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E-BLAST: All Elections are about Toronto

Over the course of my career as a City Councillor, I’ve watched three mayors grapple with their place in provincial and federal elections. It is a minefield for any politician to comment on another order of government’s race, and this is especially true for the leader of the largest city in Canada. Despite the challenges, Toronto’s mayor has to have a plan for how to navigate these elections. Pundits would never let such a leader ride out an entire campaign period without saying a word.

I think John Tory must have carefully considered the communications strategies of his predecessors, mixed in a little of his own personal style and inclinations, and then got to work. He has chosen to send the same message, openly and transparently, to each party leader in the campaign outlining exactly what Toronto needs from our federal government in order to recover, rebuild, and to support our nearly three million residents.

His letter was addressed individually to four party leaders, giving each of them the opportunity to respond and outline how they will address Toronto’s priorities. The Mayor’s letter focuses on providing adequate funding to five areas:

  1. COVID-19 relief

  2. Housing and homelessness

  3. Public transit

  4. Mental health care

  5. Community violence prevention

I endorse every point the Mayor makes above. I’m particularly happy to see that Toronto’s transit upgrade needs feature prominently in the document. John Tory is careful to balance the needs of the existing system with requests to support the expansion of the system. You’ve heard me on this point many times, dear readers. We can’t dream of new lines endlessly while letting the system we ride today fall apart.

Significant Federal commitment to renew vehicles on current subway and streetcar lines has already been made. Any government, new or re-elected, has to wrap their head around the less sexy types of transit spending like this because of what they can do for our economy. A simple thing like ordering new vehicles generates thousands of jobs up and down the whole manufacture and supply chain. Good for John to remind them of this.

Most importantly, the Mayor’s letter makes it clear to the party leaders that Toronto needs continued federal support during this pandemic and beyond. We already receive federal funding in many of the areas outlined. These federal programs and funding commitments need to be maintained and expanded in order for Toronto to succeed and continue to be the economic engine of our country. Mayor Tory reminds the federal leaders that we are banking on these dollars to serve people in crisis and each party needs to make sure these funds and included in their budget plans for our nation to recover. No new Prime Minister would be able to cut these funds and say, “Sorry, I just didn’t know.” There is only one point I would add to the Mayor’s list. We know that women have been the hardest hit by this pandemic. They are overrepresented in job losses and early indications show that women have also seen a stagnation of upward mobility in their careers as they prioritized their children during the global pandemic. This brings us to what should be the most crucial election issue of them all: child care.

Adopting a motion that I moved with Councillor Layton, Council has already taken the position that we support the proposed federal investment in building a $10/day child care system across the country. Toronto’s own child care strategy has been on hold during the pandemic, but it must be kickstarted back to life if we are to see full economic recovery for every family. We planned, with partnership from both federal and provincial governments, to make child care more affordable, expand the number of child care spaces, and improve the wages and working conditions of child care workers.

All political parties should embrace this as an urgent component of economic competitiveness on the global stage. Countries that already provide a nation-wide, quality child care system will see their cities recovering faster and being less reliant on COVID relief handouts to support families left behind. I heard a great quote the other day that cleverly explains what we need to do to fix child care, especially in Toronto where it is most expensive. I posted it to social media. Perhaps you noticed it: “If you were trying to build a great healthcare system, would you build great hospitals or would you give a bunch of cash to the sick people?”

That quote and all of the points in Mayor Tory’s letter are worth thinking about if you look out the window and spy a fully-vaccinated federal candidate heading towards you door. I want to encourage you to ask them about your city. Go ahead, be a little Toronto-centric! We are the financial centre and economic engine of the entire nation and yet we’re extremely reliant on higher orders of government to fund our ever-growing portfolio of projects and services. I think it’s fair to ask any federal candidate, “What are you committed to do for Toronto? Do you endorse our Mayor’s official letter to your party’s leader?” and then see what they have to say.


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