Mississauga has no money to pay for planned $1.6-billion LRT
Mississauga's Mayor, Bonnie Crombie, and the city manager say that a planned $1.6-illion LRT might get cancelled if the province can’t pay for all of it
Jan. 14, 2015
Mississauga’s mayor and city manager made a stunning admission Wednesday, stating that a planned $1.6-billion LRT along the city’s main thoroughfare is likely to be cancelled if the province can’t pay the full cost.
“I think there would be a very serious review of the feasibility of that project, from our perspective,” city manager Janice Baker said after Wednesday’s council meeting when asked why no money was being set aside for the project in the city’s 2015 budget, currently being presented to council.
If the province decides Mississauga must pay for even one-third of the cost, a common model, “I would say as the city manager my recommendation to city council would be that the impact of that on the property tax payer would be so onerous as to be impossible,” Baker said.
Mayor Bonnie Crombie said that “at the very least, it would be significantly delayed.” If the LRT isn’t 100 per cent externally funded, “There would be a very serious discussion with our council on if we want to proceed with it.”
Mississauga is facing a dire financial picture. Even without budgeting for the LRT or Crombie’s promised $2-billion transit expansion beyond that, the city is still looking at a 4 per cent increase on its share of the property tax bill this year. The average increase for the past four years has been around 5 per cent. Since 2011, the city has reported an infrastructure deficit, not including high-level transit projects, of $1.5 billion over 20 years.
Crombie said no money has been allocated toward the $2-billion rapid-transit expansion she promised in her election platform, “because it’s long-term visioning. It would have to be brought to council to be debated and be discussed.”
Crombie and Baker both said the Hurontario LRT is the main priority right now. In December, responding to questions before the 2015 budget presentations began, Baker told council that, “The entire LRT — track, train, all of the supporting infrastructure for that — is a 100 per cent provincial cost.”
She said Wednesday that was the city’s “assumption” based heavily on the province’s earlier plan to fund 100 per cent of LRT construction in Toronto (a plan since sidetracked by the city’s subway debate).
“Having said that, neither the province or Metrolinx have put any specifics on the table with respect to how this project will be funded,” Baker said. “So while we are making an assumption, it is certainly possible that in the end they will come back and say, ‘Well, you’ve assumed incorrectly.’”
“We have identified the Hurontario Main LRT as a priority project,” said Mark Ostler, spokesperson for Metrolinx, the provincial agency overseeing the regional Big Move transit plan. “We’re exploring all sources of funding — a range of shared funding models.”
Asked if it’s possible that instead of a “shared” model, the province might tell Mississauga it will cover the LRT’s capital costs, he said: “I really can’t say.”
At least one councillor says he’s pretty sure of the answer. “I think you’re dreaming in Technicolor if you think the province is going to hand us a 100 per cent cheque,” said George Carlson.
Between the enormous cost of the LRT and $2 billion for Crombie’s promise, “you’re talking about a scale of money that has never been explained to us, not by the mayor, staff or any transit gurus.
“We took almost an hour today to debate $200,000 for traffic calming — speed bumps. You’re talking about two or three billion (dollars) for a complete overhaul of our entire transit system.”
If that’s what residents want, Carlson said, they’re going to have to pay for it. And they can decide.
“Maybe we’re going to have to have a referendum on this.”