Odoardo Di Santo
TORONTO - The Scarborough subway is dogma for John Tory mayor and his acolytes. According to the news in recent days it would now seem that the project is in mortal danger.
In 2007, John Tory as Leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario, accused Premier Mc Guinty of not understanding the "real people". As a matter of fact, back then, he organized a tour of the province to meet his "real people".
Even then, he got stuck in another extremely controversial argument: extending public funding to religious schools. The "real people" rejected him during the elections, thus putting an end to his ambitions to become Premier of Ontario.
Today, the “real people” swear that the mayor has put his “faith" in the Scarborough subway. It seems, however, that the mayor has some trouble with math, and potentially with voters.
Let's start with the latter. Scarborough is a large reservoir of votes, and this is an infallible and convincing argument. Without Scarborough’s votes you can’t win. However, three quarters of the city lies outside Scarborough; and those people vote equally well.
The Corriere Canadese, in a recent editorial, pointed out that the West End is regularly ignored. It doesn’t even enter as part of the conversation.
Yet if, after a sleepless, troubled night, perhaps due to a late dinner date, the Mayor would have the unlikely idea to go at dawn and see what happens, so to speak, along Finch West, from Dufferin to the city’s limits, he would realize that many citizens (and these are citizens like everyone else) are waiting for a long awaited bus to get to work.
He would see the bus arriving already crammed with people, take on some passengers, leaving many unhappy others to wait for the next bus ... for hours. But because many of these passengers do not vote, as they do in Scarborough, this will be an unlikely field trip on the part of the mayor.
Last week, however, John Tory held a press conference at the Bloor and Yonge station, a step away from his home, to ask for funds from the Province. He talked about the so-called "relief line" which essentially is a section of subway deemed necessary to connect the Bloor-Danforth line with the center of the city.
During the press conference he literally said that the "relief line” is a 'necessity' because it will provide rapid transport to those who commute to work. At the same time, he said, it will alleviate the pressure on traffic, allowing those who are forced to use the car to go home early and spend more time with the family.
It’s a marvellous idea, and one which the mayor should also extend to the West End citizens who spend hours in the morning to go to work trying to grab a seat on the bus.
These citizens are mostly low-wage workers; many of them earn minimum wage; many are recent immigrants. Someone should discreetly suggest to the mayor that they too are "real people" - and voters. And they too have the right to spend time with their families.
Let’s move on to arithmetic. This is that science that has now become a bit out of fashion and that, when we were students, drove us all mad. That science however, taught us how to do math; add and subtract. Last December, the City of Toronto asked the Federal Government for $13.6 billion to fund infrastructure projects deemed essential.
In the Federal Budget of March, the government allocated $20 billion to be spent in ten years, across Canada.
Toronto has estimated that the city deserves up $5 billion for infrastructures and for the second phase of the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. However, the criteria that this is based upon are not yet clear.
The federal government will verify the figures, but in the meantime it informed the city that the five billion includes the $660 million already promised for the construction of the Scarborough subway.
If we subtract these $660 million, Toronto will have $4 billion-$360 million to build: (1) the "relief line" - which will cost $6.8 billion, (2) The Scarborough subway, which cost $2 billion and that , according to experts, will rise to $5 billion (3) the Eglinton LRT East which will connect the subway to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus ,(4) the line along the lake (waterfront transit and (5 ) The Smart track that John Tory launched before the last election, which included 22 stations on the Go Train rails.
This was the Columbus’ egg used to solve the problem of city traffic. The engineers didn’t buy it and reduced the Smart Track to 4 stations. They also consider it of questionable usefulness 'and feasibility'.
How will the mayor use these numbers to square the circle?