Tim Hudak is taking some GTA public transit projects off the rails.
A Progressive Conservative government would slam the brakes on planned LRT expansion along Finch Ave. West and Sheppard Ave. East and in Mississauga, Brampton and Hamilton, says Hudak.
The Tory leader, who has signalled his opposition to the light-rail transit lines since 2012, said Friday such initiatives are not a priority.
“Finch, Sheppard, Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton,” Hudak said when asked which LRTs he would kill so money could be earmarked for subways and other congestion-fighting measures.
“Instead of ripping up the roads and making your traffic worse, we’ll build on the real strengths of the system,” he told reporters at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, against the backdrop of GO Trains at Union Station.
“That’s why we’ll do more frequent GO service and we’ll expand our highway capacity as well: the 400, the 410, the 403.”
But Hudak would not proceed with the Liberals’ electrification of GO, instead favouring cheaper diesel trains, even though these cause more air pollution and cannot run as frequently as often as electric locomotives.
He also emphasized that his focus for the Toronto Transit Commission would be on subway construction, including the long-touted downtown relief line to take pressure off Bloor-Danforth.
Noting gridlock in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area costs the Ontario economy $6 billion a year, Hudak pledged to “take urgent, decisive action to fix this GTA traffic problem.”
If the Tories win the June 12 election, they would merge the TTC, GO Transit and other services into one regional transportation authority.
Hudak claimed his proposal would create 96,000 jobs — part of the 1 million he believes he could generate over eight years by cutting taxes and reducing bureaucracy.
Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion has long opposed Hudak’s plan to axe the $1.6 billion Hurontario-Main LRT in her city.
Former Toronto mayor David Miller, who pushed the LRTs on Finch and Sheppard to provide links to well-populated, underserviced neighbourhoods, took to Twitter to question the proposal.
“It would be pretty easy to calculate the number of jobs lost by cancelling these lines. Thousands, for sure,” Miller tweeted.
Toronto mayoral candidates Karen Stintz, David Soknacki and Olivia Chow oppose Hudak’s campaign pledge to cancel the Finch Ave. West and Sheppard Ave. E. light rail lines. John Tory won’t yet express an opinion.
Tory, Hudak’s predecessor as PC leader, said Friday he would release his own transit plan later in May.
Three other mayoral candidates swiftly rejected the Conservatives’ position on light rail.
“If we’re going to deal with congestion, we need to build the funded transit plans that have been approved,” Stintz, the former TTC chair, said, adding transit would “absolutely suffer a series of setbacks” under the Tories.
Soknacki said choosing subways instead of light rail for the low-density suburbs would mean spending “hundreds of millions of dollars that doesn’t need to be spent for a service that’s inferior, that’s not appropriate to the needs of the population.”
Chow pointed out much work has been done paving the way for the LRTs.
“All of that work that has been done — do not rip out those plans. Because what’s going to happen in the Finch area and Sheppard area?” she said.
Rob Ford, the incumbent who has suspended campaigning, has said he wants to extend the Sheppard subway and build a new line on Finch.
Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne, meanwhile, told a web chat with thestar.com that she is “committed” to transit expansion.
“We will spend $15 billion over the next 10 years on that plan. The NDP has no plan and Tim Hudak today, already, announced he is cancelling projects.”