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Scarborough MPPs play bad politics on transit

In the lead up to the Sheppard transit decision earlier this month, Scarborough MPPs decided to make their opinions known. The group — all of them Liberals — backed underground transit over the at-grade light rail that council eventually endorsed. In doing so, they exemplified the worst kind of politics: pandering, cowardly and empty-headed.

They tried to explain their reasoning in a letter, released a day before council was set to meet on March 21:

As MPP's representing the Scarborough area we are disappointed with how the public transit debate at Toronto City Hall has unfolded.All six MPP's from Scarborough supported the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the Mayor signed with the Ontario Government which enabled the Eglinton Crosstown line to be built underground.All six Scarborough Liberal MPP’s support the extension of the Sheppard subway line to Scarborough Town Centre or beyond. We strongly urge council to consider its options to connect all parts of Scarborough with reliable and timely transit.

They continued to interject their opinion even after council's decision. Scarborough-Centre MPP Brad Duguid told's Danielle Milley that he was “very disappointed” with the result of the vote.

These Scarborough MPPS are – of course – well within their rights to have an opinion on transit in their riding. Where they went out-of-bounds was advocating for the most expensive kind of transit without also advocating that their own government provide more money for transit in Toronto – the kind of money that is, you know, necessary for large-scale subway construction.

Given the fiscal constraints – on both the capital and the operating side – this group backed (and continues to back) reckless decision-making that would have deprived vast sections of the city of promised transit improvements and dramatically increased the TTC's operating costs.

Nothing political happens in a vacuum: by supporting an all-underground option for Eglinton, these MPPs were tacitly supporting a continued sardine-squashed bus ride for Finch residents and zero improvement to transit on the Sheppard corridor. Later, when they supported the Sheppard subway option to Scarborough Town Centre, they endorsed an entirely unfunded and unrealistic planning concept.

If these MPPs – Duguid, Soo Wong, Margarett Best, Bas Balkissoon, Lorenzo Berardinetti and Tracy MacCharles – are so adamant that their constituents deserve subways above all else, then do like the movie says: show Toronto the money. Tell your premier to provide this city with the funding mechanisms necessary to support ongoing subway construction and operation.

Otherwise: stand clear. These doors are closing.

This post was originally published at on 2012-03-31T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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