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Mayor and Premier to stand side by side for transit speech

Just days after kicking Mayor David Miller and other local politicians off the board of the province's Toronto-area transportation agency, Premier Dalton McGuinty was to announce new public transit funding today, with the mayor at his side.

The Premier and Transportation Minister Jim Bradley were to make an announcement this afternoon at the Veolia Transport garage in Vaughan, where York Region stores its Viva rapid transit buses. But neither provincial nor Toronto officials would say what was being announced.

It likely involves funding for Toronto projects, since the event will see the mayor standing alongside the Premier so soon after Mr. Miller condemned the province's move to replace him and other local politicians on the board of transportation agency Metrolinx. They are being replaced with private-sector experts and business leaders.

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Queen's Park quietly released a list of 11 people, mostly from the business community, to sit on a transition advisory board for Metrolinx, some of whom may sit on the new board when it is set up.

In addition to outgoing Torstar Corp. chief executive officer Robert Prichard, who has signed up to be an adviser and the interim CEO of Metrolinx, the group includes current Metrolinx chairman Rob MacIsaac and GO Transit chairman Peter Smith, current Metrolinx board member and former Toronto chief planner Paul Bedford and current GO board member and urban planning consultant Lee Parsons.

It also includes: Stephen Smith, chairman and president of First National Financial LP; Jennifer Babe, a partner at Miller Thomson LLP; Rahul Bhardwaj, president and CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation; Tony Gagliano, CEO of St. Joseph Communications; Rose Patten, an executive with BMO Financial Group; Nick Mutton, executive vice-president of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts; and Elyse Allan, president and CEO of GE Canada and former head of the Toronto Board of Trade.

The current Metrolinx board had identified Mr. Miller's Sheppard Avenue East light-rail line and plans to expand Viva as its top two priorities, but the province has yet to sign cheques. But one city hall source said this was not the subject of today's announcement.

The TTC is also awaiting word about whether the province will cover a share of the $1.2-billion needed to replace the city's aging fleet of streetcars, and will be forced to cancel plans to award the contract later this month if funding does not come through.

Sources say today's event would be the first of a string of public transit announcements from Queen's Park, following a budget last week that promised $3-billion for transit over two years, but contained no specifics.

The government has portrayed its move on Monday to replace the existing Metrolinx board as a way to speed up construction plans.

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Mr. McGuinty, citing "a growing impatience," said yesterday Metrolinx needs to be run by executives with a track record for getting things done quickly.

"There's only one outstanding marching order: Don't talk to me about borders. Get this done," Mr. McGuinty told reporters.

But the mayor and some others on the Metrolinx board, and even Mr. Bradley, have denied the agency was hampered by turf wars among local politicians.

And Mr. Miller has repeatedly said that his Transit City light-rail plans are shovel-ready and only need funding, originally promised by Mr. McGuinty in 2007.

With a report from

Karen Howlett

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About the Author
Toronto City Hall Reporter

Jeff Gray is The Globe and Mail’s Toronto City Hall reporter. He has worked at The Globe since 1998. From 2010 to 2016, he was the law reporter in Report on Business, covering Bay Street law firms and white-collar crime. He won an honourable mention at the National Magazine Awards for investigative journalism in 2010. More

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