Rob Ford in Ottawa for 'fair share' of subway, housing cash

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is in Ottawa today to attend a gathering of 22 big city mayors, a meeting he has shunned in the past, to ask the group he used to dismiss as "the lefty caucus" to co-operate on getting funding for housing and infrastructure.

Mayors meet to discuss housing crisis and new federal infrastructure plan in Ottawa

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford will be in Ottawa on Wednesday with other big city mayors to discuss the details of a new federal infrastructure fund. Ford said he wants to make sure Toronto gets its 'fair share' of the fund. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is in Ottawa today to attend a gathering of 22 big city mayors — a meeting he has shunned in the past — to ask for funding for housing and infrastructure.

Ford has criticized the mayors' meetings in the past, as the "lefty caucus." He told reporters Wednesday that he wasn't a fan of the gathering because of the number of people who would attend from Toronto. He said there were 22 Toronto city councillors who went to a Federation of Canadian Municipalities gathering in Vancouver, for example.

"I'm here with one person, one aide. I think that's enough," he said.

"I'm not here to ridicule the FCM. Just, in the years gone past, I don't believe it's productive to get together and bash, provincially or federally, whatever your political leanings are."

Ford said one thing he's worried about is door-to-door mail service from Canada Post, something the Crown corporation announced last year it was cutting.

He says Finance Minister Jim Flaherty knows how he feels about home delivery, although he isn't meeting with Flaherty  or Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, as CBC News reported earlier. He said he will take the issue up with Flaherty or Harper if necessary.

"I'm focusing on getting subway money for the city of Toronto and housing money and trying to keep our postal service. And I will take on the federal government," Ford said.

"I can understand what they're trying to achieve. I understand they're going to save money. OK, but I believe there's other ways you can save money and not take away this important service. And Toronto, it's an important service, and that's what people want me to do."

"People have told me, Rob, I want my home delivery. And I do too, and so does my mom."

Ford, who is running for re-election as mayor of Canada's largest city, said on Tuesday he would attend this meeting to make sure that Toronto gets its "fair share" of a new federal infrastructure plan.

Vancouver, Montreal mayors also there

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, as chair of the group, will also speak to reporters in Ottawa after the mayors' morning session.

CBCNews.ca will carry Robertson's news conference live starting at 11:30 a.m. ET.

Wednesday's meeting will also mark the first time former Liberal MP Denis Coderre will meet his municipal counterparts since being elected Montreal mayor.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC News on Monday the mayors are expected to spend a "fair bit of time" discussing the growing housing crisis with Candice Bergen, the federal minister of state for social development.

"I'm looking forward to that discussion and continuing that discussion with the federal government about the housing crisis that we're facing across municipalities in Canada," Nenshi said in Calgary Monday.

The federal government's key infrastructure plan will also be a main topic of discussion as numerous questions remain on how the federal funds will be used to meet municipal needs.

"There were some concerns that we had with the criteria of the Building Canada Fund. As I've said before, I think these are solvable … and if they're not solvable for 2014, let's at least fix them for 2015," Nenshi said.

The federal government recently announced the details of a 10-year, $14-billion New Building Canada Fund designed to provide both small and large communities with predictable infrastructure funding.

Of that $14 billion fund, $10 billion has been earmarked to fund provincial and territorial infrastructure projects.

Under the new plan, each province and territory will receive a base funding amount of $250 million per year, plus a per capita amount based on the 2011 census figures.

As it is, Ontario will receive $2.7 billion over 10 years from Ottawa, the most federal dollars of any province. Quebec will receive $1.7 billion and British Columbia just over $1 billion over 10 years under the new plan.

Glen Murray, Ontario's minister of infrastructure, was critical of the new plan and called on the federal government to commit more money to infrastructure spending.

"Since they collect the majority of taxes, we need them as a full partner. The Building Canada Fund might do many things, but it doesn't do much building in Canada," Murray told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday.​​

$660M for Toronto subway

How the federal dollars will be allocated is the question on the mind of anyone who intends to apply for funding under the new federal infrastructure plan.

Ford said on Tuesday that "years of under-investment" have left Toronto far behind where the city ought to be when it comes to transit and housing needs.

While cities can't apply for the new federal dollars until March 31, Harper announced last fall that Toronto would receive $660 million for the extension of a subway line.

"This vital project will drive economic development and unlock countless opportunities," Ford said in Toronto on Tuesday.

"This is a great first step and a major achievement. But even with the Scarborough subway line, our transit system is still years behind where it needs to be."

"The city of Toronto faces unique challenges and we need the federal government to acknowledge this," Ford said.

Ford, who is a longtime friend of federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, will not be meeting with him while in Ottawa. Nor will the mayor be meeting with Harper, the Prime Minister's Office told CBC News on Tuesday.

Federal Conservatives have tried to steer clear of answering questions about the embattled mayor's use of alcohol and drugs, with the exception of cabinet minister Jason Kenney, who said Ford should "step aside."

Kenney may have rubbed Flaherty the wrong way with his comments, but he was seen as representing the concerns of his caucus colleagues at the time.

The Big City Mayors' Caucus consists of 22 mayors who are members of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, a group that represents more than 2,000 communities across the country.


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