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'Canada thrives when Toronto thrives': Mulcair

Last Updated Jul 28, 2015 at 1:40 pm EDT

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is promising better transit, better housing, and affordable childcare for what he calls “Canada’s most important city” – if his government is elected in the fall.

Standing alongside federal Spadina-Fort York candidate Olivia Chow at a Tuesday news conference, Mulcair said Canada is strong “only when Toronto is strong.”

“Canada thrives when Toronto thrives, and Olivia has always been an outstanding advocate for Toronto,” he said, adding that she has championed a national transit strategy.

The former Toronto mayoral candidate left her seat in the House of Commons to run in last year’s mayoral election. She is now running in the newly re-drawing riding of Spadina-Fort York.

“I believe every one here deserves the positive change an NDP government can bring,” Chow said, adding that she is bringing her leadership and experience “as part of that change.”

Mulcair called Chow a “tireless champion” of Toronto and the issues that are important to its residents.

“When it comes to the future of Toronto and all of our big cities, I believe it’s time to think big again. To be bold again, to reach higher and build the Canada of our dreams,” Mulcair said.

But, he said the party can’t do it alone and “we need strong, experienced advocates” – like Chow – on “our side.”

This is not the first time Mulcair has referred to Toronto as “Canada’s most important city.”

In an interview with Metro newspaper in March, Mulcair said Toronto is the “key driver of our economy[. As ]Toronto goes, so will go the rest of our economy.”

Also, In March, the NDP leader delivered a campaign-style speech at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre stressing the importance of public transit, childcare and a minimum wage.

“It’s so great to be back in Toronto – Canada’s most important city,” Mulcair said in an address to the Economic Club in Toronto in June. “An international city. A global economic powerhouse.”

At Tuesday’s news conference, Mulcair pledged $420 million across Canada for transit from the existing gas tax, $90 million of which would go to Toronto.

He said buses in Toronto are overcrowded, streetcars are in “constant disrepair” and “subway routes haven’t kept pace with population growth.” Also, he said gridlock is costing the city at least $6 billion a year in lost productivity.

“Under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, local governments are forced to choose between transit and infrastructure. We know that’s a false choice,” Mulcair said.

Chow vowed, if elected, to work for a national transit strategy, as well as a national childcare program, among other NDP priorities.

Mulcair said nearly 100,000 families are on the wait list for social housing in Toronto, and said the city and province need a “reliable partner in Ottawa.”

The NDP leader said, if elected, he will appoint a minister responsible for urban affairs who would renew social housing investments and tackle the crisis of afforable housing and homelessness in Canada.

Muclair also touted high-quality and affordable childcare. If elected, the NDP would create one million, $15 a day childcare spaces across Canada with 164,000 spaces in the GTA alone.

He said there are 20,000 families on waiting lists in Toronto for that childcare, and that the city has the highest childcare fees for infants in Canada.

“This is our offer to the people of Toronto and this is the choice on Oct. 19: change, or or four more years of Stephen Harper,” Mulcair said.

“Change means better transit and housing in Toronto. Change means quality affordable childcare for Toronto, and it’s all just one election away.”

But not everyone is not so sure of Mulcair’s declaration that “Toronto is Canada’s most important city.”

“He should come and say that here in Montreal,” one person tweeted.

“Mulcair found the fastest way to lose all western votes,” another commented.

Ironically, Mulcair wasn’t too thrilled in the summer of 2012 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was caught up in the exhilaration of the Calgary Stampede called Calgary the “greatest city” in Canada.

“I want to work hard for all Canadian cities,” Mulcair is quoted saying in the National Post. “‘I’m better than you’ is not the best way to get results.”

With files from The Canadian Press