Two words I never hope to write again. Ever.
Today the federal government announced they’re putting their skin into the game to the tune of $660 million for the city council approved subway extension of the Bloor-Danforth line all the way up to Sheppard Avenue East. At first blush, it would seem that seals the deal. Scarborough gets its subway built for all the wrong reasons.
Damn. Scarborough. Subway again. Damn. Again.
On Metro Morning today Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, a Johnny-come-lately supporter of a Scarborough subway (OK. After this post I hope to never write that phrase again.), called today’s news a ‘game changer’. He may just be right but like the subway he’s touting, for the wrong reasons. Or at least unexpected ones.
The provincial government, who seems to have been entirely side-stepped on this move from Ottawa, might look at this and see no further political gain from any insistence on ‘their’ subway line being built. They helped bring the feds to the table. A Scarborough subway will now get built. One way or the other, they will be providing the lion’s share of the funding, so they can rightly call it a victory.
Given the fractious relationship that’s developed between Queen’s Park and City Hall especially over this issue, however, I think anyone believing things will get quietly wrapped up in such a peaceful fashion are as deluded as those who see this project as a solution to the woes Scarborough transit users face. It’s not just the mayor I’m referring to on this point. The TTC chair’s rather belligerent approach with the province can’t have made any friends.
So we really shouldn’t expect the Liberal government to simply shrug its shoulders, sign a cheque and assure us no harm, no foul, should we? This is where the play really gets rough. We now go into the corners, elbows up.
Here’s our contribution to the subway, the province tells the city. $1.4 billion plus the nearly half billion more going into the Kennedy station redesign and rebuild. Let’s call it $1.8 billion, shall we?
That’s already $400 million the city now has to make up.
Don’t forget the sunk costs already gone into the Scarborough LRT plans. And if we go with the council subway plans the feds are backing, the current SRT’s lifespan will have to be extended now to the better part of 10 years and then torn down completely. We might be looking at over a quarter billion dollars in additional money by some estimates that the province can rightly say are on the city.
And this is before we get to calculating our direct portion of the subway project we need to pony up through an additional increase in property taxes. We know where our mayor stands on the matter, and going into an election year? How many incumbents will be willing to go to the electorate campaigning for either/or additional property taxes/service cuts to offset the costs of building the Scarborough subway?
That’s why I’d hesitate making any predictions about how today’s news is going to affect the outcome of upcoming elections. To date, the debate’s all been about fuzzy hypotheticals and wishful thinking coloured in crayon on pretend maps. Things just got real and it’ll be interesting to see how politically expedient an embrace of subways will be when the discussion turns to actual costs everybody’s going to be paying – not just in terms of money in the form of property taxes but in cuts to other services we might suddenly be looking out to fund this one particular project for one portion of the city.
Everybody loves getting stuff. It’s the paying for it discussion that gets thorny. And we just walked into the Scarborough subway bramble.
It’s probably not going to be the last time I commit those two words to the page.
— so-so-so-tiredly submitted by Cityslikr