Councillor Doug Ford wants to rally the people of Toronto to save the mayor's subway plans.
The Save our Subways campaign, or S.O.S. as he is calling it, is still in its infancy, but the Etobicoke councillor is predicting it will sway the McGuinty government to see things the mayor's way – just as the voters of Oakville managed to halt construction on a power plant near their homes in the runup to this fall's provincial election.
"McGuinty folded on that power plant there. Is he going to fold here?" Councillor Ford asked. "The mayor respects the will of council and always has. The council is not respecting the will of the people.
The plans for the public campaign come less than a week after Toronto's subway-loving mayor suffered a stunning defeat of his transit plans at the hands of city councillors. Last week at a special transit meeting, a majority of councillors led by TTC chair Karen Stintz endorsed a plan that included street-level light rail on Eglinton Avenue east of the Don Valley and Finch Avenue West. It also created a expert panel to study the mayor's campaign pledge for a subway expansion on Sheppard, with a report due next month.
The move runs counter to a deal signed last year by Premier Dalton McGuinty and the mayor to use $8.4-billion in provincial transit funding to bury the entire Eglinton Crosstown line, an agreement that failed to get the required support of council.
While the city waits for the next move from the province, Councillor Ford said it is time for the public to get involved. "We are going to have to start some organization like the lefties do," he said, vowing to use e-mail, automated calls and "10 little Mrs. Jones," making calls to drum up support.
The mayor's office, he said, has received more calls supporting subways than any other issue and the polls show subways are what the public wants. Councillor Ford hopes to open an S.O.S. office on Eglinton Avenue East for starters and then move the focus to Sheppard and eventually Finch.
Political foes of the Ford administration may think they have scored a win, but Councillor Ford, his brother's campaign manager during his campaign for mayor, said they are paving the way for more years for the mayor.
"You can't win the city unless you win Scarborough and Etobicoke," he said. After the council defeat, the councillor said, he was "high-fiving" his brother. "I told him, this is positive. This is a clear agenda. You've got it. It's done."
Councillor Adam Vaughan, a critic of Mayor Ford said, all the slogans in the world won't address the $1-billion funding gap that exists for extending the Sheppard line.
"There are a billion reasons why we can't give you a subway," Mr. Vaughan said he would tell Scarborough residents. "It's $1-billion in new taxes and $1-billion in new development charges that come from massive condominiums that sprout out everywhere."
Mr. Vaughan said attempts to drum up support for subway projects – such as the mayor's weekly community walks – will not change the transit plan endorsed by council that delivers transit to more residents in the east end. "They can walk around malls until they are blue in the face, council has made a decision," he said. "There are folks all over Scarborough who are celebrating."