Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Scarborough councillors lay track for ill-advised ideas in 2015

By: Metro Canada Published on Wed Jan 07 2015

To mark the beginning of a brand new year, the Scarborough Mirror’s Mike Adler asked several Scarborough councillors about their goals for 2015.

So what do some of council’s Scarborough reps have in mind? A bunch of very ill-advised ideas, apparently.

Take Coun. Jim Karygiannis, a newbie to city hall but a political veteran. He told Adler that his top priority is to scrap plans for the TTC’s McNicoll Ave. bus garage. The proposed garage has run into opposition from community groups who are concerned about noise, air quality and traffic — even though it’s located on land that has been zoned for heavy industrial uses for more than a decade.

Of course, it’s fair game for community groups to express those concerns. But the job of a city councillor goes beyond blindly carrying out the demands of angry constituents. There are costs and trade-offs to consider. A fiscal impact statement prepared by city staff in August warned that any delay or change to the McNicoll bus garage plan will result in escalated costs of about $13 million per year.

That’s no small figure. But does the prospect of jacking up costs by $13 million a year bother the supposedly fiscally conservative Karygiannis? Because it probably should.

But wait, there's more! Coun. Michelle Berardinetti, returning for a second term, told Adler she wants Section 37 funds to be shared across the city. Section 37 funds come into play when developers propose a project — usually a condo — that packs in more density than the city’s official plan allows. The money, in theory, goes to local projects that offset the impacts of increased density.

For whatever the faults of that arrangement — and there are more than a few — pooling that money and doling it out across the city is an odd solution. What sense does it make to take money generated by increased density from a development in Liberty Village and spend it in Scarborough?

But the worst idea championed by several Scarborough councillors is the same bad idea that’s been put forward for more than a decade now: an extension of the Sheppard subway.

Coun. Norm Kelly, Coun. Raymond Cho and Karygiannis are now all on record saying they want the Sheppard subway expanded, with Coun. Chin Lee staying on the fence but expressing a willingness to delay the Sheppard East LRT. Cho’s desire for a subway extension is particularly notable, given he voted in favour of a motion confirming LRT as the “preferred rapid transit mode for Sheppard Avenue East” just a couple of years back.

We’ve been over the arguments for and against a Sheppard subway extension roughly a million times before. Arguments in favour are generally couched in language about Scarborough not having its fair share of subway stations. Meanwhile, arguments against the subway generally cite things like ridership projections and value-for-money analysis. I find the latter far more credible, which may explain why I’m not a Scarborough councillor.

None of this is meant to be read as a knock against Scarborough. I like Scarborough, and I have no objection to spending lots of public money in Scarborough, as the original Transit City LRT plan would have done.

But these kinds of ideas aren’t likely to do anything for Scarborough except burn time and resources. There’s a pressing need to get back to the facts and set aside a Scarborough-versus-Toronto sentiment that fuels bad politics — and bad ideas — in the city’s east end.

This post was originally published at on 2015-01-07T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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