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PC Leader Tim Hudak steps into Toronto’s transit debate

As Mayor Rob Ford struggles to maintain control after yet another major transit defeat this week, provincial Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is offering some help at Queen’s Park.

Hudak was scheduled to introduce a motion Tuesday that calls for provincial cash to be used for underground transit construction in Toronto.

“It’s a provincial decision,” Hudak said in front of Queen’s Park on Tuesday morning, noting the city has been promised $8.4 billion by the province for new transit projects.

“The province has to have a say. I disagree with [Premier Dalton McGuinty] who wants to sit on the sidelines and see all of this play out. We have a role to play here.”

Hudak said the PC’s stance is to build new transit underground and “not rip up existing streets and take away lanes permanently,” referring to the planned light-rail transit (LRT) line on Eglinton. Hudak was a member of the PC government under former premier Mike Harris that ended construction of an Eglinton subway in 1995.

McGuinty shot back inside the Legislature and insisted council will make the final decision on the future of transit in Toronto.

“This is a matter of respect for the expressed will of the municipal council,” he said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the council.”

On Monday, Ford suffered a blow  when council voted in favour of dissolving the current TTC board and replacing it with a new one comprised of seven councillors and four citizens. The move means several Ford allies no longer have their TTC posts.

Last month, council endorsed a plan put forward by former Ford ally and current TTC chair Karen Stintz that calls for surface LRT on Eglinton between Laird Drive and Kennedy station and surface LRT on Finch. It also calls for study of the feasibility of a Sheppard subway extension.

Ford wanted the entire Eglinton LRT line — from Black Creek to Kennedy station — buried, and his plan for Sheppard isn’t fully financed.

The PC leader says the transit debate at city hall has degraded into a “war of personalities.”

“Mayor Ford was very clear in the campaign. He basically said two things: I’m going to stop the gravy train and I’ll build subways,” Hudak said.

Hudak, along with councillors Doug Ford and Giorgio Mammoliti, attended an Emery Village (Finch and Weston area) Business Improvement Association meeting last Thursday where the LRT versus subway issue was discussed.

The mayor faces a possible third defeat on the transit file on March 21 when council decides which transit option will best service Sheppard Avenue: LRT or a subway extension.

An expert panel put together last month is expected to recommend the LRT option, according to various reports.