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Things Left Unsaid at Scarborough Transit Forum

Residents gathered to learn about Toronto's options for public-transit expansion, but did they hear the whole truth?

Doug Ford, at Monday's transit forum.

Almost 300 enthusiastic supporters cheered on Mayor Rob Ford during an appearance and speech at Monday night’s “Subways Are For Everyone” transit forum at Scarborough Civic Centre. The mayor, Scarborough politicians, and an exclusively pro-subway panel didn’t need to sway the partisan crowd, and didn’t try to address most criticisms of Ford’s unfunded subway vision. Instead, two days ahead of a city council vote that could bring two additional Light Rail Transit lines to the east end, Ford and Co. preached a gospel of half-truths, omissions, and vain imaginings that likely confused the few attendees who came seeking information.

The mayor showed up about 40 minutes into the proceedings, and entered the meeting space to a standing ovation. He promised to keep fighting for subways and called Wednesday’s vote on recommendations for transit on Sheppard Avenue a “do or die” circumstance. “Come hell or high water, we’re getting these subways,” Ford promised amid shouts and cheers.

Ford left no room for negotiation on options for spending billions of provincial dollars on transit in Scarborough. “Compromise to them [LRT supporters] means increase taxes, have user fees, have all this stuff. We can look at all that stuff, but we can’t look at anything until we start building one station at a time.”

Ford called out dissenting councillors Raymond Cho (Ward 42, Scarborough-Rouge River), Glenn de Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) and Chin Lee (Ward 41, Scarborough-Rouge River) by name, labelling them “councillors that are in the middle. They say they’re not supporting us.” Ford continued, “there’s no such thing as middle, left, right, or centre. It’s either you’re supporting subways or you’re supporting streetcars, and that’s all these LRTs are, are fancy streetcars, folks.”

Ford estimated that 19 or 20 councillors were planning to vote against a Sheppard LRT, and urged residents to make calls to pressure others to change their minds.

Gordon Chong, Ford’s main subway advisor, played out a series of bizarre exchanges with his co-panelist Jo Kennelly, who served as a consultant during Chong’s recent effort to come up with a viable subway plan. Chong made frequent interjections before Kennelly’s comments, and undermined her professional credentials.

“I got involved in this about a year or so ago, and I was smart enough to hire somebody smarter than I am, Jo Kennelly who is sitting here with me.” Chong said in his opening remarks. He continued without irony, “often, we lose sight of the common sense that we have, and we’re overly deferential to professionals who can then kind of manipulate information and, perhaps, lead us in the wrong direction.”

Later, Chong interrupted before Kennelly could answer a question about different modes of traffic and vehicle flow. “Just remember common sense,” Chong pleaded with attendees. “She is a professional and I want to be deferential to her, but we generally get snowed a lot by professionals nowadays,” Chong warned. “Don’t let go of your own common sense and your own instinct.”

Kennelly seemed happy to simplify her analysis of the local transit dilemma. In one instance, she compared LRT technology to a discounted, used car. After stating that operating costs for LRT are higher than those for subways, Kennelly argued that “by getting something that’s on sale from the province, and purchasing the LRT ’cause it’s on sale at a lower price, you’re actually going to have to pay more to run the thing. So it’s like someone giving you a cheap old car, but you have to pay lot of money in gas to get to work.”

Kennelly also boldly claimed that provincial and federal pension plan bodies have been “clamouring” to invest their money in local opportunities like prospective Toronto subway developments. She would later remark, however, that private sector investors require “an open and transparent process” before stepping forward.

Chong dismissed the LRT recommendation of the Sheppard Avenue panel on which he served, remarking that his colleagues looked at evidence for different transit options “from a very narrow point of view.” City council will consider the panel’s report on Wednesday.

The panel’s composition ensured “a pre-ordained result from the beginning,” Chong said. He urged councillors to ignore the panel’s findings and “make decisions based on what city staff may say, what [consulting firm] KPMG said.”

Chong also tangled up his message when speaking about the projected density required to build subways. He chided pro-LRT councillors for lacking vision and stated, “we should not be looking at what the current density is, looking ten years out or twenty years out. You should be looking 50 to 100 years out.”

Chong continued by reflecting on his youth: “When I was growing up in downtown Toronto… if somebody had said Scarborough and North York were gonna be built up as much as they are now, I wouldn’t have believed it… what I’m saying is no way, no expert has a crystal ball, that can predict that far out.”

Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) boasted he was likely “the only guy in the room who actually voted, as your metro councillor, for the Sheppard subway.”

Kelly was the first to suggest, to applause, that “Scarborough is no longer a suburban community. We are part of an urban core.” He would later argue, however, that the LRT right-of-way would ruin “highway commercial“ zoning along Sheppard Ave that currently allows motorists to turn easily into adjacent driveways. As proof, Kelly cited dealings with a local gas station owner. “When I told him after Mayor Ford won the election, ‘it’s subways’, he was dancing behind the counter,” Kelly informed the audience.

Councillor Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) further muddied the conversation by suggesting urban renewal in Scarborough was being “greatly oversold” to residents. I don’t think they’re going to be positive,” he said of streetscape changes that might come about as a result of building a Sheppard LRT. “They might be negative, but I certainly don’t think they’re going to be positive in that regard.”

Milczyn also warned that even an approved Sheppard LRT would be delayed until 2016, but gave no reasons for such a delay.

Milczyn, along with panelist and former TTC planner John Barnes, did challenge the mayor to provide details about funding his subway vision ahead of Wednesday’s vote. Milczyn’s highlighting of transit as a public service that “can’t be fully paid for from the fare box” served as a brief but sobering reminder for the hundreds of Ford fans in attendance.

“We have to pay for it, whether we pay for it through income tax, sales tax, or some other form, we’re going to pay for it,” he said.

Mayor Ford steered clear of the funding issue in his closing remarks, and urged councillors to continue the fight for transit options that still have yet to come before council. “Let’s get these subways approved on Wednesday,” he said. “Be there for sure.”

Photo by Desmond Cole/Torontoist.

Comments

  • Vampchick21

    Oh gods. My brain hurts. I couldn’t get halfway through that without my brain starting to leak out my ears! And that’s not a reflection on the author either! Gods, does that ever prove that the thuggish portion of the politcal right does nothing but confuse and bombard and take advantage of people who can’t or won’t think for themselves. And by the way, the LRT is already funded, 8.4 billion in provincial dollars, where the hell is he getting this threat of LRT causing an increase in taxes, etc, when it’s his subway dream that’s going to do that??????? GAAAAAHHHH!!! I most sincerly hope, for the sake of my sanity, that the looming court action over misconduct gets him out of office fast!

  • Painful

    What about the Ford’s henchman and his constituents on Finch West. If we blow the whole kit and kaboodle on sheppard what is left for them? Oh wait this is all about Scarborough not about Toronto…?

    • Josh Gould

      No worries there – the Finch West LRT has already been voted on, and any “subway” plan that comes out of this week’s meeting will require funding *additional* to the existing Metrolinx $8.4 billion. A vote for a Sheppard subway extension = nothing will be built on Sheppard.

      • http://twitter.com/gilmourtaylor Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

        To be fair, they still might build one or two stops on Sheppard. But nothing will be built on Sheppard in Scarborough if they go subways.

        • http://twitter.com/gilmourtaylor Geoff Gilmour-Taylor

          And it appears that I may be wrong there. According to Metrolinx and the federal government, (see points 5b and 14 in Cllr Moeser’s letter in support of LRT) there is no certain funding for anything other than LRT for Sheppard. So we might not be able to even add one or two stations to the Sheppard subway, unless some serious funds are lined up soon.

  • Anonymous

    So Ford is ignoring his own point-man on transit, Gordon Chong, who is urging him to come forward with proposals to fund subway expansion. Any hope of Ford supporting a one-percent tax increase to fund subways just died last night. It’s clear he will only offer up bluster tomorrow.

    If bluster could build subways, they’d run to Newmarket.

  • Subways for Rouge Hill

    hahaha, somehow every “fact” mentioned in this article was a straight up lie. I don’t know how they manage it.

    • Atomic Moog 79

      You’re an idiot for thinking that way.

    • Anonymous

      The word “fact” was not used in the article. Give a specific example of a lie in the article.

      • Vampchick21

        I’m thinking….hoping…that Soubways for Rouge Hill is referring to what came ouf of the mouths of Ford & Co in his post……

        • Subways for Rexdale

          of course it was

  • Guest

    Keep flailing your arms Ford. The LRT is going to get built.

    • Zeddy

      Not a chance! This is the first act of an opus that will stretch on for years if not decades. Once the Progressive Conservatives form the Ontario government (and it is not if, but when) the cat will really be among the pigeons. Of course, this entire debate could be moot if the promised funding is yanked by Queen’s Park so that, as they would framie such a move, Toronto can have more time to fully consider all the possibilities and consult with all the stakeholders blah blah blah, yada yada yada…TRANSLATION: The province is broke, so P.F.A.

  • Anonymous

    This is like reading testimony from Scientologists.

  • http://twitter.com/carbonman carbonman

    I live in Scarborough. The subway does nothing for me, or for the majority of Scarborough residents. I’m embarrassed that there are people out here who are falling for the nonsense being spouted by Ford & Co. We are being played for chumps, and Ford’s rabble-rousing is nothing more than an advance election campaign for 2014.

  • Anonymous

    Something is missing in all this. What happened to calling out the “leftists”, the “left-of-stalins”, the “communists” on Council?

    Oh wait, Nick said don’t do that.

  • Nick

    I like Norm Kelly’s exhibit of the dancing gas station owner: that’s who we’re building a subway for?! And Dear Gordon Chong, where can I start: the LRT panel’s remit was far wider in scope than anything before, and they overwhelming went for the LRT based on many considerations. Further, there has been no growth in office jobs in Scarborough in the past 20 years since the Sheppard stubway went in, and to boot, no growth in the well-subwayed Downtown North York, the former City with Heart. So to say we have to think long term is absurd. We built it, they didn’t come, period. LRT is better, and cheaper, and will serve more people almost as rapidly as a subway. To the gas station owner whose clients can no longer make turns from all corners: welcome to the real world, that’s how it is downtown too.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s very important to note that Cllr. Jaye Robinson is asking for public feedback on tomorrow’s vote.

    Keep in mind that she cited the calls and emails she got leading up to the February meeting (where she voted against the Mayor) as being highly influential in her vote. So please call and/or email her.

    It does make a difference.

  • Scarborough LRT wanter

    Car driving Scarborough residents are still going to drive their cars regardless of what gets built. What option is going to best serve the most transit riding Scarborough residents? That is the question. LRT’s are going to give you the most bang (not the biggest bang) for your buck by serving currently underserved people, so that’s what I think we need.

  • Anonymous

    I hope their special version of transit hell has got room for Ron Moeser, since he’s now come out and said this:

    “I am aware that people feel strongly on both sides of this issue, but given all the facts, I am supporting an LRT on Sheppard Avenue.”

    http://www.karenstintz.com/?p=1772

  • http://paul.kishimoto.name Paul Kishimoto

    This Jo Kennelly?

    Smarter than Gordon Chong, perhaps, and with a PhD; but not smart enough to see the harm in diluting the public trust for expertise by using it to partisan purpose, nor to realize that she’d be belittled even while acting as a shill for the mayor.

  • Anonymous

    I’m trying to figure out what would be Jo Kennelly’s expertise that would be applicable to transit and a discussion of financing a subway system.

    She’s an economist, with all her work being in a focus on health care.

    She has no transit background.

    She has no construction background.

    She might have a background in the creation of discussions about PPP’s but nothing with actually implementing them.

    Weird that she would be chosen for this. Makes no sense.

    • Anonymous

      She has displayed the necessary qualifications. Be interesting to know what the payoff is.

  • glenn storey

    jo kennelly, huh?

    Past Director, Policy: Office of Tony Clement (Minister of Health) at Government of Canada

    that’s not a good credential.

  • Anonymous

    Tony “Gazebo” Clement… nice!

  • Sandro

    If the people who are going to get LRT don’t want them and buy the Ford brand of idiocy and pressure their councillors to NOT give them good transit, why should the rest of the city care? It’s their loss.

    It’s interesting that it’s the downtown lefty elite who are fighting for the suburbs to have better transit than downtown, midtown, or uptown residents have.

    I think it would be funny if every councillor who favours logic abstained from voting and Transit City … sorry, the Stintz plan was really cancelled and the inner suburbs and Scarborough got nothing.

    If they’re going to vote against their own interests why should the rest of the city fight for them?

    • Anonymous

      This robo-called rabble of halfwits doesn’t represent Scarborough and the other areas of the city that desperately need, and want the relatively quick transit improvements of LRT.

      It would be very wrong, and just playing into Ford’s hands to think otherwise. Ford wants to stall any and all public transit development. He doesn’t care about subways or any other form of transit, it’s all the same re-election fodder to him. His ultimate goal is to privatize transit at the expense of all users.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/XPDFPP2ATUYHLA5JNKY3FZZR64 Toronto

    Is Karen Stintz, a criminal or racist? Is she mentally fit?
    ————————————
    Karen Stintz is a member of the Ontario and Federal Conservative parties. Here are some disturbing concerns I have about this woman and like to share it with you all:
    1. She entered politics to derail the Minto Condo project. She was actually financed by a group to push their agenda vs what is good for the development of the city. In other words the Jews in that area brought in this woman who had no previous experience in the politics and was living in that area for only 3 years. THIS SHOWS HERE WILLINGNESS TO SELL HERSELF FOR THE HIGHEST BIDDER TO ACHIEVE PERSONAL GOALS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PUBLIC AND HER WILLINGNESS TO ACT ON BEHALF OF LOBBY GROUPS WITH OUT CONSIDERING THE LONG TERM GOALS OF THE CITY AS A COMMUNITY.
    2. She used 4,500 dollars of the public money to pay for vocal training and when caught defended her action. THIS SHOWS HOW MUCH SHE CARES ABOUT THE PUBLIC MONEY AND HER WILLINGNESS TO USE IT FOR PERSONAL GAIN.
    3. She wanted to run for mayor along with Rob Ford in 2010 October. But then she decided not to. The reason she gave was that she does not have the finances to compete with heavy weights who are well known. The statement made on October 19th is as follows: “It’s a challenge to raise money and it’s a challenge to get your name out…. When bigger names with bigger profiles come into the picture, it makes it that much harder for everybody else.” THIS SHOWS THAT SHE NEEDS SOME WAG THE TAIL INCIDENTS AT THE CITY HALL TO GET HER NAME OUT FOR FREE. WHAT OTHER WAY TO DO IT THAN JUST CREATE A COMMOTION WITH THE TTC FILE AND ACT AS IF SHE IS STANDING UP AGAINST A MONSTER ROB FORD FOR THE SAKE OF THE PEOPLE. IT GIVES HER FREE PUBLICITY MAKING TO POSSIBLE TO GET HER NAME OUT IN TIME FOR THE NEXT MAYORAL RACE. AND SHE IS ONLY BURNING NON – JEWISH CAUCASIAN AND OTHER MINORITIES WITH THIS AGENDA WHILE SERVING HER PREDOMINATELY JEWISH NEIGBOURHOOD WITH THE UNDERGROUND LRT SO SHE WOULD NOT ANGER THEM.

    ==================

    So how McGuinty and his administration are willing to support this woman in such a scandalous behavior with criminal intent for personal gains? Is it because both Dalton and Stintz have the same personality or is it because she has agreed to change sides and become a Liberal from the conservative side?
    McGuinty government is raising more than one quarter of a trillion dollars in debt over the next 5 years. That is 250 billion dollars from around the world. In the prospectus that is being handed out to the rich and elite, Finance Minister is claiming that most of the funds will be going to infrastructure development. They raised 39 billion dollars for last year. This year another 40 billion dollars being raised. So if this money is being predominately raised for infrastructure as the Prospectus claims, then why McGuinty government can not or will not fund the difference between building an above ground system from Laird to Kennedy station, Keele to Black Creek, Finch West and in the future the completion of the Sheppard Ave line. To my understanding no one has so far asked him for them funds. SO WHY KAREN STINTZ AND HER GOONS KEEP MISLEADING THE PUBLIC SAYING THERE IS NO MONEY TO BURY THE LRT UNDERGROUND IN EVERY AREA., AND ONLY IN THE JEWISH AREA WHERE SHE IS REPRESENTING FROM?
    Metrolinx has allocated and prepared itself to spend the funds available on building the Cross Town LRT which will run underground from Black Creek to Kennedy station. And then it will run on the existing Scarborough LRT line completely away from the traffic. Metrolinx, which was created to address the transit needs with in the GTA clearly understands the importance of its agenda since it will save 25% of travel time and increase the ridership by 30%. The Sheppard ave subway extension and the Finch Ave West underground LRT are considered premature moves based on the existing demand for such services in these areas.
    How ever Metrolinx has never rejected such ideas in the future when the demand increases as the population of the city and the surrounding areas increases. And when that happens, either the city or the province will be in a position to finance such expansions. Especially in terms of the provincial government and its infrastructure agenda, the funds are there for such projects. And Karen Stintz claiming that the funds are not there, is nothing but a total lie to mislead the public like the Weapons of Mass Destruction scam the Bush Jr administration pulled on the world when they invaded Iraq. The province can issue a debt issuance aimed at such expansion plans anytime the demand is justified.
    ===========

    At the end of the day Karen Stintz is a criminal who is using 8.4 billion dollars of ONTARIO TAX PAYER FUNDS as her OWN CAMPAIGN FUND making everyone in Ontario as suckers. When you fill up the gas and pay HST on it, this is one of the reason you are paying for it. She is carefully using the following to commit this crime:

    Dividing the city Council based on political beliefs / partisan politics. Any such agenda should have been made clear to the voters before the election so that they could decide who they want to vote for. In other words, since non of these Councilors declared to the public about their political believes, the last election would be called null based on the divison that is being shown in the Council lately. Except for Mr. Rob Ford who ran for Mayor, non of the candidates spoke of this issue or disclosed to the voters.
    Karen Stintz is using the so called “experts” who got paid from the tax payer thru Mr. David Miller to study the Lrt advantage to promote his agenda. And most of them have ties to TTC and its union. But it is important to mention that Mr. Miller is a staunch environmentalist and this LRT expansion plan study was approved under his Clean Air strategy. Not under any strategy about what is best for the city and the dollar spent. Now Ms. Stintz is using the same experts (who can not speak in favor of an underground system after getting paid to promote the above ground LRT system) to lie to the public about a one sided story in favor of the above ground LRT. The residents of Malvern area also felt this one-sided agenda during a meeting organized by a group called Respect Scarborough which is actually Karen Stintz new found sympathizers who has political gains and ties with her. This tactic is similar to that used by the Bush Jr administration to justify their agenda. And it is illegal lobbying since they are not at these meetings to support the agenda of the former Mayor but to aid Ms. Stintz to promote and propel herself into gaining the free publicity and establish that “heavy weight” image she believes that is needed to run for Mayor in the GTA.
    Last month (February 2012) a whistle blower by the name of Cecilia Leung told to the media, that Karen Stintz intimidated her and treated the whistle blower as if she was wasting her time when approached about issues where tax payer money was being burnt by TTC employees. As an elected official on the TTC board and above all as the chairperson, this individual had a mandate to protect the interest of the those constituents which she failed to do so and above all failed to exhibit any interest in such responsibilities. So obviously she has been bought out by someone with in TTC. It is rumored that David Miller used to take bribes in envelopes, while he was at the office. So who is bribing Ms. Stintz and how much is being paid to this criminal?

    Yours sincerely

    Toronto Matters

    Constituents not Politicians.

  • Zeddy

    The real story here is the latent discrimination being perpetrated upon the residents of Scarborough by the inner-city elites. Scarborough is home to a large number of visible minorities, new Canadians and economically vulnerable citizens, and it seems that the councillors who represent the “beautiful people” of Toronto regard Scarborogh residents as second-class citizens. I guess we are supposed to be grateful for getting ANYTHING and accept that we just are not worthy of subways. This is transit apartheid! Instead of having to move to the back of the bus, we have to sit on the “streetcar by another name”, while the elites at Yonge and Bloor, Yonge and Eglinton, etc. are whisked along in subterranean splendour. SHAME!