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Transit city: back from the dead

James Clark

February 2, 2012

A recent legal opinion has called into question whether millionaire mayor Rob Ford had the authority to cancel Transit City, one of his first acts after being elected in 2010.

Toronto city councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s West) sought the opinion, which argues that the mayor actually needs the support of City Council to cancel or alter Transit City, a sweeping public transit scheme developed under former Mayor David Miller. Ford announced that Transit City was “over” on his first day in office, claiming that it was part of a so-called “war on the car.”

Support for Transit City remains high, especially as Ford’s regime attempts to deepen cuts to TTC jobs and services, while laying the foundation for a fare hike. Ford claims that his cuts will save the city money, but cancelling Transit City wastes millions already spent in development and environmental assessments. Ford says he prefers to build subways, but his vision will cost billions more, service far fewer people and cover a much smaller part of the city. He has so far failed to attract any interest from the private sector, where Ford expects to find most of his funding.

The legal opinion is good news for transit advocates, and comes in the wake of a major set-back for Ford on Council. By a vote of 23 to 21, councillors reversed about $20 million in cuts from Ford’s austerity budget. The reversal doesn’t stop all the cuts, but it demonstrates the potential for mass mobilization to slow (and eventually stop) Ford’s cuts, and highlights the growing divisions within Ford’s camp. As public pressure builds, more and more Ford allies have begun to capitulate.

Those who want to save Transit City and see affordable transit expand access across the city will need the same kind of grassroots, popular mobilization in order to force councillors to reverse Ford’s “decision.”

For background on Transit City and the impact of Ford’s attempts to cancel it, visit Save Transit City:

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