[URBAN NOTE] “Wynne’s U-turn on road tolls dangerous for Tory”
Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc writes about how Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to not let Toronto impose tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway weakens John Tory’s position.
What she did, in a way that breaks from her mostly civil approach to politics, was to play Mayor John Tory for a fool. Whatever else you might think about Tory’s policies — and there’s plenty to criticize — he’s been a respectful and accommodating dance partner for Wynne. She could have done better.
But you’ve seen this film before. Last week’s U-turn reminds me of that moment in the spring of 2010 when Dalton McGuinty double-crossed David Miller and withdrew a $4 billion tranche of promised funding for Transit City.
It’s easy to say that all this is just politics. But you didn’t need to be a polling genius to anticipate the electoral risks for Wynne in backing tolls, so it’s not clear why the premier didn’t offer Tory options in the first instance, including the now transparently political pledge – increasing the gas tax transfer to municipalities from $321 million to $642 million — she served up on Friday in Richmond Hill.
The operative words in Wynne’s press release are, “beginning in 2019,” which is to say, after the election the Liberals will lose resoundingly. Ignore all the calculations about how much Toronto’s going to get a few years out. The city is going to get nada, because Tory leader Patrick Brown will win handily on pocket-book issues, of which this new gas tax will be merely one.
All of this puts the fiscal ball squarely back in Toronto city council’s court, and marks, in a very important way, an unavoidable turning point moment for Tory. It is now quite clear that important anticipated sources of capital support for major infrastructure are drying up, and this is happening at a time when several of these projects are seeing dramatic cost escalations.