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Scarborough councillor Jim Karygiannis planning to reintroduce Sheppard subway proposal

Scarborough Mirror April 28, 2015 David Nickle

The Sheppard East light rail line might be on the back burner, but the shift in provincial transit priorities could bring another old transit debate to the foreground: namely, the old Sheppard subway.

The subway plan was deep-sixed by Toronto Council last term despite the advocacy of then-mayor Rob Ford, who convinced the provincial government to abandon the original plan to build the light rail line in 2010.

The Sheppard light rail line was eventually put back on the books. But on April 27, Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced the province would build another light rail line — the Finch West line — ad put off work on the $1 billion Sheppard LRT until after Finch was up and running in 2021.

And for at least one city councillor — Scarborough Agincourt Councillor Jim Karygiannis — that could provide an opportunity to reopen the Sheppard subway debate.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Karygiannis, a staunch opponent of the light rail line on Sheppard. “I’m looking forward to resuming the battle for the Sheppard subway.”

Karygiannis said he wants to try and introduce the subway plan — again — in the fall, to coincide with the federal election. He argued the cost of a subway — which he estimated to be $1.5 billion but has been estimated as costing more than $4 billion — could be covered in part with federal money, extracted from vote-hungry parties in the 2015 election.

“They want to get people elected north of the 401 they better come to the table with some cash,” said Karygiannis. “If the Liberals want to win here they should speak to the residents of Wards 39, 40, 41 and 42. They got to say we want to work with you to get a subway here.”

Former Mayor Rob Ford is one ally Karygiannis could likely count on. He maintained light rail is “the wrong type of transit” and a subway was the right way to go.

“We should have been building subways on Sheppard from Day One,” he said. “That’s all I have to say on that. I feel sorry for the people up there. It’s appalling.”

Deputy Mayor Glenn De Baeremaeker said it was unlikely anyone would support a subway on Sheppard without a financing plan better than the one Ford put forward during his mayoralty.

“I think this will open up another debate — I voted against the Sheppard subway at the time in support of the Sheppard LRT,” said De Baeremaeker. “Mayor Ford at the time said we’ll build the subway with fairy dust. No one has said here’s how we’ll pay for a subway. If they did that I might look on a subway very favourably.”

TTC Commissioner and Don Valley East Councillor Shelley Carroll opposes the idea of opening the debate and was blunt in her assessment of Karygiannis’ plan.

“I think he’s listening to his residents but his residents are not speaking in facts all the time,” she said. “I don’t think they themselves have understood what they’re giving up (when they give up the light rail line). What I want is something that can connect to the Sheppard subway but also connect beyond that, all the way out to Malvern, that goes to get the rest of Scarborough that the Scarborough subway has missed.”