Ford-Chow: the strange alliance to save Toronto’s future

TORONTO – The first joint press conference of the strange couple Doug Ford – Olivia Chow (Conservative / NDP) began with an old “family photo”: the one shown to journalists by the premier of Ontario, portraying Doug’s brother, former mayor Rob (first citizen from 2010 to 2014, passed away in 2016), along with Olivia’s husband, Jack Layton (passed away in 2011), NDP city councilor at the time. Two polar opposite political figures, therefore, but “united by the desire to do good for the city”, underlined Ford, who donated the photo to Chow (and she thanked him, moved) before officially starting the press conference which began under the best auspices, confirmed by what was announced by the two leaders.

The Premier and Mayor, in fact, have agreed on a working group with the mandate to achieve long-term stability and sustainability of Toronto’s finances. A “New Deal,” as the agreement was christened. “Toronto’s profound financial challenges are no longer sustainable,” said Premier Ford. “Toronto contributes significantly to the economic success of Ontario and Canada. Governments must work together to provide solutions that protect services, avoid new taxes and put the city on the path to long-term financial stability. I look forward to working with Mayor Chow to build a stronger Toronto and ensure it remains an economic engine for Canada.”

“Toronto residents deserve an affordable city that can provide the services and build the infrastructure they rely on every day. To solve Toronto’s profound financial challenges, we will need collaboration with all orders of government,” said Mayor Olivia Chow. “A stronger Toronto means a stronger Province and country. I look forward to working with Premier Ford to help Toronto embark on a path to financial stability for decades to come.”

Financial pressures on Toronto have been growing for decades also due to the continuous transfer of responsibilities from the Province to the City (which has resulted in a deficit of $1 billion: Toronto’s total deficit is currently $1.5 billion). Then there are structural challenges which, in the absence of large-scale intervention, put at risk the long-term vitality of the city and the services it provides. These challenges cannot be solved through painful program cuts or new fees and taxes. But now the Province and City will work together to invest in and support smart, effective growth for Toronto.

Recognizing these challenges, any agreement established by the “New Deal” working group will: respect and support the efficient delivery of local governance and city programs; protect frontline services and frontline municipal workers; avoid new taxes and duties on the city’s hard-working residents; support the realization of shared priorities, including the construction of accessible and reachable homes, public transport and infrastructure for the city.

For decades, Toronto has served and facilitated domestic and international trade, driving a significant portion of the country’s gross domestic product growth. Given the city’s national importance, resolving these challenges is necessary for Canada’s long-term economic success.

Therefore, the Province and City will urge the federal government to join the “New Deal” working group, which will currently be composed of provincial and municipal public officials. The expectation is that there will be participation from the federal government, with additional financial support. The ball, therefore, passes to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Or, rather, the buck…

In the photo above, Mayor Olivia Chow and Premier Doug Ford showing the souvenir photo with his brother Rob and Chow’s husband Jack Layton