07/12/2013 07:53 EDT | Updated 09/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Scarborough subway must be 'evidence-based,' Murray says

Ontario Transportation Minister Glen Murray says Toronto city council must come up with an “evidence-based” reason to extend the subway into Scarborough before the province will abandon its existing plan to build light-rail along the route.

Speaking Friday on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, Murray told host Matt Galloway that dropping light rail in favour of a subway extension is a major endeavor.

"This isn't like moving a lemonade stand from one side of the street to another,” he said.” If next week I don't see an evidence-based plan ... then I think it's going to be a short conversation."

At issue is how to best replace the Scarborough RT, which currently runs east into Scarborough from Kennedy Station on the Bloor-Danforth Subway line. The city had approved a provincially funded plan to use surface light rail along the route but changed course in May, voting in favour of extending the subway instead.

The additional cost of going with a subway over light-rail are estimated by the TTC to be at least $500 million — perhaps closer to a $1 billion, if estimates from the provincial planning agency Metrolinx are to be believed.

Province won't make up the difference

Murray said the province is not willing to make up the difference and repeated his desire to have the federal government contribute to transit.

"We have nothing in our budget for this,” he said. “We are not planning to pay for it."

Galloway asked Murray why the province would consider such a significant amendment to the plan in place, which is based on a signed agreement between the city and province.

“When you've got a major capital project, you've got to get it right the first time,” he said.

Subway report coming to council

Mayor Rob Ford, who prefers subways over light rail, has asked the city manager Joe Pennachetti to deliver a special report at Tuesday's council meeting that will lay out options Toronto could consider to build a subway.

The question of whether to build a subway is also shaping up to be a key issue in an upcoming provincial byelection in Scarborough-Guildwood, which will take place on Aug. 1, along with four others across Ontario.

Ontario's Progressive Conservative Party has accused the Liberals of changing their position on the Scarborough subway in a bid to woo Scarborough voters.