When Toronto Mayor John Tory heard the news that the TTC spending on the new Spadina to Vaughan subway line was out of control, his response was unequivocal.
“We have lurched from one fiasco to another costing taxpayers … tens of millions of dollars,” Mayor Tory told the Toronto Star back in March.
“Accountability, includes people losing their jobs, it includes people being recognized in a positive way who bring projects in on time and budget, and I just don’t think there’s been a lot of attention paid to that over time.”
Meanwhile, back at York Region Council, there was no anger from any member. In fact the entire Council seemed rather nonplussed about York taxpayers being forced to hand over an extra $92 million (estimate) to complete the line.
Rather than talk of firing under achieving staff, Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti went out of his way to praise the way York Region had managed this process. In Mayor Scarpitti’s view, the cost over runs were entirely the fault of the TTC.
After a short discussion, York Council voted unanimously to approve the additional spending based on very few answers on what the new money would pay for and even fewer answers about where the Region, (with a public debt approaching $2.7 Billion already) would get this money. Some members of council weren’t even aware our taxes were bailing out Toronto mismanagement.
In 2006, planners estimated it would cost $1.5 Billion to build the 8 km extension from Downsview Station to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. The extension was supposed to be complete in time for the Pan Am Games. We now have new estimates of $2.9 billion, and the line is delayed until 2017.
Add this project to the long list of billion dollar scandals that have plagued Ontario over the past decade. While Mayor John Tory seemed to understand taxpayers can no longer afford to foot the bill for government ineptitude, It was unfortunate that York Region Council hasn’t received the same message.
Back in March, members of the York Region Taxpayers Coalition spoke to York Council advocating for the establishment of an Auditor General to report on matters such as this one. We believe that the spending at York Region has been out of control as public debt has now outpaced reserves at the Region.
Without any oversight from an Auditor General, the public has been left in the dark about the money issues that this important level of government is facing. We need to maintain our roads, our policing, our safe water, and other import ant services. But unless a new attitude of accountability is adopted by Chair Wayne Emerson and the rest of Council, we’ll be seeing our region buckle under the immense weight of waste and debt.