Trudeau may have no other option than to pay the ransom fee the city of Toronto is demanding if his MPs in the GTA have any chance of holding onto their seats come the next election. Pictured: Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo Credit: The Canadian Press/Frank Gunn.
It’s been quite some time since the Canadian public has been treated to a political showdown between the mayor of Toronto and the prime minister.
But here we are. A new year means new conviction for the municipal leadership to take on the federal government for what it feels they are rightly owed. It doesn’t hurt that the Trudeau Liberals are up for re-election well ahead of the next mayoral election slated for 2026.
So what’s all the scuffle about that has everyone up in arms?
It started when Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow went to council last month with the broad strokes of a budget plan, and a funding request to the Trudeau government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. According to Chow, the money is needed to cover the cost of things like shelter service for asylum seekers.
This issue isn’t new, and it’s one that Trudeau has taken ownership over since his infamous tweet in 2017 declaring Canada as a safe haven for those fleeing persecution, terror and war in response to former U.S. president Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration.
The values statement made by Trudeau, combined with the Safe Third Country loophole that allowed for thousands of people to stream through Canada’s borders at crossings like Roxham Road in Quebec have contributed to the strain on social services that form the crux of Toronto’s request for federal money.
Chow isn’t the first to be left holding the bag and it’s an issue that has been raised by the Premiers. Just this week, The Canadian Press obtained a letter from Quebec Premier Francois Legault to Trudeau stating that the province is at a breaking point and facing major constraints with respect to housing and education.
Ottawa is responsible for immigration, and Chow and Legault have rightly made the argument that they are footing the bill and dealing with the consequences of an issue within federal purview.
Where Chow’s strategy differs is she isn’t making a blind demand for a blank cheque. Instead, she has deftly tied the federal request to city property taxes. Pay up, or Torontonians could be in for a world of hurt as they watch their once stagnant taxes goes through the roof.
The irony is that Chow was always going to raise taxes and has made no effort to hide this detail. What works in her favor is that voters have short memories and with the Trudeau government in the crosshairs, there is someone else to blame for any steep increases.
Trudeau may have no other option than to pay the ransom fee the city of Toronto is demanding if his MPs in the GTA have any chance of holding onto their seats come the next election. Unfortunately for him, the next budget is expected to be leaner than ever, with not much in the way of funding for cash strapped municipalities and provinces expecting the government to take ownership here.
Either way, voters are going to have to decide what comes next. For the time being, however, it looks like Chow has won this round and it may be time for the Liberals to pay the piper for the mistakes of yesteryear.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.