Are York Region Tax Dollars funding a cash cow for the City of Toronto?

build on

The Ontario Government recently announced that $55 million has been set aside to study the feasibility of extending the Line 1 TTC subway line along Yonge Street to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill.

And as we see politicians in photo-ops brag about spending our money on transportation studies, the York Taxpayer Coalition is calling on all levels of government to reflect upon the lessons learned during the construction of the Toronto Yonge-Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) project to avoid committing the same costly mistakes.

Originally slated to cost $2.6 billion, the 8.6 km long TYSSE project has experienced more than a half a billion dollars in cost over runs that can only be described as ‘out of control.’ The most recent budget is now pegged at $3.18 billion, was originally announced in 2006, and supposed to be completed in the fall of 2015. We are now looking at the end of 2017 before any riders will be able to ride the new line.

While cost over runs and delays are sometimes unavoidable, it’s the agreement signed between the three levels of government that caused York Region taxpayers the most grief. Because the Federal and Provincial level governments “locked in” the sums they were contributing, it meant approximately $550 million in additional costs were shared exclusively between the City of Toronto and York Region alone. Being one of Canada’s most indebted municipalities, the extra costs are an unexpected burden that Regional Municipality of York could ill afford.

Before committing any more money to subway extensions, the York Region Taxpayers Coalition is calling on York Region Council to be completely transparent about the cost of a Line 1 Finch to Highway 7 extension. Before the shovels hit the ground, taxpayers have a right to know:

1. How are costs to be shared between the federal, provincial and municipal governments?

2. Will there be a balanced approach to cost over runs?

3. What are the environmental costs of this project including any flood mitigation concerns?

4. Does the cost sharing agreement offset the additional revenues that the TTC will receive once the extension is built? Should York Region tax dollars go towards funding a cash cow for the City of Toronto?

5. How will the funds for the subway extension be raised? Will it be through development charges, additional debts, or higher taxes?

Considering that any subway extension into Richmond Hill will cost York Region taxpayers several hundreds of millions of dollars, it’s best that we get answers to these questions as soon as possible.

The TYSSE cost each York Region household over $2,000 to build – on top of the debt homeowners already have. With that kind of money on the line, York Region residents are right to demand to know what the Richmond Hill extension will cost us too.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition expects that the Municipality of York Region will provide answers before voters head to the polls in October 2018. Candidates and incumbents right across York Region’s nine municipalities should be prepared to speak about how much money and resources they are willing to commit to these additional subway stops in Richmond Hill.

Newmarket-Aurora MPP inexplicably gets in the way of his own Bill

On Wednesday, February 24th, York Region Taxpayers Coalition’s president Maddie Di Muccio attended the Ontario Legislature Committee reviewing Bill 42 on the proposed election of the York Region Chair.

Each of the presenters was supportive of an elected Chair for York Region.

The York Region Taxpayers Coalition presented our views as well and fielded questions from all three parties clarifying our position.

After the Committee hearing wrapped up, Di Muccio stayed on at Queen’s Park and spoke to members of the Legislature on Bill 42.

This bill is a private member’s bill, and as is the nature of private bills, it seems that MPP Ballard may have an uphill battle to get it passed. The level of support from the public and from what was sensed by observing the committee isn’t doubted.

As it stands, it’s unclear whether the governing party, the Ontario Liberals, will agree to place it before the Legislature to vote on.

In fact, we learned yesterday that earlier the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly attempted to move Bill 42 ahead, but astoundingly, it was MPP Ballard himself that requested the Bill be removed from the order.

It seems that even MPP Ballard isn’t sold on the idea of an elected Chair.

The advice we received is as follows:

In 2018, voters need to ask candidates where they stand on electing a Regional Chair and support only any Mayor and Regional Council candidates who will agree to a general election. If there is a “made in York Region solution” after the 2018 election, the Ontario Legislature will happily approve this.

However, as long as the current set of Mayors and Regional Councillors are opposed to the idea of electing a Chair person, it’s unlikely that the Ontario Legislature will want to force something upon them.

That’s because sitting MPPs are reluctant to ruffle feathers with their local mayors.