ON: Executive Committee Backs Subway Vision

Mayor Rob Ford's executive committee has voted to push ahead with plans for a Sheppard subway extension.

Monday's vote came five days after a specially called meeting at which city council largely derailed Ford's subway vision with a 25-18 endorsement of a return to a light rail plan.

While explicitly confirming support for a partially buried LRT on Eglinton Ave. and a surface line on Finch Ave., council stopped short of completely dashing Ford's multi-billion-dollar dream of extending the Sheppard subway to Scarborough Town Centre primarily through private investment.

It authorized creation of an expert panel, including former mayor David Crombie, Ford's point man on Sheppard subway financing Gordon Chong, and U of T transit expert Eric Miller, to report back on Sheppard options by March 21. They meet for the first time Friday.

Ford has dismissed council's vote as "irrelevant" and is lobbying the public and the province to ignore it and proceed with his plan for a buried Eglinton LRT and a Sheppard subway.

Members of executive, after hearing Chong's defence of his report advocating subways, and listening to visiting councillors attack him for relying heavily on a 20-year-old environmental assessment, sided firmly with the mayor and the subway option.

"It is time to stop thinking the only part of the city that deserves good rapid transit is the downtown," said Councillor David Shiner (Ward 24 Willowdale).

Norm Kelly (Ward 40 Scarborough Agincourt) said council is thinking small by only considering what it can finance from the province's promised $8.4 billion.

"What we need in this debate is what Steve Jobs brought to Apple," Kelly said.

Ford's allies approved his motion to have city manager Joe Pennachetti report back with "recommendations on a process to move forward with the development of a plan to complete the Sheppard subway."

Pennachetti is also tasked by council with reporting back on the findings of the expert panel, which includes LRT advocates.

Council Adam Vaughan (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina) called Chong's report fatally flawed, saying it relies on 20-year-old projections, most of which were proven wrong in a 2011 review by the Toronto Transit Commission.

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