The federal government is pushing back on Ontario’s latest demand that Ottawa promise funding for a new subway proposal, with one official saying they don’t write "blank cheques.”
The proposal for a new version of the downtown relief line – dubbed the Ontario Line – was part of a bigger subway plan that promptly raised questions at both the federal and municipal levels, with bureaucrats sending dozens of requests for more information. Among the unknowns: the depth of the tunnels, the type of trains that would run on the Ontario Line and whether the technology being considered “has been proven to perform under similar climate conditions experienced in Toronto.”
When Premier Doug Ford unveiled his plan for this line, he said that his government was willing to fund it entirely. But he said he would prefer that other levels of government kick in as well.
Within weeks of the subway plan being made public, provincial deputy House leader Stephen Lecce said that the federal government was “MIA” on subway funding and that “their silence is deafening.” On Monday, two of his cabinet colleagues echoed that complaint.
While Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek acknowledged that a formal business case for the subway line was not yet complete, he said that should be no impediment.
“We don’t need a business case to know that the current subway system isn’t working,” he told reporters, joined by Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton. “The time is now for the Ontario Line. That’s why we’re calling on Ottawa to give their conditional support and help us give Toronto what it deserves.”
Ottawa shot back that even though the provincial government had indicated certain transit projects that it wanted funded, including the Ontario Line, it had provided insufficient information about them.
“They, as a government, need to spend more time on substance – that’s what Ontarians expect,” Brook Simpson, director of parliamentary affairs and issues in the office of the federal infrastructure minister, said in an e-mailed statement.
“As Ministers McNaughton and Yurek well know, real applications and business cases are needed in order to get federal approval and we hope they follow up soon. We are not in the business of writing blank cheques with public funds when so many questions remain to be answered as to how the funds will be used."