The mayor has a big problem: the Sheppard subway extension that he’s promised to build increasingly appears to make no financial sense, and neither the private nor the public sector seems prepared to pay for it. Yesterday, Rob Ford appealed to Dalton McGuinty to open the provincial purse, but the premier all but said no, which prompted Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn to ask why Ford doesn’t go ask Stephen Harper for the funds (seeing as how they’re chummy fishing buddies and all).
The bigger ask is a so-called “advance” on $650 million that Ford is counting on from Queen’s Park as a top-up on the Sheppard line. But under the new transit deal Ford made with McGuinty last March, the Sheppard top-up only flows if there is any leftover money from the Eglinton line that Queen’s Park is bankrolling. And until Eglinton is built, it’s hard to know if there will be money to spare.
So why doesn’t Ford simply ask Ottawa for a workaround under its Building Canada Fund? After all, the 2014 deadline that Ford claims must be met applies to an outdated deal for a Sheppard LRT that is itself dead.
Ford keeps trumpeting his alliances with the federal Tories. Why so reluctant to pressure them, publicly, into helping him out of a bind — rather than demanding that Queen’s Park twist itself into a pretzel to accommodate his own political contortions?
One reason that jumps to mind is that making sure cities run well is Dalton McGuinty’s job—not Harper’s—and Ford is doing the right thing by insisting that Queen’s Park live up to its obligations under the constitution. But another, more cynical reason—and what we suspect is probably the real one—is that the iron law of Canadian politics dictates no politician wants to be caught doing Toronto any favours if they don’t have to.