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Big city mayors meet in Toronto to talk transit, housing, infrastructure

A haul truck carrying a full load drives away from a mining shovel at the Shell Albian Sands oilsands mine near Fort McMurray, Alta., Wednesday, July 9, 2008. If low oil prices stick around much longer, the operations manager at Lac La Biche Transport Ltd. says he will have to layoff workers. These aren't the massive truck-and-shovel mining operations north of Fort McMurray, Alta. that tend to come to mind when one thinks of the oilsands. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Mayors from Canada’s big cities want sustainable funding for transit and transportation, and they want other levels of government to provide it.

“We are behind the 8 ball with infrastructure that is failing us,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said at a news conference following the morning session of the Big Cities Summit on Thursday.

“We have significant challenges with traffic congestion in big cities across Canada,” Robertson said.

The mayors hope urban issues become part of the national discussion with a federal election coming up this year.

“Cities are the economic engines of the country and the powerhouse entities when it comes to creating jobs,” Tory said.

Funding from other levels of government is needed for transit, housing, and infrastructure to make “livable, humane, affordable cities,” Tory said.

The mayors hope the upcoming federal election will spur political parties to put urban issues on their agendas.

“They have to speak to why cities matter and have to have platforms that address the key needs in cities,” Robertson said.

Tory said the 19 mayors at Thursday’s summit represent 142 seats in the House of Commons.

The problem is urban growth across the county is outpacing provincial and federal willingness to build and maintain the big ticket projects like affordable housing and public transit. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

“The urgency for the need for investment is clear,” Tory said ahead of the meeting.

“We right now rely on these governments to come and go from funding things when it suits them or when they think they have the money or whatever. We need to be … just like a business, just like a family, we need to be investing all the time for the future. And what we need is predictable, consistent funding.”

With files from the Canadian Press

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