Statement from Mayor John Tory on the upcoming Federal Election:
For four years leading up to my election, the highest rank of Toronto’s political leadership was largely absent from discussions involving the issues facing big cities in Canada. As a result, our city’s voice was not heard as loudly as necessary.
That has changed. Toronto is Canada’s largest city and has a major stake in the measures implemented by the federal government on key issues such as transit, infrastructure and housing.
And so I have made a pointed effort since my election last year to join the discussion with my fellow mayors – individually and as a group – and to directly advocate for Toronto’s priorities with the Prime Minister, his ministers and MPs.
Over the course of this federal election campaign, I have engaged with the Leaders of all three major parties, as well as their regional representatives and critics.
The Oct 19 vote will have a direct impact on our city and as Mayor, I have worked with City Council and city staff to bring the federal leaders’ attention to Toronto’s needs in respect to transit, infrastructure and housing.
As Election Day approaches, I am encouraged by many of the items each party has brought forward in their platforms, but I encourage them to go further in relation to municipal priorities including:
Transit: I am gratified that both the Conservative and Liberal parties have explicitly pledged to fund the federal share of SmartTrack, a Toronto transit project that will make a large impact for regional commuters in the shortest possible timeframe. The NDP has also indicated their transit funding plans could accommodate SmartTrack if so directed by the city.
But the federal government must also build on measures introduced through the national transit fund. Our cities require expanded commitments when it comes to permanent funding of public transportation, something that has historically only been acknowledged in an episodic fashion.
Infrastructure: The long-term, stable funding via the gas tax has been critically important to cities as we focus on building transit, cutting congestion and making badly needed repairs to affordable housing. While all parties have committed to infrastructure investments, they must also provide cities with the flexibility to ensure this funding meets specific needs. In the case of Toronto, we must have the ability to apply this funding to affordable housing repairs.
To date, the Liberal Party has indicated that social housing repairs would be eligible for infrastructure funding in the early years of this program. I encourage the other two major parties to clarify their position on this issue in the election’s final days.
Housing: While each party has made some commitments on affordable housing, I am disappointed by the overall lack of ambition when it comes to a future federal commitment related to this vital municipal issue.
Affordable housing is an urgent matter for Toronto and other Canadian cities – with an unmistakable economic as well as social imperative – and it requires a permanent national funding regime.
It’s not my role to tell people how to vote, but like other mayors, I have a responsibility to highlight how this election will impact the people of Toronto. As we weigh this important decision, it’s also important to me that we treat each other with respect and remember that our diversity is our city’s strength.
This election matters to our city, and by casting a “Vote for Cities” you get a say in the future treatment Toronto receives from its federal partners.
No matter who is in office on Oct. 20, I’m going to make sure those commitments result in real action and benefits for the people of Toronto, and I promise to work effectively and cooperatively with our new Parliament and government.