Toronto city council voted 32-9 on Tuesday in favour of road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway.
Earlier this month, Mayor John Tory suggested placing tolls on two of the city’s major highways. He believes this would generate the $33 billion needed for his planned infrastructure projects and would avoid the need to raise taxes.
Tory originally faced an onslaught of criticism from his council for the plan. But after 10 hours of heated debate later, the majority of city councillors strongly approved the measure.
Ward 7 councillor Giorgio Mammoliti was one of Tory’s most vocal opponents to the plan at city hall yesterday.
“What are you going to say to the families that can’t afford those $4 a day, or maybe more?” Mammoliti asked. “What are you going to say to those single mothers that just can’t get into their car and do what you’re suggesting or those seniors that you came up and visited in my particular ward and said that you wouldn’t do this?”
The exchange between Mammoliti and Tory became heated after the councillor suggested the mayor forfeit his position. But Tory remained adamant that the road tolls were the best solution for Toronto citizens and that he would not step down.
“Here is what I will say to those people, all the people of Toronto,” Tory replied. “If we want to maintain the ability of people to connect to employment, including the people in your ward, if we want seniors to be able to get around this city and not be confined to their own area then we must fix traffic by building transit and if we want to be honest with people about how we’re going to build that transit, we must spell out for them some means of paying for it and I have picked one means that I’ve put forward here.”
Mammoliti was one of nine councillors who voted against the tolls. Ward 2 councillor Michael Ford of Ward 2, Ward 8’s Anthony Peruzza and Ward 40’s Norm Kelly were among those who joined him in the vote.
Despite the positive vote, Tory’s road toll proposal won’t be able to move forward without the approval of Queen’s Park.
Late last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne suggested the Liberal government would not deny an official request from Toronto for road tolls.
“If there’s more that they need to do, they need to find resources to do that,” Wynne said. “And we need to cooperate with them as they make those decisions.”
Progressive Conservative party leader Patrick Brown criticized this move by the Liberal government in an interview with CP24 yesterday. He said his party will only approve it to make up for “mismanagement” of infrastructure projects.
Toronto citizens remain divided on the issue, taking to social media to vent their frustrations with city hall or sing their praises.