Isn’t it strange how the worm can turn during an election?
Mere months ago, David Miller and his supporters took to the TTC’s PA systems to denounce the treachery of Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals and the mandarins at Metrolinx for allegedly killing Transit City.
Fast forward to last Thursday, when Metrolinx’s newly-appointed CEO Bruce McCuaig waded in to the middle of the election debate by affirming, during a speech at the Board of Trade, that his regional transit agency is pressing ahead with the first three LRT projects (Eglinton, Finch and Sheppard, plus the Scarborough RT rebuild) despite the torrent of loose campaign rhetoric about subway schemes.
He reminded the audience that Metrolinx in June placed a $770 million order for 182 light rail vehicles with Bombardier, and that it has also spent $54 million on four as-yet-unnamed boring machines. All the suits understood exactly what he meant: with contracts let and signed, this train has left the station.
Suddenly, it feels — or should feel — kind of good to have Metrolinx and the Pink Palace in the corner of transit advocates, doing that voice of reason thing. Accordingly, mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone’s tune on the subject of Metrolinx seems to have, uh, evolved. When McGuinty ordered the funding delays last March, Pantalone, the official Transit City standard bearer, called the move “shockingly horrible.” On Thursday, he was saying via press release that he “welcomes” McCuaig’s remarks.
Indeed, all Transit City proponents should welcome this announcement, not least Mayor Miller, who maybe didn’t game out the longer-term ramifications of his scorched earth strategy this spring. The fact is that the provincial Liberals, looking nervously at the tone of the city election, and infectious voter outrage that has come with it, could have opted to be much more mealy-mouthed in the heat of our battle. Instead, Ontario transportation minister Kathleen Wynne sent her man down to Bay Street to tell the pooh-bahs at the Board of Trade that she’s not wavering.
With the possibility of a Rob Ford victory next month, Ontario’s much-maligned Liberals have stepped up to protect Miller’s most important legacy as mayor.