Smitherman talks roads, rinks and being the front runner

Platform plan will serve as a road map at city hall, hopeful says

George Smitherman, the perceived frontrunner in the mayoral race, has started his campaign in earnest by unveiling his expansive transportation plan.

At an May 27 editorial board meeting at the Town Crier, Smitherman gave insight into his platform, which also includes a detailed roadmap emphasizing core services, jobs and community development.

His 10-year transportation plan includes specifics on the current Transit City plan for light rapid transit, bike lanes and subways.
Smitherman fundamentally backs provincial agency Metrolinx’s funding of the four key Transit City projects but would like to see some changes to the current plan.

“I support the proposal that Metrolinx has made to do the Eglinton LRT from Kennedy station but it’s ridiculous to stop at Black Creek. That has to connect right over to Weston (Road),” he said.

As well, he supports pushing forward with the Sheppard LRT eastbound but past Morningside right into the University of Toronto and Centennial College campuses.

“Don’t do 90 percent and then stop,” he said. “Find the other 10 percent and get the job done.”

The Finch LRT had three sections, he said, he’s focused on the Finch West portion. His proposal is that it run from Finch subway to Highway 27 and then Humber College, Etobicoke General Hospital, Woodbine mall and the proposed Woodbine Live entertainment complex.

Smitherman rejects the Transit City plan to replace the Scarborough rapid transit with an LRT. Instead, he would replace the existing line by expanding the subway line eastbound from Kennedy station.

Additionally, he pledges to expand the Bloor-Danforth subway line westbound to Sherway Gardens mall, and connect the Sheppard subway westbound from Yonge Street over to Downsview Station.

Part of how he would pay for this is having the private sector design, build and finance the city-owned infrastructure. He¹d also establish a city transit trust fund by placing revenues in it such as the gas taxes the provincial and federal governments send to Toronto.

“It is really focused on trying to get past the talk, into the stage of action,” he said. “In the course of the campaign I plan to lay out in quite a level of detail that … will serve as a roadmap for action.”

He doesn’t plan to build new bike lanes on roads at this time, but would focus on making existing ones more usable. He would build bike expressways along hydro corridors and along ravines.

Smitherman vows to reduce the vehicle registration tax although he didn’t get specific on the amount.

And he also floated the idea of making transit free for seniors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. during the week.

Smitherman also spoke about other issues including the ice rink shortage the city experiences each winter.

“The city hasn’t built any (new ice rinks) in 20-25 years. In my policy as it comes forward you¹ll see a strong focus on enhancement to our recreational infrastructure,” he said.

He said the redevelopment of Don Mills could have included a new ice rink had the city worked better with the private sector. He also took the city to task for not making good use of its existing resources including a co-op near Dundas and Jarvis Streets that has a city-owned arena size space that could be used for recreational ice skating but currently stands mostly unused.

On the issue of city finances, he said Toronto has a spending problem not a revenue problem. He rhymed off the fact the city has access to gas taxes from the province and federal governments, high residential property taxes, new user fees and millions in land transfer, vehicle registration and billboard taxes.

While some see Smitherman as the frontrunner he rejects the moniker.

“I have the heart of the underdog. From my start as my life in Etobicoke as a young boy with a family with a grade 6 educated father who worked his ass off,” he said. “The instincts that are sewn in me is to be never be outworked.”

He plans to move from talk to action, if elected, by working with all councillors.

“Some call me left wing. Some call me right wing. I think I am pretty centrist,” he said. “I am in a better position to be able to reach and form consensus across the range of council.”

About this article:

By: Kris Scheuer
Posted: May 29 2010 12:11 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto