The mayors of Canada's biggest cities want to take advantage of the impending federal election by pressuring parties to include "robust" urban agendas in their platforms and commit to providing funding for transit and housing.
Speaking after a morning summit attended by 19 mayors from across the country, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin reiterated that about 80 per cent of Canadians now live in cities that are dealing with "crippling congestion" and failing infrastructure.
They pointed out that the 19 mayors at the meeting, in terms of ridings, represent 142 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons – putting the imperative on federal parties to offer city dwellers investments in transit projects and affordable housing.
"Any party that wants to win this next election needs to stop thinking about regional strategies and start thinking about urban strategies," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who spoke to reporters after the initial press conference had ended.
"Whoever figures out how to fund transit, how to fund housing … I guess that person gets to be the next prime minister," he quipped.
Robertson said that each of the mayors "recognize the opportunity" that an election year offers as the federal parties compete for seats, and that as a group they will push for and help the parties shape "robust urban agendas."
The current federal government has pointed to the 2013 commitment of $70-billion over 10 years for urban infrastructure projects as evidence that the needs of cities are already a top priority.
Tory called the federal government's partnership with cities "episodic."
"What we need is consistent, reliable, secure funding so we can plan, particularly for transit," he said.
The mayors did not present specific numbers, but agreed that long-term funding must go beyond the kinds of commitments already in place.
"We compete on the world stage through our cities," said Robertson. "This isn't just about what cities need, it's about Canada needs."
The mayors were in Toronto for the annual Big Cities Summit, which will continue throughout the day.