Toronto City Councilors Demand Answers from Metrolinx on Ontario Line Transit Project

The Ontario Line will be a 15-station subway route that will run 16 kilometers from the Ontario Science Center to Ontario Place.  (Metrolinx - photo credit)

The Ontario Line will be a 15-station subway route that will travel 16 kilometers from the Ontario Science Center to Ontario Place. (Metrolinx – photo credit)

Pushing for more insight and input into the massive Ontario Line project, three Toronto councilors have accused the province’s transit agency tasked with building the multi-billion dollar subway line of being too secretive.

Ausma Malik, Chris Moise and Paula Fletcher enlisted the support of their Toronto and East York Community Council colleagues this week to set up a subcommittee to look into the project. The group will begin meetings next month and will receive formal updates from city officials and hear deputations from community members.

Malik, representing Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York, said they decided to form the subcommittee because communities and the politicians representing them were consistently excluded from the process as planning for the Ontario line progressed.

“Metrolinx and the provincial government have fallen short in terms of their community engagement and their responsibility to ensure they listen to local stakeholders,” she said.

The 15.6-kilometer Ontario Line was announced by Premier Doug Ford in 2019. The route will have 15 stations and run through the core of downtown from Ontario Place in the west to the Ontario Science Center in the east.

The initial price was set at $10.9 billion. But in November, the province updated that estimate, revealing that supply chain issues and inflation pushed the price up to $17 billion to $19 billion. These numbers don’t include a range of costs, including the actual trains themselves or the storage facilities for them.

The construction work was originally planned for 2027. When asked Friday when the line is likely to be completed, Metrolinx declined to say.

Metrolinx criticized for plan and communication

Critics have questioned Metrolinx’s plan, blaming the provincial body for a lack of communication and poor consultation with affected communities. Metrolinx also found itself in hot water legally when a number of groups questioned its plan to cut down trees on the historic Osgoode Hall site to build a station on the line.

Moise, who represents Ward 13 at the Toronto Center, said his constituents and those of the other two aldermen have been hardest hit by the project’s construction. And while the committee can’t force Metrolinx to participate in its work, good planning comes from rigorous community consultation, he said.

“We urgently need more transit,” he said. “I am very supportive of the Ontario Line. But we know Metrolinx hasn’t always been open and accommodating.”



Fletcher, who represents Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth, said Metrolinx communicated its plan “in chunks,” which hampered local councils’ ability to see the scope of the project. The committee will allow councilors to consider the work longer, she said.

“Right now we’re just seeing the trees … we really need to see the forest,” she said. “And I think this will give a very clear overview of the whole area.”

Metrolinx “too arcane,” says Matlow

count. Josh Matlow, District 12, Toronto-St. Paul’s said the lessons of Metrolinx’s delayed Eglinton Crosstown LRT need to be applied to the Ontario Line and he supports the formation of the subcommittee.

“You’re too secretive,” he said of Metrolinx.

“The sooner there is more accountability and transparency at Metrolinx, the better the transit will be built. And we just don’t accept that Metrolinx can just be rude to the people of Toronto without having a place to demand answers.”

Angelina King/CBC

Angelina King/CBC

Metrolinx said in a statement that it regularly updates and seeks feedback from communities across Toronto on the Ontario Line.

“We continue to work closely with our partners in the City of Toronto and meet weekly as we carry out this important project,” the agency’s media relations department said.

“We have coordinated plans with city officials and look forward to continuing to work together as we move this project forward.”

Canada’s “most expensive” subway?

Stephen Wickens, a Toronto freelance researcher and journalist who specializes in transit issues, said the Ontario Line has been badly needed for at least four decades, so he’s willing to overlook some flaws in the current plan. But he said he was increasingly concerned about the approach to designing the project and the lack of communication.

“The secrecy that comes with Metrolinx’s approach of not sharing important information with anyone who might ask good questions is a problem,” he said.

“They like to use this excuse that this is commercially sensitive material. It doesn’t serve them and I don’t think it serves the people of Ontario.”



Wickens, who authored a 2020 report on the rising costs of subway projects for the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario, says the project could be on track to break a cost record.

“This Ontario line should be a way to get better value for the public,” he said.

“It looks to me, and certainly from the early contracts that have been signed, that this will be the most expensive subway ever built in this country.”

“And I would be shocked if it was ready by 2030,” he added.

The committee will meet next month to develop a mandate for its spring work and has been able to learn about the status of the line from the city’s Transit Expansion Office.

This update is also expected to include details of the pedestrian and traffic management plans and identify places where the city and residents can be involved in the development of the project.

“We hope Metrolinx is listening,” Malik said.

“And I believe it’s in their best interest to come to the table and support the provincial government.”


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