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Deal between Ottawa and province similar to Toronto likely coming: sources

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The City of Ottawa could see a deal similar to one brokered between the City of Toronto and the Ontario government, provincial sources say.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said he is hopeful that a historic deal by the City of Toronto and the Doug Ford government to 'upload' the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway into the province's hands will mean similar financial help for the city of Ottawa and other municipalities.

Sutcliffe told CTV News Ottawa on Monday that the new deal for Toronto shows the province is willing to consider funding for the city's transit system and offloading Hwy. 174 from the city's responsibility, which he hopes will save the city millions.

"I think it's reasonable to expect there will be similar help for the city of Ottawa," he said. "It’s a great deal for Toronto and I think it sets a precedent and illustrates that the provincial government is ready to work with municipalities."

Sources tell CTV News Ottawa that the city could benefit from a similar deal, but it's unclear when an announcement could be made.

The city has been petitioning the province to upload Hwy. 174 back into the provincial highway network after having been downloaded to the city by the Progressive Conservative government in the 1990s.

"That download has put a lot of pressure on the City of Ottawa and if the government is going to do that in Toronto, they should do it in Ottawa," said Ottawa South Liberal MPP John Fraser at Queen's Park on Tuesday.

The trade of two major highways in Toronto between the provincial and municipal government is meant to address the city's financial problems. In total, the agreement will provide the city with up to $1.2 billion in financial relief over three years by purchasing two city-run highways in the city. Toronto is facing a $1.5 billion shortfall in its 2024 budget.

“These two highways are vital to the success of the province's economy,” Ford said. “This deal will ensure that these critical transportation assets remain in good condition to keep people and goods living for generations to come.”

The deal also included a major investment in transit, where the province will provide the city with $330 million over three years to operate the Eglinton Crosstown LRT and the Finch West LRT.

Politicians in Ottawa say that despite similar financial issues, including a $40 million deficit for OC Transpo, the province has not been as generous in addressing Ottawa's money problem.

Ontario Liberal MPP for Orléans Stephen Blais said in more stark terms that he was frustrated with the way Ottawa and other municipalities were left out of a similar deal.

"Once again Ottawa is left out in the cold," he told CTV News Ottawa.

"The city is facing enormous challenges and yet Doug Ford and his government aren’t there for Ottawa."

In 2021, Blais introduced the Uploading Highways 174 and 17 Act, which would return both roads to provincial jurisdiction.

He says the city has spent "at least $40 million in capital and operating expenses" on the 27 km highway between Highway 417 and Canaan Road.

Fraser said the download of the 174 onto the City of Ottawa has had financial repurcussions for the city. 

"In Ottawa, it is economic as well too. You've got a community that is largely a bedroom community that wants to develop into not a bedroom community, to develop business and have more people stay at home in the community," Fraser said. "Right now, people are commuting every day. It's got one of the highest modal splits in transit but the highway's still full of cars; that means wear and tear. I think that what we're asking for in Ottawa, if we could do that, upload Highway 174, I think that would be a fair and reasonable thing to do." 

Former Ottawa city councillor and chief administrative officer for Cornwall, Ont. Mathieu Fleury posted to social media about the deal.

"Interesting move by @ONgov for eastern Ontario, could this mean a similar change for the 174?" Fleury said in a post on X.

Sutcliffe said he does not anticipate any similar deal in time for the 2024 city budget, which council will vote on in December.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Graham Richardson and CTV News Queen's Park Bureau Chief Siobhan Morris.

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