Tory says subway relief line construction could be sped up by two years, open by 2029


Mayor John Tory says city and TTC staff have found a way to speed up construction of the relief line subway by at least two years, meaning it would open by 2029.

But the expedited work would require adding an additional $162 million in this year’s TTC capital budget. According to transit agency staff, the total cost to speed up the work would be $325 million spread out over two years.

Mayor John Tory says city and TTC staff have found a way to speed up construction of the relief line subway by at least two years, meaning it would open by 2029.
Mayor John Tory says city and TTC staff have found a way to speed up construction of the relief line subway by at least two years, meaning it would open by 2029.  (David Rider / Toronto Star file photo)

“I know while the date that we’re talking about here in the late 2020s still sounds far away, the bottom line is that the faster you get on with these projects and everything you can do to speed them up, the sooner people are going to be able to ride on that transit, the sooner we’re going to have real relief that people have talked about for decades,” said Tory at an announcement Thursday at Pape subway station.

The relief line would connect the eastern end of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) at Pape to Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) at Queen St. downtown, and is considered critical to relieving crowding pressure on the existing network. Early estimates indicate it would cost at least $6.8 billion. It is currently not funded.

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Editorial | Relief line must be the top priority for Toronto’s subway system

Opening relief line before Yonge subway extension ‘makes sense,’ Ontario transportation minister says

TTC Chair Jaye Robinson, who joined Tory at the event, said the completion of the subway could be sped up by accelerating design work, property acquisition, and utility relocation, and advancing the purchase of the machines and technology required to construct the line. TTC staff said construction could begin as early as 2020.

The mayor’s announcement came as the provincial Conservative government is moving ahead with plans to take over all future TTC subway construction, a development that could take the relief line out of the city and transit agency’s hands.

Tory, who backed a council decision to enter into talks with the province about the subway takeover, said it was “grossly premature” to assume any outcome of those talks and in the meantime the city has a responsibility to move ahead with building transit.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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Opening relief line before Yonge subway extension ‘makes sense,’ Ontario transportation minister says


Ontario’s transportation minister says the TTC subway system is overcrowded and it “makes sense” to ensure a relief line enters service before a new subway extension to Richmond Hill.

The comments by Jeff Yurek are the closest he has come to acknowledging the primacy of what Toronto officials have said is the city’s top transit priority, and come as the Ontario Progressive Conservative government moves to take ownership of the municipal subway system.

Last year, city council passed a motion declaring that the relief line must be operational before the proposed extension of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) to Hwy. 7 in York Region enters service.

Yurek didn’t commit to honouring that decision and said there’s no reason why construction of both projects couldn’t proceed at the same time, but signalled he understood the importance of opening the relief line first.

“It makes sense. It makes sense to ensure that the Yonge relief line is up and operational prior to the Yonge extension being built,” he said in an interview at his office last week.

The first phase of the relief line would cost more than $6.8 billion and connect Queen and Osgoode stations downtown with Pape on the eastern end of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), taking pressure off of Line 1. Line 1 regularly operates above capacity, and the Yonge extension, which is backed by PC political allies in York Region, would only add more riders.

Yurek is a three-term MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, and was elevated to the transportation portfolio in Premier Doug Ford’s surprise cabinet shuffle in early November. Before that, the 47-year-old from St. Thomas, Ont., who owns a pharmacy business, was the government’s minister of natural resources.

Although he maintains a residence in his home riding, Yurek said he rides the TTC when he’s in Toronto. “It’s very crowded, especially during the rush hour,” he said. “I really understand the need for improvements or relief.”

Yurek fuelled concerns at city hall last week when, in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, he spoke about plans to expand the subway network to suburban municipalities in Durham, York and Peel, but made no mention of the relief line.

In the interview, he rejected the idea that the province’s plan to take ownership of the subway amounts to a suburban takeover of the network that would starve the system within Toronto, saying if existing lines become too crowded “that makes the whole system not function to its best potential.”

Yurek also defended the government’s proposal to use the TTC subway to serve the suburbs outside of Toronto. Critics argue the GO Transit network, which is already owned by the province, was designed to serve those regions.

He said that after uploading the subway, the province would use a mix of the TTC and the GO network to serve the entire Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. GO trains may work best in some contexts, he said, but in others “it makes sense to build subways, either above or below ground.”

The mandate given to the government’s special adviser on the upload plan states that, in addition to the subway system, the province is contemplating taking ownership of “other strategic transit/transportation assets in Toronto.”

Yurek wouldn’t reveal what those additional assets could be.

The minister denied accusations made by the Ontario NDP and the largest TTC workers’ union that the Progressive Conservatives intend to privatize aspects of the subway system. “That’s something that I haven’t looked at,” he said, arguing that the province is simply better positioned than the city to plan, fund and build new subway lines, but would leave operations to the TTC.

The province plans to introduce legislation early next year that would enable the upload, but Yurek said there would be a period of negotiations with the city before any assets are transferred.

On Thursday, the minister sent a letter to Mayor John Tory, seeking his written consent for the city to enter into an information sharing agreement with the province to advance the upload plan. Tory has told the city manager he believes taking part is the best way to protect the city’s interests, but critics on council have said he should stonewall the province and not co-operate in anything that could lead to the province taking over the rail network. Council is expected to debate the issue Dec. 13.

After their election win in June, the Conservatives inherited a host of expensive transit projects from the previous Liberal government. The new regime’s efforts to cut costs to address a $15-billion deficit has led to speculation that some planned new lines will be cancelled, including the $1.2-billion Finch West LRT, which is in the early construction phase and is set to open in northwest Toronto in 2023.

Yurek said the government is conducting a review of all major projects, and did not rule out cancelling Finch.

As of January, Metrolinx had already spent $236.3 million on the light rail line, and ripping up contracts with construction companies and vehicle suppliers would likely result in expensive financial penalties for the government. Yurek said cost would be a factor in the decision on Finch.

“We don’t want to waste any money. We don’t see making decisions that are going to hurt the taxpayer,” he said.

The Conservatives have introduced legislation to give the minister of transportation more direct control over Metrolinx, which was established in 2006 as an arms-length agency of the province. The proposed changes come after the Star revealed in 2017 that then Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca interfered in Metrolinx’s planning process to secure approval for two politically sensitive GO stations, including one in his own riding in Vaughan, that weren’t supported by evidence.

Yurek said the location of his hometown, some 90 kilometres from the nearest GO line, made it unlikely he would become embroiled in that kind of controversy.

“You know, that’s the best thing about being from St. Thomas — I’m not going to want a GO station or a subway in my riding,” he said.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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Stress Relief Products Getting Me Through Thanksgiving Chaos | Healthyish


Compared with every TV show, movie, and comic strip about Thanksgiving, my family’s version is extremely chill. Examples of “dramas” we’ve faced: Someone arrives an hour early and we must entertain them. Someone comes with a new girlfriend or an acquaintance or a Canadian friend and we must set an extra place. Someone brings a raw cranberry sauce to put alongside the cooked one, and there’s a heated conversation about whether the raw one is technically a relish. So I really have no business being stressed on Thanksgiving; it’s just that my usual low-grade anxiety is heightened thanks to the fun combo of heinous travel plus cooking responsibility plus large family gathering. But I didn’t come here for therapy. I came to talk solutions.

The Journey

It starts with the Thanksgiving Eve journey, wherein I smash myself onto a subway car and then a commuter train to get to my parents’ house north of New York City. Here, between the armpit of a business suit and
a tiny dog in a Vera Bradley bag, I’m grateful for my daily Sun Potion ashwagandha habit. I get the adaptogenic herb powdered and stir it into hot water every a.m. to build up and support my body’s resilience to stress.

The Arrival

By the time I make it home, smelling like the pumpkin spice beverage someone spilled
on my shoes, I’m ready for a drink of my own. But I’m also taking half a dropper of CBDoil, which has been shown in some studies to help with pain relief and muscle relaxation. I look for products made from the whole hemp plant, like Lily CBD. My parents can’t quite remember the acronym, but they keep asking me about “that new weed thing,” so this year I’ll share. Family bonding!

The Wake-Up

No one in my family sleeps late—it’s in our genetic code. If I want to try to make it past the still-dark hour, I need a set of earplugs and my Slip sleep mask, which stays put all night and feels like lingerie for your face.

The Prep

Between table setting, potato peeling,
and whatever other tasks my ruthlessly efficient parents find for me to do, I pause for sips from my Fressko infuser flask. Inside is fresh-brewed skullcap, a plant that calms my nerves and helps with stomach pain. If things start getting a little hot in the kitchen, I’ll sneak off with a Monq aromatherapy pen. It looks like an e-cigarette but is really nothing but pure delicious smells such as eucalyptus, lime, and tangerine.

The Meal

If I’ve done all these things, I’m on cruise control by the time extended family and friends start arriving. This is the easy part: a frenzy of plates passing, glasses refilling, and claims that this year’s turkey is the best ever and we mean it this time. Afterward, with tryptophan coursing through my bloodstream, all I need is a couch, Forrest Gump, and a promise to do the dishes later. For a moment, I’ll forget what stress even is.

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.


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Federal government’s tariff relief plan faces criticism; Morneau says 50 firms tariff-free


Finance Minister Bill Morneau says 50 Canadian companies have so far been exempted from paying surtaxes on U.S. steel and aluminum imports that have been in place since Ottawa imposed retaliatory tariffs last summer.

Morneau provided the figure Tuesday before a parliamentary committee, where opposition MPs criticized his relief plan as too slow in helping Canadian firms affected by the cross-border tariff fight and too onerous for smaller companies to even apply for.

Conservative MP Dean Allison said the committee has heard from many businesses caught in the crossfire that are worried the financial relief isn’t arriving quickly enough for them to remain viable.

Under questioning, Morneau agreed he would like to see the relief money flow faster — but he said there’s a process that must be followed.

He says 135 companies have submitted remission requests and approved firms will also be eligible for refunds on duties they’ve already paid since Ottawa imposed the counter-tariffs on U.S. products on July 1.

Morneau was asked how much extra revenue the surtaxes have already brought in — but he declined to provide a number and only said the duties were generating significant revenues.


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Mayor John Tory taps Beaches-East York candidate to be ‘relief line champion’


Mayor John Tory announced Friday he would appoint a Beaches-East York council candidate as his “relief line champion” if both are elected on Oct. 22.

At a campaign event at Main Street subway station, Tory said he would select Brad Bradford as council booster for the subway project, despite the fact Bradford isn’t running in one of the three wards through which the line would run.

Tory, who has previously said his administration was already doing everything possible to advance the relief line, didn’t specify what duties the “relief line champion” position would entail.

In an email, a spokesperson for the mayor’s re-election campaign said, “as a champion for the project, Brad Bradford will have a laserlike focus on the project and work with council and city staff to make sure the relief line gets built.”

“This is one more example of how Mayor Tory works with others to get things done for Toronto residents,” wrote Keerthana Kamalavasan.

Bradford, who is on leave from his job as an urban planner with the city, is in a competitive race against 15 other candidates in Ward 19, including former NDP MP Matthew Kellway.

It’s one of only two seats in the 25-ward election that isn’t being contested by any incumbents. Councillors Mary Margaret McMahon and Janet Davis, who represented the area under the outgoing 44-ward system, are stepping down.

In an interview Friday, Kellway said the mayor tapping Bradford for the relief line title was “clearly political,” and at odds with Bradford’s expressed support for the controversial Scarborough subway extension, which would add one stop to Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) at a cost of at least $3.35 billion.

“I don’t know how any councillor becomes a champion of both a one-stop Scarborough subway and a downtown relief line. These are very different transit priorities for the city,” Kellway said.

“I think whoever gets elected right across the city needs to be a champion of the downtown relief line … That’s certainly a role, whether I get the mayor’s designation or not, that I would take on.”

In a statement, Jennifer Keesmaat, who is running for mayor and is considered Tory’s main challenger, accused her opponent of “pawning off responsibility for one of the most important transit projects in this city to an unelected candidate.”

“The mayor should be the champion for the relief line and all transit in this city,” said Keesmaat, who claims she could get the relief line finished three years faster than currently projected.

She charged that “giving (a councillor) a made-up title will not get anyone home or to work any faster.”

The first phase of the relief line is estimated to cost more than $6.8 billion and would take pressure off the overcrowded Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) subway by linking the eastern end of Line 2 to downtown. It’s considered by many experts as the city’s top transit priority.

According to an alignment council approved last year, the eight-stop route would run between Pape and Osgoode stations, via Pape Ave., Carlaw Ave., Eastern Ave. and Queen St. East.

“The downtown relief line is the priority for the residents of Beaches-East York,” Bradford told reporters at the announcement Friday.

“It’s very important to the east end and it’s very important for the city of Toronto. And I’m happy to lend my experience and strong voice, co-ordinated approach, to getting that done in Toronto.”

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


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Which Toronto mayoral candidate is telling the truth about the relief subway line?


As they vie for Torontonians’ votes, Mayor John Tory and election rival Jennifer Keesmaat are telling two very different stories about the state of what is arguably the city’s most important transit project.

Tory says his administration has done everything it can to advance the relief line, the proposed $6.8-billion subway that would connect downtown to Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) east of the Don River. But Keesmaat accuses the mayor of allowing the project to fall behind schedule, and says she has a plan to speed it up.

Whoever is elected mayor on Oct. 22 could play a large role in how and when the relief subway line gets built.
Whoever is elected mayor on Oct. 22 could play a large role in how and when the relief subway line gets built.  (Bernard Weil / Toronto Star file photo)

The relief line is viewed by many experts as the only effective way to alleviate crowding on the TTC’s overburdened subway system, and whoever is elected mayor on Oct. 22 could play a large role in how and when it gets built.

So which candidate is right? Is the project on track under Tory’s leadership, or has it been delayed? The Star fact-checked the pair’s claims and found neither Tory’s nor Keesmaat’s assertions are completely backed up by the evidence.

Read more:

While early design and engineering work for the line is underway, construction has not yet begun.

In April the TTC board awarded $31 million worth of design contracts for stations and systems like track work, traction power, and signalling. Contractors are also conducting drilling and coring along the proposed route in order to gather geotechnical data.

This work will support construction of the line, but the subway is not yet being built.

Is the relief line delayed?

Keesmaat’s campaign has said that under Tory, the relief line has “fallen 18 months behind schedule” and “preliminary design work … is already two years delayed.”

The basis for the claim is a report council approved in June 2014 that projected a joint city and TTC study of the relief line route and station locations, called a “project assessment,” would be complete by early 2016.

The campaign says that because the city didn’t complete a key planning document called an “environmental project report” until August 2018, there has been a substantial delay.

However, the 2014 document didn’t set a firm deadline for completing the environmental project report, and city staff did recommend a route and station locations for the relief line to council in July 2016, only slightly behind schedule. That appears to undermine Keesmaat’s claim Tory allowed the project to stagnate for years.

Approval of the relief line route was delayed, but not for the reason Keesmaat’s campaign cited. Although staff recommended council endorse a proposed route at its July 2016 meeting, amid local residents’ concerns about disrupting the residential neighbourhood along Pape Ave., councillors voted to study shifting the subway to run beneath Carlaw Ave. for part of the route instead.

In May 2017, almost a year after staff first recommended a route, council approved the new Carlaw alignment. Both Tory and Keesmaat, who was the city’s chief planner at the time, endorsed the switch to Carlaw.

Is the relief line funded?


Tory has said of the city’s transit plan that different levels of government “are proceeding with it and paying for it.” However, while the federal and provincial governments pledged in March to spend $9 billion on Toronto transit, that money will be spread between several projects, and according to a city spokesperson, “the city has not entered into a formal agreement with the province for the allocation of the funds.”

As part of an agreement Tory has claimed credit for, in 2016 the province pledged $150 million for design and engineering of the relief line.

Is it possible to speed up construction of the relief line?

Keesmaat says she could accelerate the construction of the relief line by three years, which would require finishing the subway by 2028. To accomplish this she would start property acquisition required for the line’s construction, commence utility relocation, and shortlist companies to build the project all while the current design work is still ongoing.

According to TTC spokesperson Brad Ross, initial outreach and public notifications for relief line property acquisitions have already begun, and the design work that is currently underway “is required to identify” where utility relocations may be required.

He suggested it wouldn’t be possible to start shortlisting companies to build the line at this point because work to determine the design and engineering requirements for the project “must be completed before any (such request) can be issued.”

Did previous administrations do nothing to advance the relief line?

Tory said on Sept. 17 that previous mayors and councils have engaged in “decades of talk” about the relief line, but done “nothing” to advance the project.

It’s true that little progress had been made on the relief line until this current term, but in June 2014, four months prior to Tory’s election, council approved spending $4 million on preliminary planning and the project assessment for the relief line. The vote paved the way for the current work on the project.


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