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City council votes in favour of Scarborough subway

After facing yet another hurdle, Mayor Rob Ford’s plan for a Scarborough subway extension has pushed forward.

During their first session back from summer break, city council voted 24-20 in favour of the Scarborough subway extension.

Coun. Paul Ainslie, who represents Scarborough East, said he supported light rail transit and moved a motion to confirm support for an LRT during the heated city council meeting.

Voices were heard on both side of the debate, which took up most of the first day of council.

Coun. Doug Ford said when it comes to deciding between a subway and an LRT, it is about making long-term investments in the city.

“It really comes down to this, either you’re planning for transportation for 30 years and we’re going to destroy the city as we did with St. Clair Avenue or we’re going to be visionaries,” he explained.

LRT advocate Gord Perks argued that the answer to Toronto’s transit problem wasn’t taking away stops that already exist but to expand into multiple high-priority neighbourhoods.

Both Coun. Paula Fletcher and Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon announced they would be pulling their support for the Scarborough subway as the conditions agreed to in July had not been met.

Fletcher pointed out that the original budget left out the operating and capital maintenance costs.

Coun. Michael Thompson said it was about not only making an investment in Scarborough but the city with subways.

He added that many people he spoke to, who agreed to the Scarborough RT when it was first up for debate, now told him that they regret making that decision and wish they had agreed to subways.

After the vote, the mayor let out a resounding “Yes!”

Council also voted 21-23 against expanding a three-year tax hike to four years.

A staff report recommended that council approve a 1.6 per cent residential property tax over three years starting next year to help cover the city’s share of the costs for the Scarborough subway.

According to city manager Joe Pennachetti’s report, the property tax hike should be 0.5 per cent in 2014, 0.5 per cent in 2015 and 0.6 in 2016. That’s more than the 1 per cent over four years Mayor Ford wanted, but within the range of 1.1 per cent to 2.4 per cent that the city manager had previously stated was needed in an earlier staff report.

The report also asked that the city manager prepare a development charge bylaw to cover the city’s share of capital costs for the subway extension along the Bloor-Danforth subway line.

On Sept. 23, the federal government announced it would provide $660 million in funding for the Scarborough subway, which the Ontario government says would cost about $3 billion to build.

Earlier that month, the Ontario government said it would cover $1.4 billion to build two stops at Lawrence and Scarborough City Centre stations.

The provincial money would only fund two-thirds of what city council approved in the summer. But with the federal government’s financial help, the third stop to McCowan Station would be possible.

With files from Erin Criger