In partnership with WSP Canada. Featuring John Godfrey, former federal Minister for Infrastructure & Communities, and Amarjeet Sohi, Senior Advisor, ALAR Strategy Group
How Should Cities Prepare for Stimulus and Recovery?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Appetite for post-COVID-19 intergovernmental collaboration
In the recovery phase, the lessons we are learning from COVID-19 highlight the importance of and opportunities for greater intergovernmental collaboration. Creative collaboration between levels of government is critical, and meaningful open discussions are needed on how to rebuild going forward. “There is cooperation and collaboration, and a willingness [of governments] to work together to find solutions,” noted one of the panelists.
2. Filling the gaps
As cities recover, there is a need to consider future investments that mitigate gaps in physical infrastructure of cities, such as expanding high-speed internet access, green conditions in stimulus packages, and retrofitting apartment neighbourhoods.
3. Autonomy through trust
COVID-19 has shown the opportunities and limitations of municipal responses in a federalist system. The panelists agreed that cities need more autonomy, as well as a federal Minister of Urban Affairs, who functions as an intergovernmental facilitator to tackle wicked problems collectively. However, long-term intergovernmental collaboration requires the building of trust between the three levels of government, and a trust that survives political regimes.
4. Human-centric recovery
Recovery post-COVID-19 must take a human-centric approach, as cities are composed of people and are made vibrant by interpersonal relationships and networks. People must be part of the process of rebuilding, especially through investments in social infrastructure that contribute to the long-term sustainability of communities. Questions about housing and the need for secure housing should be front and centre, and alternative land-uses for existing sites in cities should be considered in the rebuilding effort.
5. Transit post-COVID-19
The role of transit post-COVID-19 will require support from all levels of government. While transit is critical to mitigating climate change and the path to decarbonization, the perception of mass transit will change after COVID-19. The panellists noted that we must not lose sight of the long-term benefits of transit, and consider now to be the time to think about transit innovations like electrification. We must use the crisis as a catalyst to imagine the future of mobility so that we do not go back to unsustainable patterns of land-use.
The Rise and Fall of the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs: Exploring the Nature of Federal-Urban Engagement in Canada, Zac Devon Spicer, Canadian Political Science Review
Lessons from a Crisis, Lessons for a Crisis, Alex Spiegel, Canadian Architect
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:48] Hi, good afternoon, everybody, welcome to City Talk here in Toronto, it’s midday in the West, it’s mid-morning in the far west, it’s early morning and in the east it’s a little further into the afternoon tea time. We’re very appreciative of you joining us once again with City Talk, Candid Conversations, The Time of Covid. I’m Mary Rowe, the president CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute. CUI is in the connective tissue business. And since Covid, we’ve been putting out platforms to try to facilitate learning from practitioners working across the country in different urban environments Citywatchcanada.ca and citysharecanada.ca are both there and being updated daily by volunteers and partners from across the country. And they give you a picture of what municipal governments are doing. How they’re responding now is where they’re reopening. How are there are how are the measures that they’re taking and the steps that they’re taking changing? And similarly, City Share Canada is where we’re showing examples of really smart innovation coming from communities and institutions and individuals, every kind of self-organizing activity that has been surfacing post going into lockdown. And you’ll see remarkable things there. Whenever I feel a bit depressed about what’s going on, I go and spend fifteen minutes perusing citysharecanada.ca And then you’ll get inspired again because you see just how resilient Canadians are and how smart and innovative people are being as they try to cope with this and imagine what the what their life together needs to look like and how it needs to evolve.
Mary Rowe [00:02:10] And if you want to help us with this, this is, as I suggested, powered by volunteers and partners from across the country. And you’ve got half an hour to be a city watcher, or city sharer every day. We’d really be happy to have you. So please email us at email@example.com, covidresponse@CANURB.org. and join our happy band of gang who’ve been working on this and reinventing it every couple of days to make it useful for policymakers, decision makers and people as I suggest, like me, you just need to understand what’s going on and feel inspired by all the smart things that people are doing on the ground.
Mary Rowe [00:02:41] These broadcasts CUI originate in Toronto, although we make sure that we have coverage across the country because we’re a national organization and Toronto is on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec,, Chippewa, Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations Intuit and Meti who are drawn from across Turtle Island. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit and the Williams Treaty signed with multiple Annishnabec nations. We try to keep this in mind as we have these discussions that that is those are the lands that we are the stewards of and the inheritors of and work in partnership and we hope in reconciliation with our First Nations colleagues and neighbors. The other thing that we acknowledge here is that while we have these conversations and hundreds of people are coming on and we appreciate the enthusiasm with which people have welcomed this platform as we try to make meaning and try to understand what the implications are of it, we are aware that thousands of Canadians around the country are continuing to be engaged in FirstLine emergency response, saving lives and keeping people safe. We don’t want these conversations in any way to preempt that or or in any way interfere with that operation. And we’re very aware of that is supportive of our colleagues who are still engaged in that kind of work. In fact, I would say one of the themes that is emerged for us is how central municipalities and municipal governments and local organizations are when a crisis like this occurs. And that’s part of what we’re gonna talk about today with these two esteemed gentlemen is what does that look like in terms of federal policy, federal investment and corporate investment? And how are we going to come out of this in a way that our communities can be more resilient in, more responsive and more because they have had so much demanded of them under these circumstances. So these two have sat around cabinet tables and they’ve had after, I’m sure, raucous sessions in legislatures, they’ve gone out for drinks with people from across the aisle trying to figure out what the future should be for. Call it for cities across the country. And we’re very appreciative to have them. Before I introduce them, I’m just going to suggest that if you’re participating on this, please, we encourage you to use the chatbox and you can see that you can select on the chat as I’m going to be right this minute. You can select that. Your messages go to all panelists and attendees and we’re encouraging you to do that. So sign up for the chat and have and just have a go over there because we’re finding that the chat function is a really rich conversation area and lots of people post questions and comments and then people within the chat respond.
Mary Rowe [00:05:16] So it’s really valuable. The other thing is that we post the video of this conversation, which we’re recording. We also post a transcript. We post a five takeaways and we also post the chat. So keep in mind, whatever you put in the chat is going to live in the chat for a long time. So it’s hard and thoughtful over there and be provocative. And we’re really keen to have you. I monitor the chats. I suspect both of these gentlemen probably will, too. But I will feed into them to make sure that we’re circling back on the topics that you want to see coverage.
Mary Rowe [00:05:47] And we also, of course, are those of us that are savvy enough and I have colleagues, they’re very savvy with us, thank goodness, because I’m not. If you’d like to continue to have a conversation on social media, this is just beginning. Obviously, there’s not a topic that we’re covering in city talk that can be sealed up and done in an hour. Not a single one. So the conversations begin here and we hope they continue robustly. We’d encourage you to post using the #citytalk. And we also have an evaluation mechanism that we put on here for us to improve city talks. So if you’d like to give us some feedback on that, great. The other thing is that we are always keen for partners on city talk. Yesterday we did one in partnership with the Urban Land Institute, which was a terrific session and we were really appreciative of their support and partnership on that. And similarly today and Thursday, we appreciative of the support and partnership from WSP. Elliott Cappell works at WSP and he is a board member of CUI. CUI is fortunate to have tremendous broad leadership on these issues and many of our board members are very much embedded in urban work, as is Elliot, who was the chief resilience officer for Toronto before he joined WSP. And he has and his colleagues have put together these sessions today, this week. So tonight, today and Thursday, both around this topic of resilience and recovery and the relationship between investment and and economies and and infrastructure. And that’s why we’re so fortunate to have John Godfrey and Amarjeet Sohi with us, both honorables, as both former federal ministers, both urbanites. And Amarjeet comes to us from Edmonton. And John today is in Toronto and we appreciate them taking time to be with us. And I’m going to start with each of you if you are comfortable just telling us it would just take a couple of minutes if you would. And tell us what you’re doing now. Because everybody wants to know where a politician goes after they’re not a politician and what you’re focused on now. But then and then I want you to just speak a little bit about what you’re seeing. So keep these comments. Initially, the introductory ones as brief as you can. What are you doing now and what have you been? What have you been observing? The covid impacts on cities. And so Amarjeet I’ll go to you first, because you are in sunny Edmonton.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:07:58] First of all. Mary, thank you. And also thank you to Elliott for reaching out to me to be part of this conversation. As you said, I am in Edmonton, which is a Treaty six territory, which I want to acknowledge at the at the start. You know, I am currently working with an advisory and sorting firm based in Ottawa called ALAR Strategy Group. I’m the senior advisor to their clients. Before that, I work I was a city councilor for three terms and in Edmonton and then a member of parliament from here and served in the portfolios of infrastructure as well as natural resources. This is a very, very timely and important conversation that we’re having because municipalities are so critical of the other day to day well-being and the services they provide and the challenges they’re facing. Doing it because of Covid-19 are very serious challenges and we need to find solutions. And I hope that today’s conversation will generate some of those solutions that all orders of government can take seriously.
Mary Rowe [00:09:14] Thank you. John! Tell us about what you’re up to and what you’ve been observing, too. I know I know that you are banging pots on Avenue Road. Well, I see. I’ve seen it on Facebook. But tell us, in addition to that, I want to hear more. What are you doing now and what are you observing?
John Godfrey [00:09:33] I spend at least five minutes of my day. And it’s a it’s a great exercise. You get to see your neighbors at a distance. So after I left federal politics, one of the things I got involved with was being special adviser to the provincial government of Ontario on climate change until the change of that was up until 2018 when the government changed. The thing I’ve been focusing on since then has been the whole issue of how unprepared we are as a society for future climate events. I’ve been spending less time on the mitigation carbon side. More time on downscaled extreme climate events and how we can predict them and what we can do about them and what it means for our financial system. And so specifically, I’ve been advising a startup company called ellis’ Insights, which works on it with artificial intelligence, big data machine learning to try and predict and a downscaled basis what might be coming with future climate events and what the financial implications of all of that are. So I’m working with a bunch of guys from the U of T. Who are also involved with some folks from Oxford. So the relevance of that for our conversation today is that clearly cities need to know on a more downscaled basis what might be coming their way beyond the normal hundred year storms and historic ways of looking at the past. We need new ways of looking at the future so that we can protect our infrastructure and our populations. I’m what I’m observing, of course, right now is that everything is frozen because of the situation we’re in. And I guess the question we’ll want to be exploring is when we come out of the A. How will we come out of it? And B, will we be more alert to those sorts of issues? Not so much the Covid side, which is a whole other series of challenges associated with it. But will will this experience have made us more thoughtful about green infrastructure and being better prepared and more resilient for the future, not just for, for disease, but for physical events of generated by climate change?
Mary Rowe [00:11:51] So can you just tell me what downscaled means?
John Godfrey [00:11:55] Downscaled means that that normally when we do climate models, we can be fairly good at an area. Southern Ontario, certain specific geographic space downscaled means that you are able to get down much to a more granular level. Look at something, for example, at a hydroelectric plant or a nuclear plant, because you have managed to combine atmospheric physics up here with Earth’s surface properties down here and you can be more precise. But what do you think the future risks are to specific, geographically limited places like cities or or highways or ports or things that are downscaled that help?
Mary Rowe [00:12:41] Yeah, sure. I mean, I guess what. You know, we we I guess we as urbanists would say that everything should be downscaled or did everything. Everything needs to be looked at from the street. You know, that we need to have the most granular that we can.
John Godfrey [00:12:56] [Sic}.
Mary Rowe [00:12:57] I want to get your candid perspectives on this, because you know what a cabinet dynamic is. And you know that there is constant now petitioning going on with the federal government about how they’re going to they’re just every day there’s a new announcement about a new investment. And I’m wondering what your perspective is around what John’s just implied, which is can it be a greener investments? Is this a moment? Do we have a moment where and I noticed today, for instance, that the prime minister has tied some conditions to his financial support of large business. He’s actually put some conditions on it. And we’re having sessions here every couple of days. And we’ve had one on the two emergencies covid and climate combining. We’ve had a lot of our urging around can procurement favorite local. And let’s. Can you talk to us frankly about what? Just tell us what’s the dynamic like in Ottawa right this minute? You were both there, you know, and how how how is that going to win out? Who wins out in terms of what the minister of finance is decision making is going to be prioritized on energy?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:14:06] Mary, I think before we go in to the recovery discussion and what stimulus can look like. What needs to go into that, I think we need to understand that municipalities are facing some serious financial pressures at this time.
Mary Rowe [00:14:25] So let’s talk about that first. What do you think the solution is to that?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:14:28] I think the federal government and the provinces need to work together to find immediate relief and in making sure that municipalities that able to sustain and continue to provide essential services that citizens rely on from public transit to pick up garbage every day to you, police services, fire and paramedic services and and cleaning up the roads and running over traffic smoothly. These are essential services that citizens rely on. And municipalities have only two sources, property taxes and user fees. And both of those sources have been hammered by a covid-19. So I think the immediate crisis, though, the capacity of municipalities to actually respond to this crisis and respond to the recovery will be limited. If we do not find solutions that are more sustainable than permanent to make sure that municipalities have the resources.
Mary Rowe [00:15:35] Well, is there’s an immediate relief question, because municipalities are are hemorrhaging. And we know that in some parts of the country, the provinces have permitted them to be able to borrow to run a deficit. That’s true in B.C. And there are as many are borrowing from their capital reserves to fund operating. Any other thoughts from either of you about how this and this immediate gap that’s growing every day? How does that get resolved just for now, for any real 2020 time? Thoughts?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:16:06] I think, you know, because municipalities fall under the jurisdiction of all provinces. I’m pretty sure there’s some they’re reluctant at the federal level to directly engage with this, but that is all the time. Even though when I was a minister of infrastructure, we tried to find ways to deftly engage with the municipality, whether it was through the gas tax funding or through Federation of Canadian Municipalities or designing other programs in a way that the municipalities get the necessary support. I don’t think anybody is going to open up the constitutional discussion of that at this time. I think what do we need to figure out is that all governments need to find creative ways of working together so that municipalities out there supports. I think provinces would need to be part of this solution as well as the federal government. As far as the recovery is concerned, Mary, I think there are three outcomes that you want to see out of this recovery. One is obviously you want to create jobs because jobs are essential and not because the unemployment rate is the highest that we are facing. The other is the lens of sustainability. The infrastructure that we got to build in the future, that sustainability lens it has to be part of that discussion. And the third is, are we building communities that are socially cohesive? Are we creating opportunities for everyone? And as we recover from Covid-19 sort of environmental sustainability as well as up at the the social inclusion has to be part of that discussion.
Mary Rowe [00:17:57] So those will be your three job, sustainability, and socially cohesive. Those we tr—with, those be actually overarching goals or principles, to however, we invest now?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:18:08] That’s what I think that my perspective is because, you know, look at the impact covid-19, where is the impact. More women are being impacted by job losses, more people from cultural minority communities are being impacted by job losses. So if we are looking at building infrastructure that does not create jobs and opportunities for those groups that you’re not, then not looking at the potential, they’re not actually tackling the problem to the effect that we as much as possible. A second is to look at the gaps. That’s the that covid has intensified. Where are those gaps who are being affected the most? People, vulnerable people, homeless people. You know, people who don’t have adequate affordable housing. People who work in low income jobs in a in a long term extended care facilities are making…Meatpacking plants where working conditions are not on par as you would see in other areas. I think that social inclusion lens is equally important as the lens of sustainability and making sure the benefits of eating to those who are who need those benefits and that we build a society that only are going to be sustainable, but also a socially cohesive.
Mary Rowe [00:19:36] So you’re reinforcing that pyramid of social, economic, and environmental. John, what’s your thinking on in terms of the immediate bleeding? Forget about stimulus, just the relief that municipal governments are seeking and that FCM has been advocating for. What’s your thought on the solution about?
John Godfrey [00:19:52] Well, I mean, I think that people are improvising and really at all three levels. Right. And it’s I think survival is is the name of the game. I mean, when I watch the buses empty buses go up and down in front of me on Avenue Road here in Toronto, when I realize how much how many millions of dollars every week the city is spending, it seems to me that the longer term plans are much endangered by the fact that all three levels of government are bleeding. And so the temptation, I’m afraid, is that when this this comes to an end, people will say, well, I can’t be addressing all these other things. I’m just kind of trying to build up my reserves to where they were. And and there will not be a taste for continuing to spend at any of the levels. And so that this survival mode of…I think that people are just thinking how much money should I set aside for the homeless? I mean, I have been seeing as I drive occassionally around the city, all these tents which are now under the Gardiner Expressway, where homeless people are living in parks and all the rest of it. So so the idea that we can leapfrog ahead of where we were before we actually catch up to where we were, if you see what I mean. And I think the temptation will be to go. Everybody is hoping for a big bang, which I don’t think will happen in terms of an economic recovery. I think it will be slow and dragged out and sectoral and partial and all that stuff. And therefore, the the ability of people to think creatively and to to get ahead of the agenda and put us ahead of where we were is is going to be very problematic.
Mary Rowe [00:21:46] I feel like those of you were kind of dodging the key question, which is where does the money come from to fill the immediate gaps?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:21:54] What?
Mary Rowe [00:21:55] I don’t know if that’s your political instincts still hardwired inside you, so you can’t actually tell me what you think the answer is for that?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:22:03] No, I-I-I have been very vocal. I’ve been active on social media in Federal government can ensure municipalities have to have the support and the. I’ve been supporting the FCM call for help from the federal government. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that because of that constitutional issues. So I think Federal government will be reluctant on this. Province is part of the solution, right? It is a shared responsibility of the federal government and the provinces to find solutions to provide necessary support, not only the immediate. I hope that out of this crisis we learn and find permanent solutions to make sure the municipalities have resources beyond property taxes and user fees. When you look at the majority of the economic activity is is generated by in urban centers and those urban centers in order to make sure that these services are provided are dependent on No. 2 revenue sources that are not that are not actually tied to economic activity.
Mary Rowe [00:23:27] But let’s so let’s go there, because Paul Bedford and others are raising it on the chat and saying, well, now, is this the perfect time? I’ll just read with Paul is suggesting to embrace road pricing, a share of income and sales taxes for cities. What do you think, gentlemen? Is now the time to be advocating for that? Kind of significant, as John suggested? You know, after we’re done with the emergency, are we going to fall back to all you’re on your own, kids. Make property tax work or do you think it’s a moment to introduce some really strong. And that would be with the province’s partnership on different revenue tools. What do you think, John? What do you think?
John Godfrey [00:24:00] Well, first of all, you asked earlier, where’s the money going to come from? And the answer is people are going to borrow it until some other solution comes along.
Mary Rowe [00:24:08] Which people? Which people?
John Godfrey [00:24:10] They…the cities, they’re going to be there have to. They have to keep paying for the police. They have to keep paying for transit. They’re just going to borrow the money and hope that low interest rates prevail. So that’s how that’s going to work for the time being until we know when this comes to an end. The the the deeper question is, is this the perfect time to do road pricing and all that kind of stuff? Speaking as a former politician as opposed to a technocrat or a I would say psychologically, probably not. The last thing you want to be able to tell a population which is also reeling from job loss and lower income is. Oh, by the way, welcome home. Before you get your job back, I’m going to increase road pricing or whatever the heck it is. I just think psychologically, logically, it makes tons of sense. Psychologically and politically, I don’t think so. I mean, I think you’re going to have a really difficult time selling that. You’re hitting me when I’m down. I have less money and now you’re gonna charge me more. Well, I have to because we haven’t got any. Yeah, but I’m in trouble here, so I just don’t think that’s psychologically and politically wise. But I could be wrong.
Mary Rowe [00:25:20] What do you think Amarjeet?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:25:22] You know, I agree with John on the political realities that we’re facing. Amid a crisis, I don’t think any government will look at exploring different ways of revenue. But I think what this I think may happen or should happen is that reflection, reflection of the long term This is because this covid-19 situation has really exposed fundamental challenges that municipalities are facing. Whether we find solutions in one year, two years or five years, I don’t know what that is. More of a political discussion and that political thinking needs to go into it into that, you know. But I think solutions needs to be found. Another thing that I think. We need to be aware and we have seen this creeping is ugly head in. Is the issue of racism and discrimination. As people know, we at this time, I think all Canadians are pulling together because we understand the urgency as we go into the recovery mode. And this recovery is not going to be short term, is going to be long term recovery. And some people will tend to blame or find people or other people who, to some someone to blame for their own cause of frustration and anxiety. And that can easily give it applies to racism and discrimination in and other communities. Which absolutely. Municipalities have been at the forefront of fighting. And how do we support that? Along with infrastructure investments, that the soft services that communities needs to provide in order to make sure that they’re able to tackle with these emerging social issues mean.
Mary Rowe [00:27:26] As you suggest, it’s municipal governments that experienced the disconnection around equity, most of most viscerally. And we’ve been suggesting it’s a particle accelerator, that all the issues that preexisted, that we’re dysfunctional in urban life. Covid’s just accelerated them and made them so, so clear. So in terms of how people are living and where they’re living. And so one of them. If you think of the two key things, if we were having this conversation before March 11 and we had you on and we were going to talk about pressing issues in urban environments. My suspicion is that the two things we would be leading with would be transit and housing, that these are the two pieces of infrastructure that are inadequately funded and appear to be an inadequate supply or a mismatch of supply. And now it’s a totally a crisis. So what’s your sense of how those can those be prioritized? Can we and John, in terms of your comment about, you know, and we’re we’re all commenting on this. You look at the transit now, you look at the street cars that pass our street, the bus and subway, they’re virtually empty. But they’re they’re having to be, service has to be actually increased so that they can have the right distribution of passengers so they can’t run things at full supply anymore. They can’t reduce service because then they’re too crowded. Obviously, we’ve got people on the chat saying, are people going to be willing to go back into transit and are we going to continue to be committed to transit? And how do you run transit often diminished, completely gutted fare box and and the limited resources that are available. So you’re you’re all about climate change. Transit is is the most environmentally sensible way to get around other than walking around aand bikes. What do you think?
John Godfrey [00:29:04] And the challenge, I think, is that, though, here in Toronto, for example, we’ve seen some effort by the mayor to make, fairly marginal basis, I must say, as I go around more street space available for pedestrians and cyclists, which is a nice answer and we’re coming to spring, but there’s there’s a fleet little conundrum in this one because clearly as the recovery comes along, which we all want, more people will be going downtown. Although some may stay at home. That’s true. But there’ll be a greater demand on the transportation system. At the same time, the transit system, if people are distancing, can’t have the same capacity. So what will they do? They’ll take their cars.
Mary Rowe [00:29:49] And then the GHG and air pollution.
John Godfrey [00:29:53] And therefore, it’s it’s it’s because transit can’t be efficient under these conditions if you’re going to have the number of potential customers by Social distancing. And so it will go against any efforts to to turn over more of the public domain in terms of roads. The cyclists and pedestrians. Problem will become more acute as we recover, as a greater percentage of people need to get back to their offices or their stores or where they’re going. That’s a tough one.
Mary Rowe [00:30:28] Yeah, I mean, I think the gas tax was cobbled together on your watch. Am I right or no? Was it before you?
John Godfrey [00:30:34] Yes it was. By the way I do the think, here’s one possibility, and this is really being sneaky, so don’t anybody listen to it. But you’ll notice that just talking now about the price of gas at the pump. If you’re not going are running as I do and you pass the same gas station every day, you’re kind of aware that the price, the price of a liter of gas has gone from a low, I think 79.9 to up to 90. I think it was yesterday. Forgot to look this morning. My point being that there might be a way of introducing gas tax or increasing the gas tax to fill the gap which caused the price which has dropped because of a lower demand. If you had some kind of flexible arrangement so it didn’t look to the driver or anybody else as if you were worse off. Now the trick of it would be to keep it in some kind of balance. And of course, as as demand returns, that the price of gas will go up. So the amount of money you might take in would go down. But I think some kind of a strategy like that, you could and you could be you could be honest. I mean, you have to be honest with people and say, look, the reason I’m doing this is to do all these other things, but you’re not worse off than you were before. And maybe that’s just that’s something way of doing it, although it’s a bit messy.
Mary Rowe [00:31:52] Um Andre Darmanin. And who’s on the chat, Andre, can you. He’s saying forget the gas tax, Andre. Can you put into this chatbox what you think the alternatives are or are you echoing what Paul Bedford was saying? Road pricing and and sales of growth taxes, which these gentlemen say it’s not the right political time to do it. And just give us suggestions what you’re thinking. Amarjeet, any thoughts on transit? I mean, we we it we’re in conversation with lots and lots of ministers offices federally at the CUI. We put together various conversations for them with various stakeholders. And on one of them, as someone did say, we’re looking at empty buses and saying, well, is that really Canada’s problem and that a transit system hasn’t got ridership and thoughts on that?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:32:34] I think when we talk to transit, we there are two components. One is the capital cost of building public transit. Federal government has made significant commitment to support municipalities and that over the next 10 years. I think there’s a significant amount of money available from the provinces and the federal government to build the systems. I think the challenge of an municipality is going to face now.
Mary Rowe [00:33:03] Operating.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:33:04] Is operating is one, but the matching, would they have it enough?
Mary Rowe [00:33:09] How do they find the match? Right.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:33:11] Match on the capital cost, but the operational is a big thing. I I I don’t know if there’s a political appetite at the federal level, at the provincial level to support municipalities on a permanent long term basis in the operations of the transit systems. That’s one another. My worry is that there will be people questioning the the need for public transit. I’d expect of the public transit and the utilization of the public transit. Well, you’re absolutely right. Like if we are looking at meeting over targets related to climate change, public transit is a big part of that solution. So we need to find some way to make sure that we continue to support because we can’t lose sight of the fact that, yes, we are facing one crisis, as prime minister mentioned, but we can’t ignore the other crises that the world is facing, which is climate change. We need to continue to invest in in initiatives and infrastructure that will help you achieve those targets. I think transit plays a big role, but I think there’ll be a lot of rethinking about how we fund transit and how we continue to make sure it remains a viable option for a lot of people. And finally, transit is not just about mobility. It is also about social mobility. There are a lot of people who rely on public transit to go to school, to drop off their children at daycare, then go to school or go to work. And access to employment and opportunities will be limited for underprivileged, under-employed people if there is not an efficient and rapid public transit available to them.
Mary Rowe [00:35:11] I mean, I think this was that the point that I feel like we have to say this point again and again and again that cities drive the nation’s economy and that the it’s dependent, the healthy functioning of an urban environment is dependent on connectivity. And so if you can’t if you can’t move people or goods, then it diminishes the economic productivity of the city. But it also it diminishes our capacity to actually and move an economy forward that’s actually generating wealth for the rest of the country. And that’s the I think this is it’s sort of hardening some of those conversations about, you know, there are people who wistfully now think, well, you see, cities are the problem, density is the problem. And we’re all going to somehow distribute back into what I would fear, John, for you would be that we’re going to encourage sprawl, we’re going to encourage single family dwellings, which most Canadians can’t afford and don’t maybe don’t choose to live in anymore. Can we turn this to being? I don’t know. Is our covid moment, our climate moment. Can we just be outwardly resolved to it? John, what do you think? Maybe John is frozen or he really hated my question. I don’t know. And John, we can’t we’re not seeing you or hearing you, so you may have to sign off and sign back in. I was gonna take it. You know, Amarjeet I was gonna say that connectivity isn’t just transit. It’s also broadband. I mean, we’re seeing that a huge, vast parts of the country don’t have access to broadband, even within urban environments. People are standing in parking lots of schools and in libraries to be able to get access to the Internet. This part is this connectivity is diminished, too. Right.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:36:49] Well, one of the things that I had put down as a as a way to stimulate the economy and what the recoverypost-Covid can look like is actually investments into into high speed Internet. We are talking with urban centers where access is available. Just think about the rural communities that want to sustain their population and they want to sustain that economies. And they don’t have access to high speed Internet or digital infrastructure that is so critical for them. I think that could be a part of post-Covid recovery where we federal government and in partnership with I think or look at other creative solutions and build that that infrastructure that is so necessary, like your other question about can we ignore climate change? I think […] Issue.
Mary Rowe [00:37:52] Well, it still seems to be for some. I mean, actually, John, we’re glad to have you back. We talked about you while you were gone, just so you know, but Amarjeet, can can you ground us, ground this conversation for us in the reality in Alberta? Because we CUI was involved with an engine and Calgary talking about doing residencies in April and May there. And we were very, very impressed by the intensity of discourse going on in the urban environments in Alberta about how your economies are reinventing themselves in the post oil world. So there are economic implications to this. Can you speak a bit to that as a longtime city councilor in the West and Abbington and then a federal member and now back in Alberta, just talk to us about that trade. Is Alberta coming round to be part of this conversation about what the new economy would look like? Post oil?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:38:42] You know, I think there’s a lot of people out there that don’t understand how diverse.
Mary Rowe [00:38:51] Yes,.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:38:52] Canadians are in Alberta about economic options and you know, oil and gas will continue to be part of Alberta’s and Canada’s economy for for decades to come. But there’s so much other stuff happening in this province that is so innovative and creative, even in the oil and gas sector. The the innovation happening to reduce emissions. So, you know, artificial intelligence investments at University of Alberta, the Edmonton Bee, the healthcare center and an innovation that is happening in in that sector, the potential of agriculture, the potential of geothermal, renewable. So like wind and and and solar. I think there’s so many options and so much work being done. And Albertans committed to to doing their part in it to to tackle the crisis of climate change. I think another thing that and I raised this at your previous session in the form of a question I think we’re potential look at just for recovery and the stimulus is that we have we have so many old buildings in other urban centers that you can actually retrofit them with better energy systems and in some cases repurpose them into one made of downtown Calgary is empty because of the the downturn in the economy. There are buildings Edmonton and I’m pretty sure in other cities that could be repurposed for rental housing or affordable housing. I think those are the creative solutions we need to find enough in order to create jobs. But also, you know, look, the apply the lens of inclusivity as well as the climate change and sustainability.
Mary Rowe [00:40:56] I mean, you know, that old adage, the greenest building is the one that’s already built. And and I’m wondering if, again, pointing to thinking back to your previous lives as federal ministers. Is there a way to prioritize? You gave us some principles, Amarjeet around jobs, sustainability and things socially cohesive. Is there a way to prioritize that any stimulus money should work from that principle? So can we intensify existing spaces? Can we create more compact communities? Can we? And we have a project at CUI called BringBackMainStreet.ca. And we’re looking at there are lots of older buildings on main streets that can be invested in retrofitting. They’re going to have to be retrofitted now to be pandemic proof. And those are often libraries or community centers or schools. And is there a chance for the investment program that’s going to the stimulus program to prioritize those things?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:41:48] And they can be I think the federal government has to do so. I know one of the tools that federal government has is a assessment of climate change for the infrastructure projects that that they fund. Any project that is I think the value of the project has to be more than 20 million dollars combined investment that climate change lens applies. And there’s also community benefits lens is that that federal government can now that has the tools to do. I understand there are organizations out there that are asking Federal government to relax those of those tools and not apply those tools. I think would be a mistake on the part of the for the federal government. Because look at, you know, one of the criterials for federal investments in infrastructure is that that proponents of the infrastructure need to look to create opportunities for marginalized communities and women in working to build infrastructure. Right. That’s a social good.
Mary Rowe [00:42:56] So you can do that through the benefit agreements in various ways. Jobs, you tried to look at economies. Elliott Cappell, our partner on this project. And this seminar today is raising a question about tower renewal. So could you. Could the federal investment be directed specifically to retrofit? Also interesting, Andy Fillmore our current member of House is on the chat today and he’s asking about the sort of structural direction of resources. Could that result in what used to be called a new deal for cities? Do we have a do we have a doubling down on downtowns? John, go ahead.
John Godfrey [00:43:31] Well, I think I mean, and the various people you’ve been quoting are absolutely cognizant of this. I mean, one of the points about. A new deal for cities and the work that Amarjeet continued with is coming together in a three way basis to agree on what we’re up to and establishing common goals, and that is hugely powerful. I would argue as long as interest rates are low, we now have three levels of government that can borrow money to do worthwhile things like tower renewal and achieve multiple purposes. So I think what’s really important in all of these con—first of all, is really important that the conversations be three way from the get go that that I understand the current federal governments, because of the pressure of time, has been sort of announcing things. This is not without certainly bringing other people in. I think these are much more powerful ideas. When we started working on the New Deal for cities, one of the building blocks was, well, let’s just sit down and figure out how this stuff works. What do we think you know and then write how shall we divvy up to the costs and the responsibilities? And I think very importantly throughout all of this, I think we have to make one big bet, which is that we will find a way out of her current situation, which will allow us to fill streetcars and get back to where we were while still anticipating that we’ve built a better and stronger society for the future. So this is a good time for longer term planning on all of these issues and a good time to be sitting down and not. The overly driven, panicked or steered by where we are today. I mean, I think we have to make a long term bet that we will get through this and that, you know, that the rest of our lives will not be spent six feet from each other. And we’ve got to get but we’ve got the time to think about it. And so let’s let’s make that assumption that something will come through, because otherwise we’re going to just wait around?
Mary Rowe [00:45:31] I mean, we. Yeah, I mean, as you suggest, you know, cholera led to public health and smallpox led to universal health care. We know that these very dramatic events can cause very significant systemic change. And what about the idea not only the new deal for cities. But what about this idea of a federal? This has been talked about. I know. And I want to hear what you two gents think. A federal department is focused on, on on urban affairs or in cities. Does that make sense? Would that be a good outcome game? Amarjeet, what do you think? And then John.
Amarjeet Sohi [00:46:00] Well, one of the the thinking behind it, 2015 when the infrastructure ministry was created, because you may know that there was no independent standalone infrastructure ministry at a federal level. It was part of the Intergovernmental Affairs and and housing another in another parts. So the whole the whole purpose of creating that ministry was to increase that cooperation and collaboration with the municipalities, which the federal government did. You know, I I remember the extensive consultations that we did with the municipalities with FCM and with local provincial associations. So I don’t know if there’s a need to create a separate urban ministry. I think within the infrastructure ministry there’s enough flexibility to focus on on urban issues, which we did first. For example, Smart Cities Challenge came out of the infrastructure portfolio. I think one more point that I want to make to Mary it and the potential linkages as we look at a recovery and it again ties in to climate change goals and tries ties into transit. We should be looking at electrification of our transit system in the buses that we use normal mainly auto and diesel and we can work. Federal government should look and provinces should look for opportunities to work with with with the cities to transition those up those fleets from diesel to to electric vehicles and other heavy duty vehicles that that municipalities have to have to use. What do you do? You reduce emissions, but you also foster innovation that can be that can be applicable in other areas of the transportation, because transportation accounts for, I think, twenty five percent of the emissions in the data. If you’d focus on that and you focus on building retrofit and repurposing, repurposing buildings. I think so many things that we can be done to create jobs at the same time that tackle climate change.
Mary Rowe [00:48:37] John, do you want to jump in on that.
John Godfrey [00:48:39] A little bit. I mean, I think if you look over the history of the federal government involvement with cities going back to the first Trudeau back to the 70s when we actually I think we actually use the word urban in cities. There’s a long history which people keep forgetting. And then when I was minister, we cities was the word that dared not be actually uttered by a politician. So we use the word communities, which is so wussy, for God’s sake. Anyway, that was particularly feeble, I thought. And then we called the New Deal for cities like the. My view is that that we absolutely need to make some kind of a permanent. I’m not sure if it goes with infrastructure. Maybe because infrastructure’s got money. Why not? But here’s the difference between what I would see as the role of a future urban affairs minister and a normal kind of siloed, specific kind of ministry. I think the job in the future for the cities minister, let’s just call that person what it is until we figure out the euphemism we’re going to use next. That person needed to be of a bit of a diplomat within the entire federal government to be able to say, gee, this we’re care actually has a cities…. I wonder if you thought about that. And that’s not usually the function of a minister at the best. It’s the function the Privy Council Office. But I do think the kind of heightened awareness by the city’s minister of all of the dimensions which might involve the environment, which might involve energy, which could involve all sorts of things being alert to all of the parts that the federal government can bring into play and encouraging, those are three way conversations because you don’t want to it’s equally important to involve the provinces in these conversations. The difficulties are obviously self-evident. Deals with the personalities and agendas of the 13 premiers and God knows how many mayors and the federal government. But you have to do it and you have to find strategies which survive changes of regime at any of the three levels so that there’s always a kind of a not a kind of an infrastructure, not overly heavy, which allows people to be reminded, gee, we’ve got some bits of that story over here on this side. You don’t really think of it on the Canadian heritage side or whatever it is. So I think that’s the kind of role that a future urban affairs city city’s minister needs to play. And it’s a very different role than a traditional cabinet role.
Mary Rowe [00:51:18] And if, I hear, if you’re you’re both advocating for and I know we hear this in other city talk chats that people really appreciate the level of collaboration that they see right now, that there seems to be a kind of commitment that we’re all hands on deck, read together. And there seems to be a kind of sorting of lanes and not a lot of complaints about jurisdictionally references. So the question is, as you suggest, is it is it someone in the House of Commons that has that kind of lens and brings it to bear? Or is there do we create something else? I don’t know. Is there could you ever see municipal governments be as as part of some kind of a first ministers table? Would that ever exist where you would open that up or would provinces just go crazy, ever thought about that?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:52:06] Well, Mary.
John Godfrey [00:52:06] Well, I think you want to start small and modest and respectful. Then you can build out and then you can have specific contexts that would be appropriate to involve two or three levels of government. I think what you what you need to do in the in the first instance is develop capacity and trust and trust, which survives the change of political regimes. And I don’t think it to be left. I mean, you need an alert and powerful civil service from all three levels of government to back that up. But you need to build something that’s strong enough that will survive changes of regime at all three levels.
Mary Rowe [00:52:49] I mean, certainly at the political level now we know that means that we know that Minister Freeland and often the prime minister. But someone from the at a senior level talks with mayors every Thursday night. That’s our understanding of the FCM…. So that is happening. But we also know, for instance, on the rent. That said, the federal government introduced that it required significant negotiations with provincial governments who then had to make decisions about whether they would support more times on evictions. So it’s a it’s a deal by deal saying a lot of brokering. Amarjeet, go ahead. What are you going to say?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:53:20] What we we tried to create that tripartite table and we were successful in some cases earlier on when we had the provincial ministers come together with Federal government. We invited the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to be due to be part of it at the annual gathering. We did that twice. There was different level of resistance from some provinces. Some were open to the idea. Some were were not. But I agree with John. These things take time and you need to start taking those small steps and build a trust that Federal government is not there to, you know, over a day or, you know, undermine the the jurisdictional arrangements that provinces have right. Because I think this is an opportunity. I think one thing that in Covid-19 has been devastating for our economy and our families. And my heart goes out to everyone being impacted. And the loved, loved one, loved ones being lost through this. But if there’s a silver lining, that is that there’s more cooperation and collaboration and and willingness to work together to find solutions. I think we need to build on that kind of goodwill and the realization that we’re in this together with this crisis. Eventually it will go away. But what is some of the lasting things that we can learn and and and do that actually make us more humble to be to be focusing on people that we were and and finding solutions to keeping mind, keeping in mind that those are the people that who have put us in this place of decision making.
Mary Rowe [00:55:33] Yeah, we have that crass version. You know, there’s only one taxpayer, but it’s also that we are fundamentally cities, are people. And and we want the best quality of life that we can have for ourselves and for our families and our communities. As we sort of round up here, gentlemen, I want to just pass each of you to each do a little closing, quick little closing thing for the group to keep in mind. You know, we often see the Federal government is kind of the standard bearers and they they signal what is…what our values are, what Canadian values are. And I think we’ve seen that again and again through this. The prime minister’s been playing that role. So in terms of your your urging, in terms of what you think the values set should be, that it would infuse federal investment in stimulus, what would it be? First to you, John, and then Amarjeet.
John Godfrey [00:56:22] I think I think that the chief value of all of this is a lot more conversation, cooperation and respectful discourse on and really open questions like what would be the best solution to this problem? What do you what do we all think? Not to the point that we get bogged down. We can’t make decisions, but we actually reach out and make create those relationships between politicians at all three levels and commit to a kind of public common purpose which this crisis has revealed. I mean, this would be awful to lose the advantage of this crisis. This is a terrific moment.
Mary Rowe [00:56:59] Don’t waste a crisis,.
John Godfrey [00:57:01] Entrench it in some way that that will remain after the crisis is over.
Mary Rowe [00:57:08] Amarjeet, what do you think?
Amarjeet Sohi [00:57:10] So I talked about those three principles at the start of the conversation, Mary. But whatever we do or would have to do is not feasible if you don’t have a strong municiaplities, if you’re going to have strong communities. Governing is dependent on their partnership, because that’s where the activities are. That’s where the economic activity is. That’s where people live in urban centers. And so if communities are unable to participate in their recovery and contribute and do their part. And I think that is not going to be possible. I think there are opportunities for us to invest more in affordable housing with as a great need now of that. I think electrification I talked about earlier building. Retrofitting the existing building, then repurposing them, you know broadband Internet, high speed Internet for rural communities. There are a lot of opportunities that do exist, but what they required is strong communities and municipalities. And for that, going back to the original question of the Long-Term Sustainability for National Sustainability of those communities. Very very difficult.
Mary Rowe [00:58:32] I mean, it’s a it’s a such a pregnant moment, isn’t it, where we’re having to respond immediately to what’s going on around us. But as we suggest, lay the track, lay the groundwork for what can be a much better, more sustainable future. So thank you, gentlemen, for taking your years of experience and your understanding of how these things actually roll out and coupling it with your values and the priorities that you exercised when you were in office and that you continued exercise in your post-political life. Thank you very much for being part of a city talk. And as I suggested, the conversation starts here. It will continue. Lots and lots of great suggestions and feedback and comments in that chatbox, which will, as I suggest, live on. And so I want to thank WSP for helping us put this together. And on Thursday, Elliott and team also helped us with putting a second one on which we’ll be practicioners across the country talking about resilient investments and what that will look like. And I think using the lens of equity as Amarjeet strongly emphasized. And John, who wants the sustainability piece. The climate is woven into it. So I think we’ll see all that happening on Thursday. Join us here at noon city talk, noon Eastern. Tomorrow we are holding our first partner event, which is a as I suggested, an opportunity for other organizations. If you want to take advantage of this new platform, let us know and add that when tomorrow is sponsored with by the University of Toronto Scarborough. The York’s City Institute and the Goethe Institute. And it will be moderated by Ahmed Allahwala and Roger Keil, who will moderate discussion looking at the concept of what it means to be urban citizens in this pandemic, and they’ll be bringing perspectives from Berlin, Vancouver and Toronto. So we are very appreciative of their engagement. That’ll be tomorrow. That’s tomorrow. Then Thursday, the sustainability resilience piece. And then on Friday, I’m having a one on one with the honorable her worship. I guess she’s not honorable yet. She was honorable. She’s no longer she still honorable. Her worship Bonnie Crombie, the mayor of Mississauga. A federal member as well. So thanks again, gentlemen. Really, really delighted to have you. And thanks, everybody, for tuning in. The conversation continues. 3Citytalk. Thanks, everybody.
Amarjeet Sohi [01:00:33] Thank you.
Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.
12:02:13 From Andre Darmanin: Hello from Vaughan ON. Happy Kawhi’s The Shot Day.
12:02:53 From Canadian Urban Institute: CUI is looking for volunteers to help us continue the great work of our COVID-19 initiatives. If you can help, please contact us at email@example.com
12:05:44 From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:05:47 From Andre Darmanin: Hi Amarjeet.
12:06:04 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at
12:06:21 From Gurpreet Patheja: Looking forward to this discussion.
12:06:29 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk
12:07:40 From Robert Godfrey: Hi Johnny! #proudnephew
12:08:07 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:
John Godfrey – https://ca.linkedin.com/in/the-honourable-john-godfrey-p-c-d-phil-5ba03121
Amarjeet Sohi – https://twitter.com/SohiAmarjeet
12:09:20 From Kathleen Godfrey to All panelists: Hey, I’m here too! Hi Johnny! #proudniece
12:09:21 From paul mackinnon: I’d love to ask about thoughts regarding a Federal Ministry of Urban Affairs (as existed in the 1970s). Would this be a more efficient way to tackle complex urban issues?
12:13:04 From Andre Darmanin: I would like to ask about the federal role for municipalities. As Amarjeet is a transit guy from our time in Edmonton, FCM on behave of municipalities have been asking for an injection. Transit ridership is declining and there is a need for affordable housing. Why the lack of a federal response and will the Feds come around? Will this also be an opportunity to look at a more significant role for munis?
12:13:09 From Michael Roschlau: The federal government has refused to commit to any emergency financial support for public transit so far – and neither have any provinces except for BC. It seems to be a real squeeze play for transit, which is an essential service and has lost most of its fare revenue. What is your advice in resolving these issues to avoid a total public transit collapse?
12:13:23 From Andre Darmanin: @Michael. We asked the same question.
12:14:19 From Michael Roschlau: Concerned minds think alike!
12:15:55 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: do we need an infrastructure fund again?
12:16:18 From Andre Darmanin: But also gas taxes have been diminished due to gas prices diminishing, even before COVID.
12:16:43 From Andre Darmanin: Ok that didn’t sound right, but you know what I mean:)
12:16:59 From gail krantzberg: with deep relectance for citizens to return to transit, how can we expect public transist to be resilient? what would get me back on a bus?
12:18:10 From Gurpreet Patheja: To echo Michael’s concerns on public transit. What is happening with transit is a bigger discussion on, will we come out of COVID19 with a greater loss of public owned essential services, and public commons?
12:18:22 From Gloria Venczel: A new “green deal” for cities? Canadian taxation system developed in 1867 when there no cities, with only minor updates since then. Cities are the economic powerhouses of Canada- we are no longer an agrarian society.
12:18:33 From Lorne Cutler: If Federal and provincial governments are so concerned about funding for municipal governments, why don’t higher levels of government actually pay property taxes instead of setting payments in lieu of taxes which are difficult to challenge. That being said, when the Federal government has been challenged in court over PILT (Halifax, Montreal), they lost both court cases.
12:18:39 From Andre Darmanin: 100% Gloria.
12:18:47 From Michael Roschlau: European and Asian countries have been requiring face coverings on transit. That seems to be the only approach that allows for physical distancing to be removed and transit capacity to be recovered. Unfortunately, Canadian jurisdictions are very reluctant to make such a move.
12:19:44 From Eva Chu: Speaking of social cohesion, what are some solutions to addressing the existing and arising racism COVID has exacerbated?
12:21:21 From Michael Roschlau: Ultimately, we may need to rethink the balance between user fees and society’s financial support for transit. We suffer in comparison to other countries because we rely so heavily on fares.
12:22:15 From Sean Gadon to All panelists: Having a transit system like in Toronto where 80% of the revenue comes from transit riders is going forward financially unsustainable – governments are going to have to step up and structurally change the funding model!
12:22:27 From Andre Darmanin: @eva It first starts with understanding who is riding transit, their jobs, and where they are coming from. Only Toronto and Manitoba will be collecting sociodemographic data. Municipalities have been reluctant to collect this data for years. Now it takes COVID to do it? I tried to do this in Edmonton but was shot down by ETS leaders for transit ridership (ahem, Amarjeet).
12:23:28 From Paul Bedford: This seems like a perfect time to embrace road pricing, a share of income and sales taxes for cities.
12:23:49 From Andre Darmanin: Preaching to the choir @Paul.:)
12:24:06 From Michael Roschlau: Eventually, taxes will need to go up to repay our massive new debts. GST and property taxes are likely candidates, but road pricing also needs to be put on the table.
12:24:45 From Gloria Venczel: We cannot recover from covid without economic equity as inequity is a statistically significant indicator of pandemic spread, without incurring wave after wave of infections. The post-covid city, rethinking cities, where more work from home, with supporting neighbourhood hub based economic drivers, is very likely a climate change friendly one.
12:26:52 From Andre Darmanin: Ok but when is the right time to charge for road pricing. Property taxes will rise. Income Taxes will rise. So how to soften the blow? Road pricing must be put on the table.
12:26:57 From Lorne Cutler: In all previous recessions that didn’t involve deliberately shutting down the economy, including 2008/2009 provincial and federal governments that rely on income and sales tax were deeply in the hole. Municipalities which rely primarily on property tax didn’t see drops in revenue. Why doesn’t anyone talk about the volatility of other tax sources. While reality taxes may be limiting they are highly predictable and seldom vary from year to year.
12:27:06 From Charles Crenna: The key issue is comparative effectiveness of different kinds of programs and expenditures… Hard to make a case for just more money…
12:27:07 From Michael Roschlau: With recovery, there is a real danger of increased traffic congestion resulting from people considering their cars as the only safe way to travel more than a few km. Again, we need to give people a greater sense of confidence in returning to public transit. Back to required face coverings.
12:27:20 From paul mackinnon: Do we see a positive benefit of this that urban housing prices will go down (on a real basis)?
12:27:21 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: We’re in trouble on mass transit. Millions rely upon it and will be afraid ot return. That’s likely to lead to terrible traffic congestion and increased GHG emissions. How can transit be rescued — including by increasing space for pedestrians and cyclists?
12:27:43 From Eva Chu: I’m all for diversified revenue for cities, but the problem with road pricing is it’d target too many of the wrong people. Many of the people would have to pay the road tax would be people who’ve been priced out of living in city centres
12:28:05 From Andre Darmanin: @Paul M The National Housing Strategy and its funding that’s tied to it needs a massive rethink.
12:28:39 From Andre Darmanin: @eva There needs to be an equitable approach. More than likely it will look like New York’s cordon pricing plan.
12:29:32 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2xW5maF
12:30:02 From Andre Darmanin: First we need to call it climate crisis. It still is one, even with the air cleaning.
12:31:13 From Michael Roschlau: Under COVID-19, transit can only be efficient if everyone wears face coverings.
12:31:41 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: what have cities done / will they do try and increase the ridership? how are places likely Sweden dealing with this? they’ve never shut down.
12:31:45 From Samira Farahani to All panelists: how come we dont consider weather in proposing transportation systems. how we could have efefctive transit servie and active transporation systems with our climate of 0 degree temperature in May!
12:31:55 From Andre Darmanin: Forget the gas tax.
12:32:04 From Eva Chu: Besides masks, there NEEDS to be contact tracing.
12:32:29 From Lidia Monaco to All panelists: How about Parking taxes
12:32:41 From Samira Farahani: how come we dont consider weather in proposing transportation systems. how we could have efefctive transit servie and active transporation systems with our climate of 0 degree temperature in May!
12:33:34 From Lorne Cutler to All panelists: What politician can drop a tax after introducing. A variable gas tax will likely only work in one direction.
12:34:19 From Andre Darmanin: I’m echoing what Paul Bedford is saying. Gas tax revenues has been depreciating on both sides of the border. We need to look at alternative options, including equitable cordon pricing/road pricing. Even reviewing the carbon tax.
12:34:28 From Michael Roschlau: The ask of the feds is for temporary, emergency transit operating funding, which should be a 50-50 fed-prov match. That would need to be negotiated, which takes t-I-m-e.
12:34:29 From Canadian Urban Institute: Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:35:01 From Amy Calder: there are lots of people who do not own personal vehicles, my choice and otherwise, so I think it’s important to consider that in a lot of cases that is the only transportation option for people. Especially in certain weather conditions and seasons,
12:35:20 From Lidia Monaco to All panelists: the need for all of to get to work, public transit must be expanded not diminished and transit is an equalizer fo all
12:35:32 From Amy Calder: biking is nice, but we also have huge commute distances that preclude bike commuting in some cases
12:36:00 From Andre Darmanin: Agreed @michael
12:36:37 From Gloria Venczel: Neighbourhood based, integrated economic hubs, diversifying the suburbs around pre-amalgamation Toronto and transforming them into walkable, multi-modal communities would be an effective strategy against future covid spread and commuter car pollution GHG emissions.
12:36:49 From Sean Gadon: Federal government should lead in championing a new deal for cities within the federation! The working going forward should not be piecemeal and incremental.
12:36:49 From Robert Godfrey: Let’s talk about opportunity. In a post-COVID world, what is possible that wasn’t previously? How *do* we build back better? What about reinvention rather than a reset?
12:37:00 From Lorne Cutler to All panelists: People drive a country’s economy. Cities facilitate it.
12:37:00 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Yes – transit is key to social and economic equity and resilience. We need walkable 15-minute communities. Land use planning is key here.
12:37:22 From paul mackinnon: We may see a *brief* (2-year?) pause in bus/metro ridership, but we need to not lose sight of the long term move to mass transit that is actually needed to fight climate issues. Let’s not let short term impacts take us off course.
12:37:27 From Andre Darmanin: @Robert what does “reinvention” look like?
12:38:18 From Andre Darmanin: Yes @sean. There has to be a new deal for cities including removing/modifying Section 92.
12:38:43 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: in low income neighbourhoods access to internet is a problem because of cost – still an infrastructure issue
12:39:59 From paul mackinnon: We had an opportunity to rebuild our carbon-based society after the ’08 crash. This is a second ‘opportunity’ where structural societal change seems possible. This needs to be part of the thinking behind the new deal.
12:40:06 From Robert Godfrey: @Andre, a bit vague I realize. I’m interested in how we don’t simply return to normal. How can this moment provide the impetus to tackle longstanding challenges (affordable housing, climate change adaptation and mitigation, more robust transit system)? Could use some hope
12:40:07 From Andy Fillmore: Perhaps the panellists would share their thoughts on this fascinating idea of a New Deal for cities.
12:40:56 From Lorne Cutler to All panelists: Considering the Liberals didn’t win one seat in Alberta, including in the Edmonton and Calgary, Albertans are fairly united in recognizing the importance of the oil and gas sector to their economy and to Canada’s exports and government revenue.
12:41:23 From Andre Darmanin: C’mon Andy. You’re the planner. I’m sure you know what it should look like.
12:41:32 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: and yet we continue to plan for greenfield employment areas…
12:41:52 From Canadian Urban Institute: Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:42:16 From Andy Fillmore: Haha, yes Andre, but I don’t have a microphone!
12:42:43 From Lorne Cutler: If you destroy the Albertan economy there will be no money to retrofit buildings.
12:42:52 From Elliott Cappell: how about advancing Tower Renewal nationally!
12:42:55 From Andre Darmanin: @robert. Ok. yes. From Government programs to admin. We can’t go back to the status quo.
12:43:40 From Sean Gadon: Shopping malls will be the next urban white elephants! Need to look at how city planning polices can be more flexible to permit a variety of uses than what would presently be permitted! Are our shopping malls our next community hubs or converted to much needed housing!
12:44:24 From Charles Crenna: Excellent point on the malls, Sean! Have to focus on that!
12:44:36 From Robert Godfrey: @Andre, yes. And what becomes politically palatable and possible that wasn’t before?
12:45:10 From Canadian Urban Institute: CUI is looking for volunteers to help us continue the great work of our COVID-19 initiatives. If you can help, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
12:45:12 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: what about old industrial parks?? we started talking job creation, this has to be park of the discussion
12:45:24 From Andre Darmanin: Parking lots, save for Metrolinx continuing to build them, and parking lots need to opportunities for housing.
12:45:26 From Allyson Hewitt: Surely more than three way, we need to engage corporates and nonprofits and academics – cross-sectoral collaboration (and space for these tough conversations) needs to be supported and enabled
12:45:26 From paul mackinnon: I think the New Deal needs to open up new Fed $$ directly to cities (bypassing provinces if possible), but has to direct those funds to projects that are urbanism-centric (and cities can take it or leave it
12:46:07 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: We need to combine building energy efficiency and location/travel efficiency. Strengthen the core of cities. Foster walkable, 15-minute neighbourhoods.
12:46:17 From Michael Roschlau: Direct to cities will never work in Quebec.
12:46:21 From paul mackinnon: I should say bypassing provinces who don’t buy-in. They traditionally have resisted a direct relationship between Feds and cities.
12:47:24 From Michael Roschlau: Let’s not forget the federal Ministry of Infrastructure is also of COMMUNITIES
12:48:25 From Andre Darmanin: If we’re talking about electrification, then high speed rail needs to be on the table.
12:49:07 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2xW5maF
12:49:33 From Andre Darmanin: Especially since intercity airline travel will be challenging, regardless of wearing face coverings or not.
12:51:18 From Christine Drimmie: The multiparty conversation on funding to municipal infrastructure projects may work in an ideal world, but in reality my municipality’s ICIP projects have been hung up in the 3 way conversation since 2016. Not a dollar has flowed.
12:51:20 From Chris Fraser to All panelists: I think electrification of transit is a great idea. But being innovative I think we need to look at use of hydrogen for buses and trains especially with Alstom’s recent purchase of Bombardier’s train assets and the incredible costs of replacing bridges across lines like the Lakeshore lines.
12:51:23 From Maureen Shuell: Excellent moderating Mary. Good to see engagement with former federal cabinet ministers who understand complexities of leadership. Hello again John Godfrey and Amarjeet Sohit. Good to see you here and thank you for your insights.
12:51:25 From paul mackinnon: Good point Michael R. In the US, cities tends to work directly with HUD. Maybe Infrastructure + Communities is THE urban ministry. It’s just as John Godfrey says, city challenges tend to be so complex – beyond infradtruture.
12:51:35 From Michael Roschlau: Perhaps the “cities” portfolio is better aligned with Intergovernmental Affairs.
12:51:35 From Alex Speigel: I strongly believe that we must use this transformative event to plan for a greener future, and that “we” includes governments, businesses, communities and individuals. You may be interested in this article: https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjSrvq24q7pAhW9oHIEHU18A8EQFjAAegQIARAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.canadianarchitect.com%2Flessons-from-a-crisis-lessons-for-a-crisis%2F&usg=AOvVaw3j5AaQJT1V_CswN5eZesHV
12:51:46 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at
12:51:57 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Accessory Dwelling Units are key to increasing affordable housing and walkable, transit-oriented development. The Federal government and CMHC can provide techncial and financial assistance to advance this important approach that brings great social, economic and environmetnal benefits.
12:51:59 From paul mackinnon: Andy Fillmore has my vote as new Minister for Cities!
12:52:37 From Lauren Millier to All panelists: Could the big cities mayors group play a role in advancing this discussion of ‘cities agenda’? they’ve been a pretty cohesive group for a while.
12:53:14 From paul mackinnon: “The Rise and Fall of the Ministry of Urban Affairs”. Fascinating read: file:///C:/Users/Boardroom/Downloads/149-1303-1-PB%20(1).pdf
12:53:30 From Zamir Rahemtulla to All panelists: With Sidwalk labs pulling out in Quayside, what is the future of Canada and smart cities post-COVID?
12:54:08 From Charles Crenna to All panelists: Great points about starting small on trust-building!
12:54:46 From Andre Darmanin: I don’t know how a tripartite agreement could occur when you have Brad Wall and Jason Kenney at the table.
12:56:11 From Canadian Urban Institute:
Keep the conversation going #citytalk
12:56:13 From Charles Crenna: If they and others like them are not on board, this kind of institution is very unlikely to last long,,,
12:57:47 From Lisa Cavicchia, CUI Staff: Correct link to The Rise and Fall of the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs: Exploring the Nature of Federal-Urban Engagement in Canada is https://ojs.unbc.ca/index.php/cpsr/article/view/149
12:58:11 From Andre Darmanin: As I’ve been doing on other webinars, add me on LinkedIn http://ca.linkedin.com/in/andredarmanin
12:58:55 From Andre Darmanin: Let’s keep the conversation going.:)
12:59:11 From paul mackinnon: Thanks Lisa.
12:59:13 From Andre Darmanin: And add me on Twitter @andredarmanin
12:59:27 From Sean Gadon: Agreed – recovery and a better future requires strong cities – need to build the coalition of players to achieve this objective! Well done CIU!
12:59:37 From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: On building retrofits, check out Ralph Torrie and Celine Bak’s compelling proposal to Build Back Better: https://www.corporateknights.com/voices/ralph-torrie-and-celine-bak/recovering-stronger-building-low-carbon-future-green-renovation-wave-15875463/
13:00:01 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2xW5maF
13:00:01 From Andy Fillmore to All panelists: Thank you John and Amarjeet. Great to see you both again!
13:00:39 From Mike Abraham to All panelists: Thank you for organizing this discussion CUI.
13:00:41 From Andre Darmanin: Thanks for putting this together CUI. I enjoyed this one like the one last week. Tomorrow’s will be fun with Jay and Roger.