TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne is set to deny the Toronto mayor’s request for the ability to impose tolls on two major commuter highways, The Canadian Press has learned.
An official with knowledge of the decision but who wasn’t authorized to speak about it on the record said that it’s about “affordability.”
Instead, Wynne will announce on Friday the government will provide hundreds of millions of dollars for municipalities for transit in the form of a gas tax enhancement.
The source said the conversation with Toronto about tolls could perhaps be revisited when its Smart Track plan is in place, but “until there are viable options in place” for commuters, the province won’t approve tolls.
Mayor John Tory expressed displeasure with the decision in a statement issued Thursday night.
“If the Ontario government has decided to deny a regulatory change requested by the overwhelming majority of city council, the mayor would expect the provincial government to take serious and immediate action to address the city’s transit, transportation, childcare and housing needs,” the statement said.
Tory has previously said a $2 toll would raise about $200 million a year to help transit funding and split the cost between Toronto taxpayers and the 40 per cent of commuters from outside the city who use the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway daily.
Wynne had appeared to have been seriously considering the toll proposal last month, when she said the Liberals would not take “unilateral action against the city of Toronto.”
Approving tolls would have angered the voters from outside the city who use those highways – commuters from so-called 905 ridings in which the Liberals need to fend off strong pushes from the Progressive Conservatives to be competitive in the next election.
The Tories leapt at the opportunity Thursday night to remind Ontarians they had been against Tory’s toll proposal from the start, retweeting their own old posts about it on Twitter.
The New Democrats had also been opposed to the toll proposal, saying that instead more funding must go to municipal transit systems.