Toronto councillors are celebrating the loss of two major highways from the city’s care following Monday’s announcement that the province would be “uploading” the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and the Gardiner Expressway.
The deal is an outcome of the New-Deal Working Group, which was initially formed in September with the aim of achieving long-term stability and sustainability for Toronto’s books. The recent move helped unify Toronto councillors, who praised Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford.
“I’m euphoric that he’s seen the light,” Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Mike Colle told CBC Toronto, referring to the premier shifting his position after stating he would not take over the two highways as recently as this spring in the leadup to the mayoral byelection.
“If Toronto is able to thrive, so will the province thrive … I think he’s come to that realization,” said Colle.
“Whoever has worked with Olivia Chow knows that there’s no such thing as ‘No,'” said Parkdale-High Park Coun. Gord Perks. “This is a testament to a different kind of approach in municipal-provincial relationships.”
City councillors and the city had repeatedly said a $1.5 billion budget hole was leaving the city hamstrung as it looked to its upcoming budget — something made tougher by costs associated with the highways.
Last year, city staff estimated annual maintenance costs for the two major highways adds up to about $16 million per year, while $2.2 billion has been budgeted for the rehabilitation of the Gardiner.
Ford said in Monday’s press conference that the province will provide Toronto up to $7.6 billion in capital relief by uploading the two highways. The province also committed to provide operating and capital support for these highways in 2024, while a “due diligence process” is underway.
“By uploading the Gardiner and DVP, the city will be able to spend billions more on affordable housing, fixing transit and building communities,” Chow said.
Lindsay Broadhead, chief communications officer for the city, told CBC Toronto that staff are “studying the implications” the move will have on the upcoming operating budget and 10-year capital plan, which have a $1.5 billion and $46.5 billion shortfall, respectively.
Councillors watching ‘due diligence’ process closely
CBC Toronto reached out to all of Toronto council to respond to the news. All who spoke to CBC were glad to see the deal.
The province was not available to confirm further details about the take-over Monday afternoon beyond what was shared at the press conference.
York Centre Coun. James Pasternak, who moved a motion calling on the province to upload the highways in September, said the upload was “long overdue,” with any concerns he has overshadowed by the benefits.
“At the end of the day, we are giving up something, we’re giving up control. But … it’s a good thing,” he said.