Toronto Mayor Tory ‘encouraged’ by Liberals’ housing plan

With less than a week to go before election day, Toronto Mayor John Tory is assessing the party leaders’ platforms on municipal issues – saying he’s “encouraged” by the Liberals for addressing affordable-housing repairs, and that the Conservatives are “behind the others” on housing.

Throughout the 11-week campaign, the mayor has refrained from endorsing any one party, despite his own Conservative ties. But on Tuesday, Mr. Tory did offer his thoughts on each of the parties based on transit, infrastructure and housing, and whose plan could most benefit Toronto.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that the Liberal Party has set some of the infrastructure funding they have committed to, which they specifically said could be used for the repair of social housing – which is probably our number-one priority just in terms of something that has a huge amount of urgency to it,” Mr. Tory said.

Speaking from the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood in North York – at the launch of a massive revitalization of a social-housing community – Mr. Tory told reporters he’s less impressed so far with the other two parties’ affordable-housing platforms.

Toronto Community Housing, the country’s largest social-housing provider, is currently facing a $2.6-billion repairs backlog, with no funding commitments thus far from either the provincial or federal governments.

“The New Democrats have been less specific on that, and the Conservatives have not followed on that,” he said on their housing promises.

Mr. Tory later added that “the Conservatives are probably behind the others in that. But they’ve all got some work to do in terms of being more ambitious with this issue.”

When asked about the niqab issue, the Toronto mayor appeared to be critical of the Conservatives’ stand.

“I wish that debate – I didn’t think it was necessary for it to happen in the context of an election,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the time to have discussions like this that really should involve us understanding each other better, and deciding what’s really important to building a great country.”

The mayor repeated that he doesn’t plan to endorse any one party ahead of next week’s election, saying to reporters “I don’t think it’s my place to tell people how to vote.” Instead, he sent out a statement Tuesday outlining his thoughts on the city’s key issues.

On transit, the mayor was equal in his praise for both the Tories and Liberals – and later singled out Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for being the first to commit to funding his transit plan.

“I am gratified that both the Conservative and Liberal parties have explicitly pledged to fund the federal share of SmartTrack,” he said. The NDP, meanwhile, he said “have also indicated their transit funding plans could accommodate SmartTrack if so directed by the city.”

On the same day as the mayor’s comments on housing, Councillor Ana Bailao, the city’s housing advocate, released results of a city survey sent to all Toronto-area candidates, asking for their commitments on affordable housing. According to Ms. Bailao, more than half of the 100 people contacted responded, but none of the Toronto Conservative candidates participated.

“I think it’s disappointing,” Ms. Bailao said Tuesday.

“I think that housing is a major issue in the city and across the country … I think the people of Toronto have the right to know what they stand for in housing, and I think it’s disappointing that we will not be able to communicate that to Toronto residents.”

The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015