03/22/2012 06:37 EDT | Updated 05/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Toronto LRT vs Subway: City Council Resumes Debate Over Public Transit

TORONTO - Toronto Mayor Rob Ford may have lost his transit battle after city council voted against his subway plan, but he insists he isn't giving up the fight.

City councillors voted 24-19 Thursday in favour of a motion to build light-rail transit to the east end along Sheppard Avenue instead of a subway, something Ford had pushed hard for.

"I respect the will of council. However, I do not agree with council's final decision. It was my hope that council would respect the wish of taxpayers," Ford said in a statement.

"I will continue to advocate for subways as part of future rapid transit expansion in Toronto."

The decision came on the second day of a heated special meeting after Ford abruptly shut down the debate Wednesday night.

The vote was considered a huge loss for Ford.

But the outspoken mayor refused to back down, saying this was an election issue and he was willing to "take anyone on to fight about streetcars against subways in the next election."

"I feel sorry for the taxpayers, I feel sorry for the residents," he said after the vote.

"The residents are the ones that spoke loud and clear, that said, 'Rob, go to bat, fight, fight, fight,' and I did exactly that. I did everything I could and we came up a few votes shy."

Ontario Transportation Minister Bob Chiarelli said Thursday that provincial transportation agency Metrolinx will review the newly approved plan and cabinet will deal with it "in a timely manner."

"Last year, the province signed a memorandum of understanding with Mayor Rob Ford to build a subway along Sheppard, on the condition that the plan be approved by council."

"This government respects the will of the city's democratically elected councillors and they sent a message today to the province and to Metrolinx that light-rail transit is their preference."

"Through the McGuinty government's $8.4-billion transit commitment, we are investing in keeping this city moving."

Coun. Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, played down the loss.

"I respect the will of council 100 per cent; they don't respect the will of the people, because the will of the people very clearly stated in the city that they want subways, they do not want streetcars," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, this is social engineering, this is a nanny-state, when politicians dictated to the people, against their will, this is what you're getting."

Most councillors had expressed support for the light-rail option, which they say is cheaper and would serve more people sooner. The funding for such a project is already in place.

Coun. Josh Matlow accused the mayor of failing to provide the decisive leadership his office demands, and argued the Ford brothers squandered the opportunity to present council with a real argument and funding plan.

"He just said: 'I want subways, I want subways,'" Matlow said of the mayor.

An expert panel commissioned by council has endorsed light-rail as the best option, but Ford has said the panel is biased.

(The Canadian Press, 680 News)

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