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Eglinton development could help pay for Sheppard Line

Critics of Mayor Rob Ford's idea for a Sheppard subway line have long criticized the planning process for taking place away from public scrutiny.

But a new city tender issued by the enigmatic agency set up to explore financing options for the subway line sheds some light on how Mr. Ford hopes to pay for the transit link.

Posted on Friday, the bid opportunity asks for a private-sector consultant who can formulate a business plan for the subway on behalf of Toronto Transit Infrastructure Limited (TTIL), the long-dormant consulting arm of the TTC that Mr. Ford reconstituted specifically to come up with a viable funding model for the Sheppard subway.

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The document states that TTIL will pay up to $200,000 for a consultant who can formulate a plan for how tax-increment financing and other development charges could be leveraged to pay for a subway line that Mr. Ford hopes to build from Yonge out to Kennedy.

It suggests that the Sheppard line could draw on funds from projects well beyond the Sheppard line, possibly even pulling in money generated by the Eglinton subway line to which the province has pledged $8-billion.

In essence, the city needs a consultant to calculate the complex array of possible fees, levies, tolls, taxes, investment dollars and other funds into a tidy formula for financing the $4-billion Sheppard subway.

"We will explore all potential revenue sources," said Gordon Chong, head of the TTIL. "This review, when it's finally said and done, will present all the options. It will then be up to sitting politicians whether it's palatable or not."

Some councillors questioned why development fees earned in other regions of the city should be funnelled towards the Mayor's pet project.

"Development charges on Eglinton are required for the funding of infrastructure around Eglinton - that's what development charges are for," argued Councillor Janet Davis. "They should go towards roads and libraries and community centres along Eglinton. To use them to finance a subway in another district is something the Eglinton community will certainly have a lot to say about."

That logic doesn't scan for Mr. Chong, who said that regional protectionism should not apply to a transit system that benefits every corner of the city.

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"We must be more broad-minded," he said. "The transit network should be considered a transit network for all of Toronto. It's time for Torontonians to stop being so downtown-centric. I think Toronto has declined in the last decade because it has done nothing right. The Sheppard line changes that and we need to get it right."

Even with all those development charges factored in, funding will be tight. Figures show that all Toronto's construction projects contributed just $90-million in development fees to city coffers, well short of the $4.2-billion needed to build the Sheppard line.

Investment from pension funds and other private investment bodies could help fill in the shortfall, according to Mr. Chong.

He expects to have a solid business plan together by summer's end.

"As much as I'd like to say we'll get shovels in the ground soon," he said, "I suspect that won't happen for another two or three years," he said.

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About the Author
National reporter

Patrick previously worked in the Globe's Winnipeg bureau, covering the Prairies and Nunavut, and at Toronto City Hall. He is a National Magazine Award recipient and author of the book Mountie In Mukluks. More

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