Toronto Mayor John Tory headed to Ottawa Tuesday, in a bid to pitch his SmartTrack transit plan to federal leaders and garner support for increased co-operation between the city and the federal government on desperately needed infrastructure investments.
Tory is scheduled to meet with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt and federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, as well as several MPs from the Toronto area.
“The federal government really has to be in partnership with is on a predictable consistent basis going forward if we are going to make the kinds of investments in our cities … that we have to make," Tory said at a press conference this morning before he left for Ottawa.
Citing the recent spate of water main breaks across the city, including one that has forced the closure of the east wing of city hall and a host of others that have snarled traffic and affected public transit, Tory said the trip will help bring the urgency of infrastructure improvements to the attention of decision makers in Ottawa.
“We need the help of other governments to do the job that needs to be done because a lot of this has been left for far too long.”
Tory already met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper during a one-on-one sit down at Toronto Pearson in December. The mayor used that opportunity to appeal directly to Harper for support on funding and constructing SmartTrack.
During the first session of the year last week, city council approved $1.6 million in funding to study the implementation of SmartTrack, which was the foundation of Tory's municipal election campaign. The plan will cost an estimated $8-billion, and Tory hopes to have it built within the next seven years.
Tory has repeatedly stressed the need for increased, stable and long-term funding from the federal and provincial governments for transit and affordable housing projects in Toronto. At the Big City Mayors summit earlier this month, Tory said he hopes to use the upcoming federal election as leverage to secure commitments from the federal parties.
He said this morning that while it's unrealistic to expect Mulcair or Trudeau to make any concrete campaign promises with regard to funding for Toronto, he wouldn't hesitate to "comment favourably" on policies put forth by either leader that could help Toronto deal with an impending infrastructure crisis.
Tory is set to return from Ottawa tomorrow.
While several councillors said Tuesday that they supported Tory's efforts to reach out to federal-level counterparts, the mayor’s predecessor was more critical.
Coun. Rob Ford suggested Tuesday that the people in Ottawa already know what Tory is looking for. He also questioned why Tory was travelling with three staff members.