Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Last chance for LRT: Is there any chance the Scarborough subway is voted down?

Here we go again.

The Scarborough subway is up for debate at Toronto City Council this week, kicking off this morning. This will be the third time council has held a vote on this subway in 2013, and I wouldn't expect a different result this time. Unless several councillors spontaneously change their minds, this should be the final vote on the issue — and the subway side will probably win.

It'll be a shame. We've been over this again and again, but it's worth repeating that the Scarborough LRT would have run in a separate right-of-way at subway speeds, greatly simplified the subway transfer at Kennedy Station and saved the city more than a billion dollars. Every councillor who votes to amend the transit agreement with the province will be complicit in wasting at least $85 million in costs already sunk into the LRT project.

But, hey, it's a subway, and people like subways. And that's simple argument that seems to trump all others. Still, there is a group of councillors preparing to fight for the LRT until the bitter end this week — so it's worth considering what it would take for them to pull out a win.

Here are the results for the last two Scarborough subway votes held at city hall:

The first vote in May was regarded by a lot of councillors as a benign motion that didn't mean anything. That turned out to be wrong, which is why so many of them switched to the LRT side when the issue came back to council in July. But the July vote was still decisive, coming down 28-16.

Some things have changed since then. Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti has returned to full-time duties after recovering from brain surgery. He'll say some outlandish things and come out as an ardent subway supporter. But his support will be offset by a vacancy in Ward 3, as Doug Holyday's replacement won't be appointed by council until after the subway vote.

Which means 28-16 remains the likely starting point, necessitating a big seven-vote swing if LRT supporters hope to gain traction.

The last, best hope for LRT advocates? They need to look to left- and middle-leaning councillors who voted for the subway in July.

That means talking to people like Coun. Paul Ainslie, who voted for LRT in May but then changed his mind after speaking to some of his constituents. There's also potential pick-ups in Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon, Coun. Joe Mihevc, Coun. Mary Fragedakis, Coun. Anthony Perruzza, Coun. Ana Bailão, Coun. Ron Moeser and Coun. James Pasternak.

I'm not going to lie: while I expect this vote to be tighter than the previous two, I don't see a real plausible path to a majority for the LRT side.

But even if the result of the main LRT-or-subway vote looks inevitable, there are still many issues related to financing a subway extension that are likely to be contentious, and may even prove to work as a poison pill. As I wrote in my column this week, there's a real chance that Mayor Rob Ford will push council to endorse going forward with the subway while delaying decisions on exactly how to pay for the nearly $1 billion the city is on the hook to fund. It's hard to overstate just how fiscally irresponsible that would be.

If the side of council that supports LRT can't stop the subway, they'd better make sure they at least stop that.

This post was originally published at on 2013-10-08T00:00:00.000Z

About the author

Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
Website / Twitter / Email Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott


Follow Me on Twitter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments