Corp Comm Connects

Provincial budget cuts $1.1 billion in funding to Toronto transit
April 15, 2019
Francine Kopun and Jennifer Pagliaro

Mayor John Tory said Thursday that he is “incredibly disappointed” that the provincial government has reneged on a promise to double the city’s share of the gas tax -- a broken promise that will cost Toronto $1.1 billion in funding for transit over the next 10 years.

“This was a commitment that was affirmed by the governing party, by the Progressive Conservative Party, during the election campaign, and we had budgeted … for much of that committed increase to go towards the state-of-good-repairs for the TTC,” Tory said at a press conference after the PC government under Premier Doug Ford tabled its first budget.

“These are the kinds of things that this gas-tax increase, which was to step up over the next few years, was to pay for, and it was committed and we made our plans on the basis of that commitment.”

City staff said that $585 million of gas-tax funds had already been allocated to projects in the TTC’s 10-year capital budget, projects that included overhauling buses, repairing subway tracks, making subway stations accessible and fixing other things to ensure the system runs smoothly.

Now the city has to find that money somewhere else.

TTC Chair Jaye Robinson said the gas-tax decision was a serious blow to the transit agency, which is already grappling with a major funding shortfall for work required over the next 15 years to keep the system running and meet projected new ridership demands.

“We were counting on that money,” said Robinson, who is also the councillor for Ward 15, Don Valley West.

“We had embedded this into our budget, and we were projecting using these funds. These are basic infrastructure elements of our system … and here we now have another major hit.”

On Wednesday, the day before the provincial budget was tabled, Ford announced expansive new transit plans for Toronto, promising at least $11.2 billion in provincial funding for the projects.

On Thursday, Robinson said she was concerned Ford’s government just wants to take credit for building new transit, while sticking the city with the bill for keeping the system in good running order.

“They’re cutting the part of the operations that we’re responsible for,” Robinson said.

Increasing Toronto’s share of the gas tax was a concession offered to Tory, after the Liberals, under Kathleen Wynne, rejected a request by the City of Toronto to impose road tolls on the DVP and Gardiner Expressway.

The tolls had been approved by city council.

Tory fumed at the time that he felt like he was being treated like a “little boy going up to Queen’s Park in short pants.”

To make up for refusing to allow the tolls, Wynne said that, instead, the province would double gas-tax funding for municipalities to four cents a litre from two cents by 2021, to help cover transit and infrastructure projects.

Tory said that, during the election campaign, the PC party promised to uphold that commitment.

Tory said Thursday that the city needs to make up $24 million this year as a result of the lost gas-tax increase.

About $90 million of the gas tax transfer typically goes towards the TTC’s $2-billion operating budget.

The increase would have doubled that amount.

“The Province will not move forward with the previous government’s proposed changes to the municipal share of gas tax funding,” budget documents stated.

“Over the next few months, the government will consult with municipalities to review the program parameters and identify opportunities for improvement. This review will be informed by the goals of responsible planning and a more sustainable government to ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent as effectively as possible.”