Finance minister Morneau demands Tory ‘keep your word’ as the municipal chief executive urges caution in throwing Toronto politics into chaos with new mayoral election
Toronto mayor John Tory needs federal Liberals to make good on their offers to help troubled cities, and the Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland needs to make good on her promise to help the Canadian city, Tory told federal party leaders on Friday.
The two-term Toronto mayor had traveled to Ottawa, the two capitals of Canada’s two biggest provinces, in part to say that his hometown needs help in the form of federal infrastructure money.
Tory said that he believes “we are uniquely gifted in this city”, but he blamed the federal government’s deficit-fighting budget for taking “the hearts out of the city”. He called on the federal leaders to help cities hold down their own costs, including through funding their own transit or water infrastructure and funding local infrastructure.
At a Toronto transit demonstration with Freeland on Friday, Tory suggested that Canada’s big cities needed the federal government to “keep your word” to fund transit and housing-related projects, even if that meant provinces or local leaders demanding federal funding.
He and others have said that it’s not just big cities, including Tory’s own 3.7 million residents, that would benefit from federal help. Toronto’s neighbours also rely on federal help, he said.
“The point was that in cities across the country, our cities are struggling to maintain and grow service levels; everybody’s suffering when it comes to all these issues around housing and we can’t afford it in any place in the country,” he said, citing affordable housing, parking, transit, and their environmental costs.
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Tory is facing an unexpectedly tough re-election bid amid discontent about the city’s economy, crime, and the economy of a port city in Ontario, a province that neighbours the United States, and one that’s pushing for a railway that’s as big as New York City’s to connect it to Maine.
Tory is facing a challenge from feminist Jane Pitfield and another from David Soknacki, who was mayor for less than three months in 2013 before quitting, saying the media didn’t give him enough time to prove himself.
On Friday, Tory stressed that the priority was to make progress on a city that, under his tenure, has experienced an upturn in its economy and built or expanded many new infrastructure and transit projects.
Tory has campaigned on the promise to spend the money from the provincial government to help pay for the Ford Progressive Conservative government’s legislation to cut Toronto council to 25 seats from 47 in 2018 and abolish Toronto’s power to establish a price on carbon.
Ford disbanded the Toronto regional police force and forced a planned hike in electricity prices. Critics say it was used as a way to blunt Premier Doug Ford’s political attacks after losing the provincial election in June.
Pitfield has focused on corruption in the former Toronto mayor Rob Ford’s administration while Soknacki has said the city needs a focus on delivery. Both argued that Tory should stay out of the fight between the Ford government and the city.
Tory said he has been criticized for “overselling” the benefits of Ford’s provincial agenda. But he insists that the mayor’s office needed to stay neutral when the Ford government presented a budget that included Ford’s cuts to the city council and the ending of the province’s cap-and-trade system that forces the province to pay for cap-and-trade.