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Toronto needs a partner in Ottawa

April 14th, 2015 · No Comments

One-time announcements rob City of ability to plan

By Adam Vaughan

The delay of the federal budget has only really delayed bad news for Toronto. Our city has exceptional needs in housing and transit. Ottawa is nowhere to be found on these files, and it appears from questions asked in the House of Commons that there is next to no chance the federal government will deliver needed funding in the budget if and when it is tabled.

On the housing file, Toronto is staring down a $900 million capital repair backlog. It has a waiting list of 92,000 households, and young families looking to get into the real estate market are finding it harder and harder. We have an affordable housing crisis and a crisis in housing affordability.

The next budget should not only fund new housing starts and repairs, but it must also renew affordable housing agreements and in particular stabilize the co-op sector. The Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation must also be given a new mandate to better manage the private housing market to promote affordability.

On the issue of transit, the absence of federal funding makes Canada the only G-7 country without a national transit strategy. Instead of steady improvement and constant expansion, we get one-time announcements that rob the City of the ability to plan and maintain our transit system.

We also know that our national rail system is lagging terribly. The Dupont tracks carry some of the most volatile cargo on the continent. Instead of investment and proper regulation, we get the exact opposite. This is bad for the economy and puts our community at risk.

The money to address these challenges is already in Ottawa. The federal government is planning to fork over the funding to the most affluent Canadians. Income splitting looks as though it will form the centrepiece of the next federal budget.

Instead of handing billions to the 15 per cent most affluent and well-housed Canadians, the money should be used for building a stronger country. Investing in the needs of cities will not only make Toronto a better place to live, but building housing and transit will also put Canadians back to work.

Since being elected to parliament and named Liberal Party Critic for Housing and Urban Affairs, I have been meeting with mayors across Canada.

The common theme expressed by locally-elected leaders is that cities not only need a new deal from Ottawa, but they also need a new partnership. For too long, the federal government has announced one-time funding that spans years. The last infrastructure announcement will not see money flowing for a long time.

For large cities, this unnecessarily politicizes planning and distorts priorities. For small cities, it often means going “without” for extended periods of time. Instead of complex and politically skewed funding announcements, a more significant, equitable, and dedicated share of the tax base needs to be delivered to cities.

Waiting years for funding, no matter how large it is, is not good financial planning, nor does it allow cities to grow responsibly. This must change.

I have also been visiting and discussing with non-profit housing providers what a new housing program should look like. Housing will be a key issue in the Liberal plan. Stay tuned for an announcement.

Infrastructure and a new relationship with municipalities will also be a key ingredient of our platform.

Building strong cities is the best way to tackle poverty and environmental challenges, secure jobs, and improve health outcomes. In short, it boosts the quality of life for virtually everybody.

As your representative in parliament, I have been holding the current government to account on these issues, which are critical to the health of Toronto.

Highlights from the House of Commons are available on my website, www.adamvaughanmp.ca.

Adam Vaughan is the MP?for Trinity-Spadina.

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