logo logo

Doug Ford pledges Sheppard Subway extension, if elected

PC leader unearths long standing fight over Scarborough transit

Scarborough-Mirror May 28, 2018 Mike Adler
Protesting Streetcars

Local residents including Maureen Coram (left), James Alcock, Denis Lanoue and Karl Haab protest a planned light rail transit line along Sheppard Avenue in September 2010. Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford is pledging to replace the LRT with a Sheppard Subway extension to Scarborough Town Centre. – Metroland file photo

The expensive dream of a Sheppard subway extension looping through north Scarborough was all but dead by 2010.

Work on a light-rail-transit line, the Sheppard East, was starting. Toronto transit planners thought extending the little-used subway down to Scarborough Town Centre was a horrible idea.

“The train, so to speak, has left the station,” Adam Giambrone, TTC chair of the day, declared.

But a Sheppard extension remained a cause for a small number of Scarborough activists — some of them connected to the Liberal party — who kept fighting the LRT and demanding a subway.

Municipal and provincial politicians, including former Toronto mayor Rob Ford, listened then. A stalemate ensued.

The Sheppard loop isn’t officially a project the city wants to build, but Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford, brother of the late mayor, is pledging to build it anyway.

And while a PC victory on June 7 is far from assured — thanks to a New Democratic surge — Ford’s promise seems calculated to win seats in Liberal Scarborough.

Scarborough-Agincourt has stayed Liberal since its creation in 1987, but the riding is shifting in an “amazingly unexpected” way, and “the subway issue is playing a major role,” said PC candidate Aris Babikian.

Babikian has made a Sheppard extension “my first priority,” and said he’s met community association leaders who support it, adding, “some of them are very strong Liberals.”

Jim Karygiannis, a former Liberal MP for Agincourt, thinks if the riding turns blue the promised Sheppard subway “will have a lot to do with it.”

Now a local city councillor, Karygiannis urged constituents in a letter to press provincial candidates on funding the extension.

Karygiannis said he believes Ford is serious about what may be a $5-billion project.

“The Liberals are not in a position to promise it anymore. They haven’t done anything,” he added.

Ford also promised the Sheppard loop during an unsuccessful run for mayor. City councillors had let his brother stop the LRT in 2010, only to support it again two years later.

In 2013, council shifted again: they decided extending the Bloor-Danforth subway line east and north from Kennedy Station to Sheppard Avenue made more sense.

As mayor, John Tory stuck to that “Scarborough Subway” plan, though he shortened the Bloor-Danforth extension to one stop, so it would only reach Scarborough Town Centre.

As premier, said Brenda Thompson of Scarborough Transit Action, Ford would have to fight to get a Sheppard loop built unless the province pays the entire bill.

“I don’t see council going for it.”

Meanwhile, she said, people in northeast Scarborough would be deprived of rapid transit they could have had with the LRT.

People in Malvern won’t benefit from the Sheppard loop, said Scarborough North Liberal candidate Chin Lee, who argued Ford isn’t adequately funding his subway promise.

“He’s just telling people what they want to hear.”

Scarborough North PC candidate Raymond Cho acknowledged the Sheppard loop needs federal and municipal approval, but said most important is Ford’s will to build it.