A big part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s plan to help fix congestion and build infrastructure in the city was to spend more money on new and vital transit projects. He planned to raise some of the money via tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway. There was just one thing standing in the way: the provincial government. Now Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that she won’t allow Toronto to add any tolls until new transit options are already in place.
Mayor Tory’s plan to improve transit was endorsed by city council in December but needed provincial cabinet approval to go forward with tolls. Wynne said that tolls could be approved, but that “certain conditions must be in place” first. Those conditions are to provide alternate ways for commuters to get around, namely increased public transit or non-tolled routes. In short, the city needs to fix and build before raising the funds to pay for it.
Wynne isn’t leaving Tory completely in the cold for budget, however, announcing earlier that Toronto would see approximately $170 million more in fuel taxes by 2022 as the province would double the share of gas taxes given to municipalities.
Tory was thankful for the extra share of gas taxes, calling it “stable, predictable funding,” but pointed out that this is “the same government that introduced toll lanes on one of its own highways in the GTA, and has plans for more.” He also expressed that he was “surprised and disappointed” over the rejection.
Other city council members were less impressed, with Etobicoke Councillor John Campbell saying “it’s a very short-sighted and politically minded decision by a government that is not too popular” and that “Wynne is afraid of the backlash from Mississauga, Peel, Halton and Durham.” Councillor Joe Cressy called it “what running scared looks like” in a tweet.
Outside of the city, the toll rejection is getting a more positive response, with Oshawa Mayor John Henry calling it “great news” for his constituents who work and shop in Toronto.
This will likely send city planners back to the drawing board, or at least significantly alter Tory’s plan to help with the congestion and highway issues Toronto is experiencing. But it also means that over 100 cities in the province will receive double the funding they currently from gas taxes, with no increase to fuel prices at the pump from the new plan.
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