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U.S. diplomats interested in TTC contracts, cables show

Former Toronto city councillor Adam Giambrone.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's transit-expansion plans - and the mayoral ambitions of former city councillor Adam Giambrone - caught the eye of U.S. diplomats, who encouraged American companies to bid on subway-expansion construction contracts.

They also expressed concern at the practice of some Ontario cities to ship compost to New York state for incineration.

The revelations are contained in cables from the U.S. consulate in Toronto, released Thursday by WikiLeaks.

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In November of 2009, consular officials noted that some of the requirements of the TTC's plan - specifically the building of new streetcars - had been awarded to Bombardier's Thunder Bay, Ont., plant to assist the province's manufacturing centre, but that the extension of the University-Spadina subway line from Downsview to Vaughan presented opportunities for U.S. firms.

"While nearly half of the total project's value did specify domestic content requirements, the TTC is actively seeking U.S. participation for other aspects of the expansion, including large-scale construction contracts," it reads. "[The]TTC's chairman, an ambitious city councillor with a Toronto mayoral campaign likely in his future, personally urged us to promote the expansion project as an opportunity for U.S. businesses."

Then-chairman Adam Giambrone - who did indeed enter the race for mayor early the following year, only to drop out in the wake of a sex scandal - told The Globe and Mail the subway presented a chance to generate interest among American firms for business opportunities in Toronto.

"While obviously companies with a Toronto presence were appreciated, large transit expansion offered the opportunity to introduce new companies to the Toronto market with the added advantage that they might establish a presence in Toronto which would create new economic opportunities," he wrote in an e-mail.

At the time, the TTC was also planning four light-rail lines as part of the Transit City project. Two are still set to proceed, one has since been scrapped and another may be replaced by a subway, if the city can convince private companies to pay for it.

Earlier in 2009, consular officials also prepared a report on green-bin waste sent from Guelph and York Region to Covanta Energy in Niagara Falls, N.Y., to be incinerated. They warned the practice could eventually lead residents to complain - as they did about Toronto garbage in Michigan years earlier - and suggested a pro-active strategy of promoting the jobs created by the plant and the cheap electricity it could produce.

On more than one occasion, diplomats were mildly skeptical of Ontario's ability to meet its own targets, vis-a-vis the expansion of composting and recycling programs, and questioned whether cities could build the necessary infrastructure.

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With a report from Patrick White.

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About the Author
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

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