In a landmark agreement, the City of Toronto is transferring oversight of the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) to the Ontario government, as announced by Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Olivia Chow in a joint news conference on Monday. This move is part of a broader deal that also includes the city stepping aside on the Ontario Place redevelopment.
Key Elements of the Agreement
The agreement, hailed as “historic” by both Ford and Chow, is expected to provide Toronto with $1.2 billion in operating supports over the next three years. This funding will enable the city to allocate more resources towards projects such as the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT, increased police presence on the TTC, and support for homeless shelters and new subway cars, contingent upon matching federal support.
Impact on the City’s Budget
Toronto is currently grappling with a $1.5 billion budget shortfall. The transfer of the two major highways to provincial control is anticipated to save the city approximately $16 million per year in maintenance costs and free up $2.2 billion budgeted over the next decade for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner. Mayor Chow highlighted that the upload of these highways would allow the city to invest billions more in affordable housing, transit, and community building.
The Future of Ontario Place
The agreement also entails the city relinquishing its small portion of land at Ontario Place to the province, thereby clearing the path for the Ford government’s controversial redevelopment plans. Despite previous opposition, Mayor Chow stated, “It is is called Ontario Place, the land belongs to the provincial government, and we do not have the authority to stop the development.”
Calls for Federal Involvement
Both Ford and Chow emphasized the need for increased federal funding to support the city further, especially in areas like homeless shelters and transit funding. Ford noted, “When Toronto succeeds, Ontario succeeds. When Ontario succeeds, Canada succeeds.”
Controversy and Community Response
The deal, which includes funding for transit and efforts to build housing and transit-oriented communities, represents a significant shift in Toronto’s approach to managing its major roadways and dealing with financial challenges. The agreement over Ontario Place has raised questions, as it suggests a step back from Mayor Chow’s previous campaign promises.