the province should abide by whatever city council decides.

Subways are more expensive than light rail, Hudak acknowledged. But Toronto will benefit from keeping the "glorified streetcars" off busy roads and McGuinty's accusations completely miss that point, he said.

"I think that the premier is trying to divert from what the essence of this issue is," Hudak said Wednesday.

"If you're going to invest $8.4 billion that's been there since 2008, what's in the best interest of the people of Toronto and the province of Ontario?" he asked.

"And I think, clearly, building underground with subways is much better than ripping up streets and taking away lanes permanently for streetcars."

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