Archived columns and blog posts by Matt Elliott

Toronto needed a new federal partner — now we have one

A camera operator waits for the start of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's event in Montreal on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.
A camera operator waits for the start of Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's event in Montreal on Monday, Oct. 19, 2015.

More than anything else, Toronto needed a new federal partner. Now, at last, we have one.

With the Liberal Party having secured a commanding majority in the House of Commons and Justin Trudeau set to become Canada’s next Prime Minister, the complexion of a bunch of important issues that face the city will change – and should change for the better.

And that has me feeling optimistic, even with my misgivings about the party and policies of the new prime minister.

Consider the expansion of the island airport. Before Monday, there was a real chance city hall was looking at a prolonged and lobbyist-heavy debate on whether to allow Porter Airlines to land jets on the city’s waterfront. But based on the Liberal pledge not to re-open the agreement that governs the airport, now that debate is over.

And even though transit and affordable housing were not pushed as major issues during the campaign, the Liberals made significant promises on both fronts.

Their platform includes billions more in needed transit investment. If they deliver, it’s hard to overstate how much real federal support for transit would improve things for transit riders in our city.

The Liberals also talked a pretty big game on affordable housing. If nothing else, they’ve got a chance to do a whole lot better than Stephen Harper, who had years to pony up the $864 million Toronto needs for immediate repairs to community housing unites and failed to show up.

Still, my optimism is cautious. Mostly because I’d be lying if I said this was the federal election I hoped we’d have.

Way back when things kicked off in August —I was so young and so innocent then — I was hopeful that this election would be all about the things that really matter to people in big cities like Toronto. Things like transit, poverty and affordable housing.

But it wasn’t to be. Instead it was mostly about weird stuff. Things like the nebulous middle class. And the niqab. And hair and beards. It was even about Rob Ford, somehow.

In addition, the Liberal Party has a troubling tendency to campaign from the progressive left and govern from the penny-pinching right. There’s reason to be skeptical.

But after almost a decade of the same Conservative status quo, at least Toronto now has an opportunity to see real, positive change.

To get it, the city needs immediate action on two fronts.

For Mayor John Tory and city council, now is the time to speak loudly. Demand that the new federal government keep their ambitious promises. Do not let up.

And for new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, now is the time to deliver. Toronto gave you a chance. Seize it quickly.

This post was originally published at–now-we-have-one.html on 2015-10-20T00:00:00.000Z

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Matt Elliott

City Hall watcher, columnist and policy wonk in Toronto.
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