TORONTO – Ontario is putting hundreds of millions of dollars toward social housing repairs and retrofits, with about half of the money going to Toronto, where the funds may also help repair a strained relationship between the city’s mayor and the province.
Housing Minister Peter Milczyn announced Thursday that the up to $657 million over five years will come from cap-and-trade auction proceeds, with up to $343 million going to Canada’s most populous city.
Toronto Mayor John Tory has long been advocating for the need for more social housing money from the province, saying there is an approximately $2-billion repair backlog, and had slammed Ontario’s Liberals for a lack of support in this year’s provincial budget.
The relationship between Tory and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne hit the biggest speed bump earlier this year when Wynne denied him the power to enact road tolls. It would have been unpopular for provincial voters in the regions surrounding Toronto, and Tory has criticized it as a “politically motivated” decision.
Up until that late January decision, the two held regular meetings but haven’t had one since, when they eschewed the traditional joint media availability and instead went their separate ways after a quick post-meeting handshake.
In the meantime, Ontario’s other party leaders ramped up efforts to court the influential mayor of a vote-rich region with less than a year to the provincial election.
But Tory’s comments Thursday suggested the social housing funding had started to thaw the chill between himself and the Liberal government.
“Today is not the ultimate and overall answer, but I think it is a huge step forward to having us operate in a partnership,” he said.
The announcement was delivered by the newly minted housing minister, who also happens to be a former Toronto city councillor and a friend of Tory’s.
“I believe this announcement represents a strong indication that this premier…this minister, Peter Milczyn, and this Ontario government have stepped forward on housing, especially as it regards the most vulnerable residents of Toronto Community Housing,” Tory said.
There is still much more to be done, he added, including counting on a national housing strategy from the federal government.
“If you add it all up, in terms of responsibility that rests with all three governments, we’re still some distance from being able to say we’ve got the entire problem addressed,” Tory said.
“I can only say that when you’re talking $300 million, that is a very significant amount of money and I acknowledge that and I am grateful for that.”
The money will go toward such social housing improvements as energy efficient heating, better insulation and new windows.