Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Toronto in a rare position as federal battleground. Let's take advantage of that

By: Metro Published on Tue Aug 04 2015

Here we go. Coming sooner than we expected and set to last longer than we’d probably like, Canada’s 42nd federal election officially kicked off on Sunday.

For Toronto, as much as we’ll get tired of the attack ads and lawn signs, let’s see this as an opportunity. Because with a bunch of seats up for grabs, our city is firmly in play.

This is a new thing. Traditionally, Toronto hasn’t been much of a federal battleground. For years, ours was a town painted red, where Liberal candidates were assumed to dominate.

But things have changed.

In 2011, the Conservatives surprisingly won nine ridings in the city, mostly at the expense of the beat-up Liberals. They’d like to keep them. The NDP, meanwhile, should see an opportunity to establish themselves as the new left-wing standard-bearers in the 416.

And the Liberals? They’ll be keen to portray the last election as just a weird thing that happened once. They want their city back.

None of this is surprising. Toronto’s newfound electoral importance was clear even before the writ dropped.

In June, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper swung through town to commit an unprecedented $2.6 billion for Mayor John Tory’s SmartTrack transit plan. Last week it became clear that the Liberals and NDP are prepared to wage war over the new Spadina–Fort York riding, with star candidates Adam Vaughan and Olivia Chow going toe-to-toe.

And it shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice that NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has started routinely referring to Toronto as “Canada’s most important city.”

For voters, this renewed political focus is a chance to get federal politicians to focus on urban issues — and to present our demands.

Let’s start with affordable housing. In recent years, the responsibility for building and maintaining affordable housing has fallen more to municipal governments like Toronto.

This makes little sense. Providing affordable housing is one of the surest ways to fight poverty. If any federal party is serious about inequality, they’d better be prepared to talk about how they’ll pay for housing.

Then there’s transit. Be ready to hear a lot from federal candidates about one-time funding for projects like SmartTrack. Nothing to scoff at, sure, but Toronto can do better than piecemeal transit funding announcements.

Let’s ask how the federal parties will ensure we can continually build transit for the next century.

Whether that’s a national transit strategy or a dedicated infrastructure fund, it doesn’t matter — as long as the parties provide details.

Luckily, on transit, housing and other key issues, Toronto voters are in a good position to demand the details.

By the time Election Day rolls around, all candidates are going to desperately want your vote. Make them work for it.

Matt Elliott lives and writes in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @GraphicMatt

This post was originally published at on 2015-08-04T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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