Toronto

Toronto backed the Liberals — so what could the city get back from Trudeau?

Every single one of Toronto's 25 ridings backed the Liberals in Monday's federal election. So what will the city get back from Justin Trudeau when it comes to key issues like transit, housing, and gun violence?

Throughout campaign Liberals made pledges on housing, transit, gun violence

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has made a lot of promises to Toronto on issues ranging from affordable housing and transit to gun control. (Paul Chiasson / Canadian Press)

Every single one of Toronto's 25 ridings backed the Liberals in Monday's federal election. So what will the city get back from Justin Trudeau now that he's forming a minority government?

In a campaign marked by scandals, from revelations of Trudeau wearing blackface to questions over Conservative leader Andrew Scheer's dual Canada-U.S. citizenship, policy issues took a backseat to finger-pointing over the gaffes and foibles of party leaders. 

But against that backdrop, Trudeau did make sweeping pledges on issues of critical importance to Toronto residents and city officials.

"His campaign promised to continue investing in transit expansion in Toronto, in affordable housing, and in kids and families as an important element in addressing the roots of gun violence — three important priorities for our City," said Mayor John Tory in a statement on Monday night.

Liberals hope to build 100,000 affordable homes

On the housing front, and likely of interest to residents in an area where rent is sky-high and the average house price is more than $800,000, Trudeau's incoming government plans to offer first-time home-buyer subsidies of 10 per cent on new home purchases and five per cent on resale homes, with certain restrictions.

The Liberals also hope to build 100,000 affordable homes over a decade — a goal that's five times smaller than was proposed by the NDP under Jagmeet Singh.

While the New Democrats only won 24 seats, Coun. Mike Layton — son of the party's late former federal leader Jack Layton — hopes the minority scenario allows the party to encourage bolder action from Trudeau's ranks.

"We've got two parties there that are going to want to outdo one another, and hopefully what that will mean is they'll get together and work out a scenario so that we can see money activated quickly in Toronto for affordable housing," he said.

Mayor John Tory spoke to reporters on Tuesday following the Liberals' victory, and a complete sweep of all 25 ridings in Toronto. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

The "easiest" thing the Liberals could do out of the gate to get shovels in the ground, Tory said on Tuesday morning, would be to quickly make parcels of federally owned land available for housing projects.

"At my request, they've done an inventory, not just in Toronto but across the country ... I think this will be something they'll get strong support on from the New Democratic Party," he added.

More money could also start flowing through the Liberal's National Housing Strategy, a 10-year plan that includes the $4-billion Canada Housing Benefit, which the federal government previously said would provide an average rent subsidy of $2,500 annually beginning in April 2020. 

"We'll have to make sure they keep their word on that," Tory warned.

Promises on transit file, gun policy

On the transit file, the Liberals promised an additional $3 billion in public transit funding each year. And a big Toronto-specific pledge came late in the campaign: investment in the city's transit priorities.

The announcement came the same day Tory and provincial officials revealed a potential agreement on the transit front, with council poised to back Premier Doug Ford's Ontario Line in exchange for the province scrapping plans to take over the entire subway system. 

Announced back in April, the proposed transit line is set to run from Ontario Place, across the downtown core, and up to the Ontario Science Centre. Longer than the city's in-motion plans for a long-awaited downtown relief line, the route would cost close to $11 billion to build, the province says.

"This agreement that we see is a good omen, and the Liberals' commitment to public transit, stated in the last [term], should materialize in getting things built here," said Ryerson University professor Murtaza Haider.

Though the Ontario Line route has stirred controversy over potential delays, amid questions about whether the proposal is feasible from the Liberals and others, Tory expressed hope that he'll be able to facilitate discussion between both higher levels of government.

"It's my job to bring them both to the table to help build transit," he said.

Ryerson University professor Murtaza Haider calls a tentative transit agreement between the province and Toronto a 'good omen' when it comes to securing federal funding. (Lauren Pelley/CBC News)

Gun violence in Toronto has also been a key issue, with hundreds of shootings recorded annually, and it's also an area where the Liberals focused some of their campaign energy.

The federal government previously introduced Bill C-71, expanding firearm background checks, and rolled out more gun-control policies mid-campaign with a promise to ban semi-automatic assault-style rifles.

The party also pledged to give cities more power to restrict or ban handguns. It's a move welcomed by Tory, who said "considerable" additional investment in neighbourhoods and families will also be crucial to preventing violence. 

The question now is how many of the promises potentially affecting Toronto will become a reality — since a minority parliament could create some hurdles for Trudeau, and lead voters back to the polls sooner than they'd like.

"It's going to be more difficult for the Liberals to put forward their agenda going forward," said University of Toronto political science professor Andrew McDougall. 

"So we're going to have to see what the other parties think about those priorities."

About the Author

Lauren Pelley

City Hall reporter

Lauren Pelley is a CBC reporter in Toronto covering city hall and municipal affairs. Contact her at: lauren.pelley@cbc.ca

With files from CBC News, Lorenda Reddekopp

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