Defenders of the one-stop subway extension into Scarborough showed up in force to the March 7 Executive Committee meeting, where councillors were asked to confirm approval to the now more costly $3.35 billion, six kilometre subway extension.
The committee spent most of the day with those defenders – many speaking on behalf of a group calling itself Connect Scarborough – and also opponents of the subway plan who charged that the line that will move trains between Scarborough Town Centre and Kennedy Station is both unaffordable and inadequate.
In the end, the committee voted to recommend staying the course with the more expensive subway plan – with only one councillor, Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie, voting no – for what will be the ninth time that Council has dealt with the subway.
But the fireworks proceeded through the meeting. Robin Simpson, of Selkirk Investments, voiced her company’s support for the plan – particularly as it benefits future development that Selkirk and Oxford Properties are hoping to proceed with in the Scarborough Town Centre area.
“It is time to stop treating the eastern part of Scarborough as Scarberia,” she said.
Ryan Maglaland of Connect Scarbrorough supported the subway – saying it currently took him two hours to get to work downtown from his home near the Toronto Zoo.
“I don’t think it should be defined as a one stop subway—it should be called a necessary extension,” he said.
The subway also got support from the University of Toronto. Sitharsana Srithas, vice president of the U of T’s Scarborough Campus, said that the subway – and the Eglinton light rail extension – was essential for students trying to get to the campus.
“Historically, Scarborough has been underserved,” she said. “Scarborough has seen the worse facilities, the worse services and is asked to pay more and more in fares. Scarborough is too big not to get high order transit.”
Councillors on the committee – and Mayor John Tory – bristled at some of the deputations coming to promote the other side: cutting the Scarborough subway and returning to a fully funded light rail network.
Tory asked one deputant, Joy Robertson of Scarborough Residents Unite who had argued that the six kilometre stretch without a station was too long, about the strength of the support.
“Are you prepared to accept the fact that business people came in here, the business community, and they talked about the people who would be coming in… it’s not as though there will be tumbleweed rolling down the platform,” he said.
She replied: “What I saw was their interests – their business interests took the forefront, ahead of our residents that need to be serviced first. That’s what I saw today.”
In his remarks, Tory dismissed opposition to the subway plan as people “who’ve used everything short of poison-tipped umbrellas and exploding cigars” to derail a subway project that Toronto Council had already approved.
Other councillors noted that the subway was not technically approved until Council approved a tender. The matter will go to the March 28 meeting of Council.