Cities in the Time of COVID-19: One-on-One with Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie

A candid conversation with Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, on how her city is dealing with the challenges of COVID-19 and what the short, medium and long-term impacts on the city could look like

5 Key
Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Where are the funds?

Mayor Crombie said that all cities are struggling to keep revenue coming in, and there is no ability for cities to go into deficit and losses are not recoverable. She added that the federal and provincial governments have done a great job at providing business continuity funding and relief funding for students, seniors and the unemployed. And now the last frontier is municipalities.

2. Tale of two pandemics 

COVID-19 cases in Ontario are generally on the decline. And while there are certainly communities in Ontario which are COVID-free, densely populated areas like Toronto, Mississauga and Ottawa are seeing delines at a much slower rate, Mayor Crombie said. She added that this means there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to mitigating the impacts of the crisis.

3. Mayoral unity

Mayor Crombie said a key learning that has already emerged from COVID-19 is that when mayors act in unison, they have a much stronger voice. She said a united front means they can come together and talk about common themes that impact each of their municipalities – like infrastructure and transit funding, affordable housing, green infrastructure, etc. And when they speak with one voice, she said, it has the biggest impact at all levels of government.

4. Signal of Hope

Mississauga is a very diverse city, the mayor said, and the Muslim population is one of the city’s largest groups. And while the City has banned religious gatherings, the City of Mississauga voted to allow mosques in the city to do calls to prayer during Ramadan, relaxing city noise bylaws up to the end of the religious holiday on May 24. The mayor said this has provided the community with a message of hope, inspiration, and support – one which is supported by the interfaith community in Mississauga.

5. Using technology for civic engagement

The mayor said the City of Mississauga was an early adopter of technology in order to continue council meetings. She said she has also used online platforms to consult with over 600 community and business groups over the last eight weeks, asking them how COVID-19 has impacted them and how the city, or other levels of government, can help. She says it’s business and community leaders who are helping drive the discussion on issues such as economic recovery.

Additional Reading
& Resources
Full Panel
Transcript

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 events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.  

Mary Rowe [00:00:35] Good afternoon, everybody, happy Friday. My goodness, we’ve made it through another week or so, thrilled to have her worship Mayor Crombie with us today. I am Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. And, you may not be aware, but this was our May madness. Just week we managed to have a webinar every day. Normally we do three a week, but for some reason this week we had one every day. And you are the icing on the cake for us. We’re very pleased to have you. And I will introduce you in two seconds. I just want to say that Canadian Urban Institute has been known is the connective tissue business and for all the folks that are signing in. We during COVID have been emphasizing the importance that city builders learn from each other across the country. And so we put up CitywatchCanada.ca and citysharecanada.ca. And those are both being staffed and populated every day by volunteers and partners across the country who are turning their eyes to see what are municipal governments doing and also what are community groups and different institutions in urban environments doing to respond to COVID. And I always say to people, if you’re feeling discouraged, if you’re wondering what the heck are we going through? Go and look at either citywatch or cityshare, and you will be knocked out by the resourcefulness, the timeliness, the ways in which people have been helping people get through this. And we continue to welcome volunteers. So if you’ve got bandwidth, if you’ve got a half hour or an hour a day to watch for us and be a city watcher or city share, please email us and covidresponse@canurb.dot.org and join our happy little team of folks that are putting their eyes. Take your eyes literally to the street.

Mary Rowe [00:02:09] Our broadcast today is originating in Toronto and Toronto is the traditional of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples And that’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit native peoples from across Turtle Island. We acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit rousting Mississauga. A lot here for you. And with the Williams Trees, which you’re signing with multiple Annishnabg, nations. And we we take this seriously, our obligation and our and the challenge to us as settlers to find a way to reconcile with Indigenous and our ancestry. And we could go today. Friday’s generally tend to be mayor days. And a week ago we were on with near Bowman, who is the mayor in Winnipeg, and his perspective on how he was challenging, how he was doing, doing the challenges facing there. The week before that we had Mayor Savage and and he was in the midst of dealing with more than one challenge. He had only just that earlier in order that we coped with that horrible, horrible and violent eruption that had taken so many lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. On top of that, he was dealing with that. So we are very excited to have near Crombie with us, the mayor of Mississauga. She’s going to talk to us all about what’s going on there. I always say to people that the conversation begins here on these webinars. So please join us in the chat function. And we encourage you to put thoughts and comments there, folks. And if you would do us a favor when you’re providing comments, if you could send them to all panelists and attendees, not just panelists, since you can see it’s just the mayor and me. And so what often happens in these chat functions is that people respond to each other and they put all sorts of resources and ideas up there. And so we’d love to see what people are going to suggest to the mayor, what questions they’re going to ask of her. And you can ask each other what’s going on. So please, if you want to also on social media, you can continue this conversation with #citytalk. The other thing that we always acknowledge, Mayor Crombie, before we start is that we are aware that these talks take place at a time when we still have thousands of Canadians on the frontlines, keeping people safe, saving people’s lives and dealing with the ongoing challenges. And I have a feeling that’s something you want to talk about Mayor Crombie, because as we start to see things open up, we know that there are still cases, there are still extraordinary measures that are having to be taken by health care workers and people on the front lines. And a lot of that burden is falling on people that work for municipalities or work for agencies of the municipal government. And so we always acknowledge that we know that there are people still really in the trenches on this. We record these sessions and repost them with the consent of the participant, which I’m assuming Mayor Crombie will agree to. And we also post the chat. So put smart stuff up on that chatbox, folks, and just know that what goes in there stays there. So just remember lots of eyes. We’ll see it afterwards. And we’re finding that we get several hundred people on these sessions with us live. And then when we post them several hundred more, go back and watch them. So we hope that’ll be the case here, too, and that we’ll get lots of value from everybody focusing together. So Mayor Crombie Wow. You know, municipal governments have been the rubber’s been hitting the road in every way on this crisis. You had all sorts of challenges in municipal finance beforehand. Now you’ve really got them and I know that Mississauga has been right out front in dealing with a whole set of challenges in long term care facilities, but also in terms of communities, community spread and there’s been all sorts of things going on. And I know that you’ve been. I went to your Twitter feed and I had a good look at all the ways in which you’ve been out demonstrating solidarity with Missisaugans and also your advocacy provincially and nationally. And then I want to talk more also about international, because you’re part of the Harvard City Leadership Program and I want to hear about that. So I’m going to pass to you. Just give us a give us a taste of what life has been like for you in Mississauga, not just from your dining room table, but what all the things that you’ve been sort of coming to terms with in the last nine weeks. Over to you. Thank you so much for joining us.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:06:26] Thank you, Mary. And I just put a little message into the group chat saying hello to everyone from Mississauga. This is a wonderful opportunity to touch base with the front lines. And that’s where we’re really at. Here in the municipalities, the rubber does hit the road here. So many things are just making notes about topics to cover. I’ll just start a little bit with my two colleagues that you mentioned. In fact, both of them, Brian Broman from Winnipeg and I were part of that cohort last summer that were invited. And you actually you have to be invited to apply and then explain why you’re the right candidate and then get accepted or not to the city leadership initiative. The Michael Bloomberg School and Mike Savage, of course, and our dear friends and we were colleagues in the House of Commons in a previous life and celebrated his big milestone birthday.

Mary Rowe [00:07:14] We actually share a birthday.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:07:16] Is that right?

Mary Rowe [00:07:19] He and I are both May 13 babies, but I did remind him I’m one year older than he is. So my last year was my milestone I’m glad you were in contact with him this week. Good.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:07:29] I was. I sent him a tweet and actually I did a video birthday greeting to him. But we both love what we do as we communicate. Well, we both we all three of us, in fact, participated yesterday on the Bloomberg Harvard call that’s been organized by the John Hopkins Institute for Public Health that Michael Bloomberg also sponsors. And we have been very blessed to have the opportunity to engage with US mayors and global mayors, along with some very special thought leaders from both Harvard and from John Hopkins Institute. And then we always have special guests. And I got to share with you yesterday, it was Joe Biden and how exciting was that? And we’ve had Larry Hogan, we’ve had Nancy Pelosi. Well, Bill Gates and the first one kicked off with Barack Obama. There are six mayors in Canada that have gone through the program, Don Iverson and now Hip Nenshi, Charlie Clark, Mike Savage, myself and Brian Bowman. Though, where were the were the three cohorts? They’ve only done it three or so. They pick two from Canada each year, so privileged to be even invited to apply. So it’s been great. And so we’re only sharing the notes in these sessions have been on. How are you coping with the COVID? Well, what are your challenges? And last week was the fiscal challenges that they pose. This week was all about the reopening and the recovery. And a lot of the US mayors truly feel strongly that their governors are moving too quickly and they’re at the front lines and they can’t source PPE quickly enough for what they know is coming. And how do we cope with that? How is it impacted the different communities in the cities that you serve? The different demographics seem to be hit differently. And that makes sense from a socio economic point of view, because if you have better access to better health care and you’re able when you think about if you’re able to self isolate and work from home, whereas if you’re a blue collar worker may not have access to good health care, you may be impacted by the virus and as much more significant impact on you. So we’ve talked a lot about the recovery and the timing and different coping mechanisms that mayors can use that give us the give us techniques and just stay on. Anyway, they they they help us deal with the crises and the techniques that we’re using and how to analyze it, then how to rely on evidence. I know Michael Bloomberg has a favorite saying, “in God we trust, everyone else bring facts”. And he’s right. Right.

Mary Rowe [00:09:57] He’s very American. You know, before you go to the rest of your list. Can we talk a little bit about you comparing notes with your American colleagues? And this notion that that matters, we see it in the US. If we watch the news that mayors have been through the whole crisis, often in opposition to where their state governor was or where the president is. And I I’m interested. We we had we’ve been observing this in Canada and seeing a much we think a much stronger degree of alignment between the three levels of government. But at the same time, we did when we put up city watch, we were aware that some cities were declaring emergency. Some weren’t some. This is some words can’t. How have you navigated that jurisdictional challenge? And I know that you’re now passionately arguing that the reopening timeframe for the province can’t be the same across the whole province. So how would you navigated that jurisdictional thing?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:10:51] So we’ve seen their example. And I will say that I have a lot of respect. Huge crush on Andrew Cuomo right now who seems to have got it right. I like am I not right? Very active communicator. Let’s see.

Mary Rowe [00:11:06] Yeah, I did. And the good thing about his briefings, I’m with you. My sister is in Syracuse, New York. She’s with the Air Force there. And she said that tons of New Yorkers just rely on that daily briefing. And then I was trying to determine what is it about that briefing that’s so valuable? And she said it’s because they feel they get real information.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:11:23] He’s forthright. He doesn’t hold back. He gives you the facts. He gives you the numbers and he tells you what you’re going to do. And I you know, I had the opportunity once to travel to Australia and New Zealand on a former parliamentarian mission. And we stopped in Christchurch where there had been an earthquake. Same sort of technique, same. So it’s effective communication. The mayor was the most popular person in town.  Prior to the earthquake, he was not. He was about to lose an election, but he came out every day at the front lines and explained exactly what happened and what needed to be done and was giving them daily updates or more often as needed. And I think it’s that direct communication with the people you serve who don’t want it sugar coated and hence why I was speaking very openly on Wednesday cautioning the premier saying the GTA isn’t ready yet. We’re heeding the advice of our public health officials. Are Dr Lowe is the appeal medical officer of health. Eileen de Villa in Toronto. And I don’t understand how they are not in sync with Dr. Williams in Ontario because the numbers in the GTA aren’t there yet. And the way I described it to the Premier and to the MPP, I’ve in fact just got off a call just like this one, a WebEx briefing for my MPP. There are six of them in Mississauga and I’m calling it the tale of two pandemics because whereas the numbers in Ontario generally on average are declining or starting to decline, we’re not there yet in Toronto, in Mississauga and Brampton, Hamilton in any of our municipalities. We’re still seeing we’re hitting the peak, but we’re fluctuating. I’ll say we’re averaging thirty five new cases a day. But sometimes it’s 50, sometimes it’s eleven, sometimes it’s one hundred. So there’s no consistency yet. And there certainly isn’t the decline. And we always said the four markers we need to hit before reopening are two week rolling average, 14 day rolling average. Of course, that is the incubation period for the virus. So a two week rolling average of declining numbers, capacity and your health care system rise capacity in your hospitals. And we’re not there yet with Trillium HealthPartners, we’re at eighty nine percent capacity. You need to be under 80. And the ability to track and trace isn’t yet down the chain of the virus who you came into contact with its contact tracing and those factors are not in line. So I understand what’s happening. The premier is facing a lot of pressure from his rural caucus and from other members from around the province. Certainly there are communities in Ontario which are COVID free, but unfortunately, the densely populated areas like Toronto, Mississauga, Ottawa, for that matter, we’re not there yet. So I’m struggling with this decision. I’m struggling with this reopening. And I hope he doesn’t open stage two and two for two more weeks until we see those numbers coming back and we can closely monitor whether or not this has had an impact on new cases. So certainly opening up retail, that’s a big concern. How many retailers are ready for that to have the right measures in place following the guidelines of health and labor to have demarcations on the streets so people can come in? Allowing only one person for forty three square meters have the proper sanitation of their buggies and carts and change rooms, et cetera. I’m not sure. I’m not sure our retailers are ready for that. I don’t want people flocking to stores yet. It just creates more opportunities for exposure and hence risk going to the grocery store and the pharmacy and the bank and getting gas is enough. So I would have been a lot more comfortable if we didn’t begin this process of opening things up, you know, until until we saw a steady decline in numbers. There is a lot of confusion right now because certainly the premier has said low impact sports can reopen–  tennis, ping pong, pickleball — all great except a lot of those in our city facilities which are closed.

Mary Rowe [00:15:21] which are closed.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:15:23] Open up, open up sports fields. Well, a lot of those are city facilities and we’ve still closed them. So we are closed. You know, our parks remained open, but the parking lots and facilities are closed. You said open up track and field tracks.

Mary Rowe [00:15:41] Yeah, track and field tracks.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:15:42] That’s right? The private ones, private clubs. Sure. But if I were walking my dog on them, would I still get a ticket? You know, we do. Are our facilities are close. The school board facilities are closed. So there is a lot of confusion. You know, as of Tuesday, you can have a domestic worker in your house, your housekeeper, if you so fortunate to have one. Yet last Sunday, you couldn’t see your mother on Mother’s Day. So there is a lot of confusion and mixed messaging. I think we’re a little ahead of the curve. And, you know, I’m going to tell you. I had the opportunity to just speak to the premier and tell him that one on one, I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Clark on Monday. I said the same thing. I said it at my press conference on Wednesday. And our local meeting, large urban mayors met yesterday. Many of us feel the same, except for those in the outside air, outside the GTA areas and in the big city mayors. We meet once a week every week as well. And we’re in sync because we’re the big city mayors. So we represent the urban areas.

Mary Rowe [00:16:43]  across the country.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:16:45] Yes, in every province across the country. We’ve been fortunate to have had the ear of the deputy prime minister, Chrystia Freeland, who really understands our issues and the fiscal impact that this virus has had on cities. And if you want to talk about that a little bit, too, because that’s a huge issue. They’ve forgotten about cities and we’re here to remind them they’ve been given, you know, individuals certainly funding and what shall we call it, support, support, relief, financial relief, small and large businesses, business continuity, funding, operating revenue. Now, the one group they’ve forgotten about is us, and we’re the ones who are not permitted to run a deficit. And yet we’re all we’re all in significant deficit position right now.

Mary Rowe [00:17:30] And before we development with the money part, because you just raised a whole bunch of good things we can do. I’m trying to keep up with you, Mayor. I’m just trying to. So if we go back to this idea of jurisdiction and Bowman said last week that the reopening scheduled for Manitoba, he heard about it on Friday and didn’t have any advance notice in that time. Staff working all weekend, trying to figure out how the heck they were gonna do it. So I think this is as you suggest, these are illustrating these little jurisdictional glitches that we have. Even if you think at the very beginning of this crisis, at municipal municipal shelters, municipal facilities, all those decisions you’re going to make on the fly. And they were often provincial decisions or even in some cases federal decisions. And all of a sudden you’ve got to try to figure out you got it figured out.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:18:18] That we implement. Right. And they make the pronouncement and we have to execute them. And so certainly we heard that there would be Phase 1, a slight reopening happening. But I do understand that there are I think that it’s been modified because many of us pushed back and said, look, we’re just not ready. And we know that that’s the script for the premier changed a number of times. And I think I believe it was modified because we’re hearing they were ready to go with, you know. Well, I don’t want to speculate.

Mary Rowe [00:18:45] Well, you know, hearing things, it’s it’s this illustration of something that you and I have talked about over the years, which is that one size never fits all.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:18:53] And that’s exactly how I position to. This can’t be one size fits all scenario. And we look at what the experience was in Alberta and Calgary was given a regional approach. Salmon in Quebec and Montreal was allowed a regional approach. And I said, look, we’re not ready. Give us that same regional approach. New York City had it in New York as well. This big cities, we are not ready. But then I think the premier argued that, you know, if we keep Mississauga, Toronto closed down, they’re only going to drive out to rural areas and the north and do their shopping there.

Mary Rowe [00:19:25] I heard Mr. Clark on the read this morning say that again. But it’s a larger question, which we’re seeing people arguing internationally is how much of this should be on the individual, incumbent on the individual to behave appropriately vs. the government making a big decision. And so, in other words, do you think, as you suggest as we move now to opening things up, do you think Mississaugans are going to be respectful of this, the social distancing piece? Do you think we can rely on people to self police themselves?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:19:56] So I think initially there was some resistance. And now that we’re into week eight, we have had a lot of compliance. I’ve noticed that I’ve only seen a handful of bylaw offenses this week. Three in fact, two of them were for non-essential businesses that should not have been open. And one was a PPE littering ticket. And honestly, that’s the one that I find the most outrageous, that people come out of a grocery store, a big box store, take off their masks, take off their gloves and throw them on the ground in the parking lot. I mean, people, this is littering. So the best case, that could be a health hazard, for goodness sakes. So the question I’m asked by reporters is, so if you are adamantly opposed to this reopening. What authority do you have to prevent it? If you were telling the Premier. No, it’s too soon for retail, even if they have street access. They’re doing curbside pickup and delivery. What authority do you have to stop it if you don’t want tennis courts to open yet? You’ve kept your recreational facilities closed. What authority do you have? And the answer is, I don’t. Even if I have emergency powers,.

Mary Rowe [00:20:55] Which is weird.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:20:56] Exactly.

Mary Rowe [00:20:57] It’s not the dilemma we have. Generally with the way these these are organized. Is that, you know, that provincial government, senior levels can make some decisions that have extraordinary impact.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:21:06] Now, my public health officials, since this is a public health crisis, has more sweeping powers. So Lawrence Lohse, the public officer of health. He could come in and say, no, we don’t agree. We’re gonna keep retail closed. But then again, so much mixed messaging. Right. You almost can’t. Once the premier has declared the reach of curbside office with free store front, streetside access is open. It’s open. Even if we decide in Peel that it should be closed. So, you know, we have just behind the scenes lobbying shirts share advocating saying we’re not ready. Look at our numbers, please. And that’s the better part of my briefing with my members of provincial parliament an hour ago was walking them through the numbers, particularly in the long term care facilities. What’s going on there? We have outbreak in twelve of our facilities. Let me just share. Share with you. Twelve of our facilities. We have four hundred and thirty cases that are active COVID. And we have had one hundred and ten deaths in just a long term care facilities.

Mary Rowe [00:22:10] Do you know what the percentage of your deaths has been in long term care versus the old.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:22:14] Yes. Yes. Yes. I believe it’s got the right number here, 2.6 percent. I’ll just check as a problem. My staff were on this call and my thing’s been cut off. We are channel. It’s got to be higher than that, quite frankly. Should be higher than mine because.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:22:34] No, it has be probably. Yeah, you’re right. Hang on. That was the percent of deaths increase over yesterday. You’re quite right. So we’ve had one hundred and one hundred and six deaths in long term care. We’ve had one hundred and sixty two deaths. So that’s just about two thirds. Right. Two thirds. Three quarters of our deaths have been in long term care facilities and that makes that makes much more sense.

Mary Rowe [00:22:57] Do you have I mean this is a very, very sad, profound challenge. We’ve got that obviously long term care facilities. The way that we’ve seen them organize and evolve over time has not been safe. Are you are you starting to think about that in terms of as a municipality, what what kind of steps and measures do you think you you’ll be able to take to remedy that?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:23:20] I think one of the main outcomes of the COVID virus is that we we will take a very long, hard look at how we care for our elderly in their final years. I mean, there have got to be better practices abroad. Whether I’ve heard of the stories of Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, they do things differently. And even even extended families in South Asian families live in large groups. It’s, you know, the one home, the two homes, in fact, where we see the most dire of circumstances facing the most deaths is the old style model of four individuals to a ward room. And, you know, maybe there are cost effective for the government to operate and for families to institutionalize their seniors, their elderly and their parents. But certainly, if there is any kind of illness that’s airborne, that will be quickly passed on to everyone there. And that’s exactly what we have seen. We know in Camilah care, for instance, and anyone who is in Toronto would have seen the front page of the Toronto Star yesterday, which had 48 little crosses on it with the names of the 48 people who had passed so tragically. And my heart goes out to them. I mean, I shed a tear when I saw that I knew it was happening on Saturday. I’ve been in regular contact with the home. But the reality is, when you have four people in a room separated by a curtain, the pandemic will spread and it has also spread to their staff. They’ve had 40 cases with their staff. Now, the good news is that there have been 50 cases resolved. While we’ve had fifty seven passings in the home, we’ve had 50 percent of fifty cases resolved out of the 180 active now. So that you know, there. But something to take away. The other is how are we going to do this going forward? Because the old model didn’t work and doesn’t work. It’s broken. And we can’t care for our elderly in this way anymore.

Mary Rowe [00:25:17] I mean, there’s something about vulnerable populations generally. Same with homeless people. You know, this notion about when we were sequestered to stay at home, what if you have no home to go to? Ryan, what about can we can we keep you? I mean, I know that Mississauga has been facing this, too. How do we keep shelter? How can shelters be made safe? What are the alternatives? You know, I shudder to think what would have happened if this had happened when it was minus 10 degrees in January and we would have had more people dying of exposure because they could not they were not going inside anymore.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:25:48] So certainly we had outbreaks in our shelters and that was very difficult. And people had to isolate everyone had to be tested immediately and people were moved out to some temporary shelters, including hotels, etc.. But then we had a homeless person who tested positive and one of the testing centers be released to the public. I know it’s crazy. We had to act very quickly. And within that, within the few days we had activated a shelter site for Cobbett positive homeless population where they have beds and showers and meals. And we had to do that very, very quickly. And I know many that we’re not unique. Of course, other cities do. But this is the right thing and the compassionate thing to do rather than rather than allow and spread it through the community at and. I’ll share that. I’m satisfied that the uptake wasn’t too great because not too many were positive, but those that were we cared for and had a place to be sent to. Once they were tested positive again and examined.

Mary Rowe [00:26:47] Just gonna encourage people to chat to direct your comments to all panelists and attendees. I can see Lucas as to something, but send it out to everybody. Lucas Everybody can see it. You know, we’d I oh, another mayor we’ve spoken to as Lisa Helps the mayor of Victoria and she’s illustrating exactly what you’re suggesting about how you had to improvise. They had the same challenge with where their shelter was, but also where they’re safe injection sites, they’re safe consumption sites. They realized that they were being compromised to they move them into parks, basically, so that you could so they could still provide the same safe service in parks. And this is the kind of on the ground thinking that you have to do. And so it’s let’s talk a bit about the money situation.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:27:24] Let me just one more comment on that, as is that we’ve had to provide showers, a shower for site as well. We’ve closed all our rec centers. And I’ll be perfectly frank. Many homeless people use green racecars as a place to go and freshen up and take showers, brush their teeth, etc. And we’ve closed ours. So we did relocate shower facilities in the south of our south of the city by the lakefront and also centrally where there is another large homeless population right in our downtown. Plus, we kept the washroom facilities open in our parks to ensure that should the homeless people need somewhere to go, they had somewhere to go for.

Mary Rowe [00:27:58] I believe public washrooms is this issue that just keeps surfacing all the time, not just even for homeless people. You know, we’ve got we have to get that. We have to figure that out. You know, when I was in New York City, you know, I lived there for five years. And one of the challenges we had was that there there was not access to washroom facilities for just everybody in downtown Manhattan.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:28:17] And remember that you can go here for people with Crohn’s and colitis. I mean, I remember when my children were younger as a mother, I had to know wherever a restroom was because we were going to be making pit stops. What about the truckers? Where did they stop and use facilities with many of the restaurants are closed?

Mary Rowe [00:28:35] So let’s can we come up before we go to the big topic of money, which I know was one of your favorites. Let’s talk about density for a sec. We had Jay Pitter on a session who said she’s coined the term forgotten densities. She really made it clear, as others have, that we’ve got there’s good density and then there’s crumby density and there’s density that is optimal. And it meant it made it so it’s environmentally preferrable and all those things. But then there is density that can lead to crowding, overcrowding. And are you thinking about that in terms of I mean, Mississauga’s had a storied history around land use and actually this ties to money because, of course, the the income, the revenue stream from for municipalities is often devolvement charges. And that means that encourages job  development, which for years your your city had a pretty good reputation, which you have, I think been very studious and dedicated to trying to turn that ship around a bit and to be to say that actually Mississauga can be a compact City . So when you’re thinking about going forward in terms of density and.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:29:39] So we have embraced density here in Mississauga, you know that our downtown I have twenty five towers in the downtown that are ready to be built or in the process of being built. And I have another thirty seven in the works. So we have over 50 towers coming in the next five to twenty five years. But in the next five years, well, maybe six years now we may have lost a few months.

Mary Rowe [00:30:00] It’s lie a leap year or Roger to what it is. It’s like, you know, the Groundhog Day year we’re having anyway. Yeah.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:30:07] Yeah. So we may have lost this year in terms of the build, but twenty five towers coming. So, you know, I had an operator management company email me yesterday and said I need to put up some signs on the elevators. How many people am I to allow on an elevator. And I was thinking lol’s about six feet apart. I said I’m only comfortable with one, but maybe two. So I check with Dr. Lowe and he said, well, they’re in opposite corners. You could allow two. But think about that challenge, if you have 50 stories and only two, one or two people riding the elevator at one time.

Mary Rowe [00:30:42] I wonder if I’m running, if we have anybody in the chat who’s actually lives in a high rise would be interesting for somebody to the other.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:30:48] Another perspective is self isolation, depression. If you’re living in a high rise and you know there are some of them are very small, 450, 500 square feet is one thing if you have two thousand square feet, but if you live in a very small unit and you were told to go home and self isolate. We told we told seniors. Seniors. Mature adults, mature adults over 70 to stay home and self isolate. So imagine if you have a very small unit, a very small room, and the same isn’t true in the long term care facilities. The newer ones, they can close off the door to the suite of the individual. But imagine if there’s an outbreak in the home you live in, whether it’s a seniors residence, an acute care center, an LTC long term care center, you close the door and stay in that room for eight weeks. Imagine the depression and self isolation. I mean, I went over it. My mom lives in a condo. She’s fortunate. She’s on the main floor and it’s large, but she won’t even see me. I went over on Mother’s Day. I did it. Maybe people saw that.

Mary Rowe [00:31:50] I saw the Instagram. Yeah, let’s do it.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:31:53]  your peach cobbler. You think she loved it, by the way. And flowers and I was about to drop it on the ledge for her. And then I text her when I leave to come and get it. But she heard the rumbling, so she opened the door. So we took a picture waving at each other. But I’m very serious about maintaining that six foot distance from her. She’s 84 years old, so I don’t want to take any chances and she doesn’t want to see me either. Text me when you’re in the car.

Mary Rowe [00:32:20] because you’re everywhere.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:32:21] So. Well, that’s what she says. But in all honesty, I spend more time right here doing this back to back. WebEx, Zoom, face time, Skype calls all day long.

Mary Rowe [00:32:34] You’ve moved all the all the operations of this of the government, of this municipal government have gone online.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:32:39] Pretty much we have. Yes. Even our council meetings. I think we’re one of the only councils that embrace electronic technology early on, the ability to take electronic votes, which was very new. In fact, the first time we were voting it, we were voting well. And in Queen’s Park, they were voting on it. And we said, OK, it’s the timing and they moved it. Can we take these votes yet? So we’ve actually continued to meet have council meetings every Wednesday and then every second Thursday, the region appeal. We’ve been meeting as well. But I think we’re one of the first and one of the few that do continue to meet every single week or so many important decisions to make, so many important discussions to have that are all COVID Related. I want to be sure that my councilors are all brought up to speed. I’m not one of these folks who I’ve emergency powers. I’m making all the decisions. Our council doesn’t operate that way. We’re very consensus driven. I want them to be briefed. I want us all to make the decisions together. And they appreciate that. They appreciate being informed and being brought in the circle. So we continue to meet and make decisions as a group.

Mary Rowe [00:33:39] And what about civic engagement through that avenue? I was really struck that you created 70 outdoor Wi-Fi locations in Mississauga.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:33:48] Yes, we did. Yes. I was going to say,.

Mary Rowe [00:33:51] How did people get access to participate with you? And then the big, big responses. But not everybody has access to the Internet. So you tried to do both.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:33:59] Right. So we have public Wi-Fi in all our city facilities. So whether it’s downtown or in our libraries, even in our long term care facilities, many of our bus routes, etc.. So we have tried to provide Wi-Fi in many sites. I don’t have an exact number.

Mary Rowe [00:34:16] Are people sitting outside basically, even though.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:34:19] Yeah, yeah, I’m in and use the Wi-Fi and then they then they leave. But the other thing we’ve done in terms of engagement is I’ve met over six hundred groups and organizations. So every week we chose a group and sometimes we had to do it over two days. So we did our Economic Development Advisory Board, which is a very significant group of business and community leaders that really lead our discussion and our impact, our strategy with respect to economic development at the city of Mississauga. We’ve had two of those meetings. Thirty three groups, two members we’ve met with fifty one seniors’ organizations on one WebEx call as well. Forty residents associations, groups on one WebEx call.

Mary Rowe [00:34:59] We had you on your Twitter reaching out to and.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:35:02] We’re right here, right now just like this on a WebEx call. Tell her I give the briefing. This is where we’re at in our city. This is what we’ve done. We’ve deferred your taxes. We’ve deferred all eight payments. I’ve listed all the things we’ve done as a council. Tell us, how have you and your group and impacted by COVID? What more could the city or other levels of government do for you? And then I give them two, three minutes each to respond. So sometimes these one hour calls become three hour calls or we’ve dealt with all the sports groups, the arts and culture groups, religious groups. So the multi-faith groups were so large I had to break them into two =  the tourism board, etc. So I explained what exactly we’ve done with respect to free transit. Most municipalities have offered free transit, we’re bleeding. Seven and a half million a month as a result. Well, we’re going to talk about the money in a second. We’ve loosened parking restrictions and we’ve deferred property property taxes and deferred remittance to the municipal accommodations tax. We’ve done a lot. And that’s with us. And so we’ve met these groups each and every week. So I have feedback and consulted over 600 groups over the eight weeks and literally each week we do. We do. We meet it. We reach out to a group.

Mary Rowe [00:36:14] Do you think do you think we’re probably we’re getting more engagement now? Because I think we have to show up to a meeting. I don’t know. What do you think?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:36:23] No, I think you absolutely do. I think there are more people engaged, more involved. They want to hear. They want to learn. The other thing I’ve done is tele-town halls. I’ve done three. Tele- town halls. The third one was the least pick up on it. And I had fourteen thousand people. But the first tw had twenty five thousand people either online or on the call and all lining up to ask questions. So what we did with the questions, we group them in buckets and each of them, whether I took them or the Dr. Lowe, the public health officer or the police chief, the chief paramedic side, our building people and everyone on the line available to answer the questions. So we’ve done them three times. I’ve done voice drops. Everyone hates voice drops. I get it. But there are seniors that don’t have a computer. I use it for information is overrated. I get I got I got a lot of pushback when we do a robo call. But then I get a lot of seniors who say, thank you very much. Without that, I would not have known. So I have to put up with the the negative because I know there’s net positive.

Mary Rowe [00:37:22] Yeah, well, you are just my personality. I know you are, but I’m happy you’re one of the most diverse cities in the country. You might be the most diverse. I don’t know, but you’re pretty good.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:37:30] May were up there. Certainly Toronto’s diverse Markham, you know, a very rich Brampton.

Mary Rowe [00:37:35] And you made this interesting. Alan Kahn can in the chat is raising this. He’s asking you to talk a bit about how you suspended the noise by-law to allow mosques to broadcast a call to prayer. That was a hard thing to do. Talk to us about that.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:37:49] We actually I’m very proud of that. Notwithstanding, I have a lot of hate mail and personal threats that I’ve actually had to take over. Talk to the chief of police about. People are very angry. There are groups that are very angry about it. This came from a good place. It was to generate goodwill. We are a very diverse city. And I’ll tell you, with the Muslim population in our city is one of the largest. I mean, we’re very diverse in the top. Languages that are spoken are still Urdu, Polish, Punjabi, Arabic. Down the line to the European languages, Italian, Spanish. What have I missed? You know, those are the talking with the Chinese languages. When you break them up Mandarin, Cantonese, and then people who just identify as  Chinese, they would be the single largest group. But some identify as being Mandarin speaking 3/4 percent, Cantonese 3/4 percent, et cetera. So but after that is Urdu speaking and many of them are Muslim, Pakistani or from elsewhere. And they came to us and said this pandemic has taken a toll on our community, much like other communities. You have banned the gathering in religious organa religious institutions. People cannot go to the churches, to the mosques, to the synagogues or to the Gudharass. They can’t go out. So how will we send signals of hope? So even the mosques, the churches I’ve been following, certainly my mass, I’m Catholic, mass on Sunday online and they’re doing the same thing. However, they said in this extraordinary time of pandemic during Ramadan, could you give us one more relief, one more measure of hope, inspiration and support? Could we play the call to prayer? And the first time I was asked by the imam of the largest mosque, Sheik Allah over it is now, which you’ll probably see on the Q.E. W with a large minaret, you driving across a drive across the areas. And I said, Sheik Allah . We just don’t allow that. And under the noise by law. And by the way. Sheik Allahhat happens if the people heard the call to prayer? And because it’s not allowed. They took it seriously and actually came….they’re calling. So that’s contrary to what we’re do, what we’re asking. We’re telling people to stay home and not go to places, a religious institution. He said, oh, I hadn’t thought of that. But I just know how inspirational that would be. And I’d heard from a few other imams. But the morning before the council meeting two weeks ago, I received a call from Robbie O’Connor, who is a community leader in mainstream community. She’s a leader on accessibility. She’s part of the human rights board. She is an adviser to  federal ministers. And she’s also the leader of the Muslim Council of Peel. And she said this is a formal request. Just for the period of Ramadan, could we play the call to prayer? And I thought, you know what? We’re heading into a council meeting. I will table it and let council discuss it. And I did. And they wanted to take action right on the spot. Now, the city manager said, you sure you want a staff report on this? Because there could be unintended consequences if we open up that noise by a lot. Who else is going to come forward? And we were very much of the mind. Whoever else comes forward, we’ll make an accommodation from them as well, because we let we do allow. We do allow Siri….. Talking to me. Siri doesn’t like what’s going on. All right. She’s calling to prayer anyway. So, you know, we’ve always allowed church bells to ring. It’s not a problem. So we thought right on the spot. The staff crafted out a very concise motion that said for a limited period of time, because of the COVID crisis, we will allow the call to prayer one time per day, one time per day during the evening prayer. So it’s about eight fifteen to eight. Forty five. That time frame. And only until May 24th. And we are feeling pretty good about ourselves and feeling like we did a nice thing for a community, one of the largest demographics in Mississauga. And then the eruption of all kinds of Islamophobia. And, you know, The kinds of comments I’m sure you’ve seen them. Many groups took offense that we did it for one group and not another, and we very much would have entertained any requests that would have a reasonable request from any group. Reasonable requests for a limited time of any group. We did this for hope and inspiration and support. And to think of it in any other negative way that we were favoring one group, giving preference to one group, breaking people’s human rights or or. And the reality was we were also very acutely aware that all the mosques but one or two were absolutely an industrial area, doesn’t know residences would have heard them anyway or anyone would hear them. And I knew that. And I actually asked by lot. Just go out to the larger mosque. Be sure people actually aren’t gathering for prayer in the parking lots. Be sure of that. And then measure the decibel level. Make sure that, you know, these people, we aren’t gonna receive noise complaints. And I will tell you, to date, we have not had one noise complaint. One of the calls I received was about, well, when this starts happening. You know, I’ll be calling and complaining every day, I won’t be able to sleep. And that’s not fair. You’re imposing someone else’s religion on me. It’s not my faith, not my belief. And I said, madam, this this started two weeks ago.

Mary Rowe [00:43:24] Really, you know,.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:43:26] It was in place and there was a lot of pushback and a lot of hate mail.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:43:29] All of us receive it and continue to. But you have to hold your ground. Sometimes you make a controversial decision. I didn’t realize to be controversial because it came from a good place in my heart that I was trying to help people. I mean, I’m a Catholic. I’m a Christian. I love the sound of certain church bells. I will share with you that. I also am aware that the different groups broadcast their prayers and they do have people come and don’t want to get anyone in trouble. I’m aware of this, but it’s during the pandemic. People go out and listen to it from their cars in the parking lots. I’m also helped an orthodox church, which is very they’re very fundamental and they’re very strongly believe they need to have communion each week. And working with Dr. Lowe, Field Medical Officer. We have found a way to do for them to distribute communion through the same sort of pickup and delivery service that restaurants offer.

Mary Rowe [00:44:18] You guys, you ride the drive through.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:44:22] They’re doing the blessing and roll down the window and hand the group the hand them the package. And it’s worked. So we’ve made accommodations for other religions. I think that there’s been an extreme overreaction in this case to this one exemption that we’ve made and I’ll tell you, it’s finite. So on the 24th, it stops. What what date is today?

Mary Rowe [00:44:45] We’re almost nine days. Well, I think the symbolic importance of what you did there by signaling that diversity is not discordant to us. Everybody.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:44:56] Yeah, we are Judeo-Christian heritage. I certainly am Catholic. But the reality is we have very diverse makeup of our people. And when one of the largest demographics come to me, make a very reasonable request to give hope and inspiration during a pandemic, yeah, I would. And I consider that. So, you know, notwithstanding the severe criticisms, we receive very negative comments, very hateful and cases, it’s given rise to extreme Islamophobia in Mississauga. What I see the comments, but I tell you, it really helped. There are a couple of councilors that wanted to have a further discussion the following week, the night before the Interfaith Council of People, which represents every religion, had been meeting. And they asked me to join the call. And I had been just been on to tell a town hall with the fifteen thousand people wasn’t one of the twenty five thousand calls, but it was fifteen thousand. I was a bit tired, but I thought, okay, I’ll jump on the call and just say hello, and maybe they’ll make a few comments about this as well. And they did. And they said, we support you 100 percent. And in fact, the other faith was good. And it’s led by Rabbi Audrey Pawlak, who’s one of the most progressive rabbis in across the GTA. And everyone’s represented, whether they’re Sufi or Zorastrian or Catholic or a different Christian sects as well of different Muslim sects. Everyone is represented. Hindu everyone is on that council. Bahia, for goodness sakes. Everyone’s there. And they said, we are drafting a letter of support for you because we feel that anything that you can do to help people and help people come together in this time of crisis when people are feeling isolated and depressed is a positive step. And when they tabled that letter the next morning, let a couple of councilors wanted to re-open the matter. Everyone loves that idea. I mean, it had two unanimous votes to unanimous votes on this measure.

Mary Rowe [00:46:52] Isn’t that great? Well, you know, we’re going to learn lots of things through this, aren’t we?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:46:56] That’s right.

Mary Rowe [00:46:57] And are there things that we want to. Are there lessons that we will learn that we will do that may be temporary measures that we decide are more permanent? Who knows? But I think that we’re watching about public space, access to public space. That’s something all of a sudden people are saying, hey, I need to have access to walking space, mean rethink. Are you purposing any streets in Mississauga?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:47:18] We are. We are. And I’ll say the one criticism is we’ve been a little slow to do that. And I’m a little, little miffed that it’s taken us so long. But we have we have. And they’re working very well. I’d like us to do more of them. One thing I was going to say, when you start time of open spaces is just that the sense of community spirit I have seen is really encouraging. Really remarkable. Absolutely. People stepping up. I was with a group they meet every Saturday that they’re called Feed Mississauga and they choose a restaurant or a banquet hall. In this case, it was the Mississauga Convention Center. A small group went into the kitchen, probably with the chefs of the convention center. And I’ll mention a soggy convention center and the Oasis Banquet Hall. They’ve both done it. They prepared fourteen hundred meals. Fourteen hundred meals. And then they had a list of people lined up. People applied for the meal program and the food drop off lunch. Again, the pickup and drop off the drive through delivery. The cars lined up. They said, here’s here’s your list. This is where you’re going to drop off these meals to these people. Please wear your mask, your gloves, etc.. They load that. We load them up. The volunteers load them up in the trunks. They drove off and off it went. So that kind of community spirit, I see companies that have retooled because they know the need for face shields, for additional masks and latex gloves. Many of our companies retooled. Some are building ventilators. Just incredible community spirit offers of pickup of medicines, groceries to deliver to seniors or to people who are at home or isolating. Just remarkable signs in windows. We’re in this together. We’re gonna get through this together. You know, there’s hope at the end of the tunnel. The bright light has come. Just incredible community spirit. People coming together to sew masks as an activity. Doing it on Zoom in front of their sewing machines, all having Zoom parties, sewing masks. I mean, it’s just you know, what I’ve seen.

Mary Rowe [00:49:12] There there is something about being given an opportunity to contribute in a town that at that CUI, when we’ve asked for volunteers and we get we get many, many people who want to make a contribution, they feel good. And there they have some thing to contribute. So part of it is how do we all create conference for people to make that kind of a contribution going forward? And we have a whole piece of work that we’re starting at CUI called Bring Back Main Street. And we’re actually going to have a session like a CityTalk session to go on Tuesday. We’re concerned about how do we all as as people who live in neighborhoods, how do we go and start supporting our local businesses? How do we support are the institutions that are on our main streets? How do we bring people back in a safe way, as you’re identifying, to support Main Street and not just continue to live digital lives that actually go back and support that mom and pop shop or that neighborhood shop or go see the people you used to bump into when you were at the coffee shop or the bank or the community center? How do these things go local? So we’ve only got a few minutes left and we’ve got to talk about money.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:50:10] We got to talk about money.

Mary Rowe [00:50:12] Let’s talk abou money.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:50:13] So, you know, the federal the provincial government have done a really great job providing business continuity funding, providing operating revenue or just relief funding for students for seniors or those unemployed having the CERB benefit. And now this last frontier is really the municipalities. We’re the ones who aren’t permitted to run a deficit. Our budgets have to balance every single year.

Mary Rowe [00:50:36] But unless you’re in British Colombia.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:50:36] Apparently. Or maybe they’re making a. We don’t want it.

Mary Rowe [00:50:39] You don’t want it.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:50:41] They don’t want it. The premier floated that with me as well. I said, no, thank you. No, thank you. I have no ability to raise money and pay for it later. It just comes off my property taxes. So no, thank you. I like the way the system works and why they’ve provided relief and operating revenue to everyone else. They have means to flow it to us through gas tax or whatever. They need to do it for us. We’re in a almost a 50 million… By the end of this month, we’ll be in a 50 million dollar deficit by the end, by the end of June, it will be 60 million. I lose seven and a half million because I’m running free public transit. We have no revenue. We’ve deferred all our revenue with property taxes, all of it deferred late payments. We imagine the interest on our investments is pretty low right now. The interest rates are so low, we don’t have parking revenue. No hotel tax, no accommodation tax and none of the typical revenues we receive. We are realizing any of them. Yet people forget we pay essential services. We are paying police, fire, paramedic, transit drivers to get people, essential workers to get them to their essential jobs and long term care workers and PSW. They’re all on city payrolls, folks. And we have no revenue. Fortunately, we hav, we have very strong fiscal position in MIssisagua, very well-run city. We’ve got great people, great people in our financial department. My director of finance had the foresight to extend our line of credit from 100 million to 250. So we have a little bit of liquidity, but there are other cities that are facing a liquidity crisis. So the last thing we want to see those headlines, cities are entertaining, commit bankruptcy and declaring bankruptcy.

Mary Rowe [00:52:20] What do you write? There’s two there’s two time horizons, right. So what do you see as the solution for 2020? And then what do you think the solution needs to be for going forward?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:52:29] So the solution let me just add two more things. We’re also the only level of government that’s actually laid off people. We froze hiring. We’ve looked at where we can cut. We’ve laid off all our part time staff. I’ve laid off two thousand people and not until I absolutely had to. When the crisis started in mid-March and we thought it would end mid April, we thought we’re going to carry folks. It’s only going to be four to six weeks, no problem. But when it extended out of April, well, this is people’s money. I have fiduciary responsibility to manage it properly. And I can’t keep people on payroll if we’ve closed all our facilities, all our rec centers, community centers, libraries, arenas, cultural facilities, our living arts center theaters, etc.. So we have to lay them off. We had to. So what are the solutions? Will the solutions are we were given operating revenue by the federal the provincial government that they float us extra money for our transit transit. Where you’ve seen the federal government wanting to step in and subsidize TTC my way transit we needed as well. Probably Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Mississauga, Toronto or the LA largest transit services in all of Canada. We all need operating revenue. That’s just the way it works. There’s no ability to go into deficit and these losses are not recoverable. It’s not like their money that we can come back. They won’t come back. They’re gone. So there are short term solutions and that is the quick injection. A quick fix of capital for our cities will go a long way. And then in years to come, we’re going to be deferring, delaying our cap, our capital for.

Mary Rowe [00:54:01] Are you moving money from your capital budget into operating now?.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:54:04] Now you’re really restricted. And we have very sizable reserves and those are very restricted in what they can be used for as well. So everything is very restricted. I mean, where we can we will but largely will be eliminating programs and services. And the other thing I’ve been thinking about, as well as our transit is one of know, one of our biggest cost centers and one of our biggest losses right now yet moving forward, when we are able to initiate the fare revenue at fare at the box, again, charge for our public transit. It’s going to cost us twice as much to ferry, to transport half as many people.  Because we’re going to have to do reconfigure the buses just to ensure that there’s proper safe distancing. And then, of course, you’re gonna have to ensure people wearing a mask, keep them safe from where already protect the driver. We’ve gated off six feet behind the driver and we’ve put up Plexiglas shields to protect the drivers. So and that will work well. So when we’re charging fares again, people can just tap or deposit and not be near the driver. And so. But think about it. Think think about will be spending twice as much to transport half as many people.

Mary Rowe [00:55:15] So that sort of thing is moving on. You know, let’s assume that there’s some way to get an infusion from the province of the federal government to cope with this extraordinary situation you’re in now, the operating deficits that you’re in now. And they can borrow money more cheaply than you can, etc. You can’t borrow it. They can’t. And so let’s assuming that they can get you out of the hole for 2020. Do you think now is the time for maybe a big systemic structural change in terms of how we finance our cities?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:55:43] Well, as you and I know, this is something we’ve been calling for for a long period of time, much before I was mayor. Hazel McCallion was mayor. She was calling for a different revenue streams that only the city of Toronto has the Toronto Act, that they have access to different revenue tools that aren’t in the purview of other cities and municipalities. They do have parking revenue, vehicle monitoring. Yeah, vehicle registration, land transfer tax. You know, every time I mentioned the word land transfer tax in the same sentence, I get three hundred emails. All those realtors they are one very well organized group. I didn’t say that. Not at all. What do you mean by 100 million a year, though? It would be a hundred million a year to me. Just saying.

Mary Rowe [00:56:34] But what do you think? Ultimately, I mean, is it time to really think do you want to. What about a municipal income tax? What about some other kind of growth taxes? What do you think?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:56:44]  What about a share of income tax, you know. When you see the European cities, I had the opportunity to go to Sweden last year and then Copenhagen and we ask how they’re able to afford all the amazing infrastructure they’re building. And they said, well, they of course, first of all, the crown owns the land. Right. And they have assured me they don’t have a regional government. They have some regional authorities, but they don’t have the equivalent of a state or provincial government. They have cities. They have the federal government and some regional authority. So they are skipping the level of government. So that income tax is actually only shared between cities and the federal government between two rather than three. So it does make life a lot easier. You see what they’re able to achieve. It’s remarkable versus what we can.

Mary Rowe [00:57:26] I don’t think that you just suggested that maybe Canada eliminate the provinces.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:57:32] Just talking about examples abroad and how it works for some.

Mary Rowe [00:57:39] You Mayor Crombie. I know I speak for all of us that are that are watching cities across the country. It’s we can learn so much from municipal leaders like you and think you’re also trying things. You’re you’re adjusting to the particular challenges that your community is presenting to you. And part of what CUI is trying to make the case for is that Edmonton learns a lot from Mississauga, that learns a lot from Kamloops, that reads a lot from Antigonish, and that this is how Canada is a predominately urban country now. And we need to find ways to accelerate how we learn from each other.

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:58:12] Because in the end, the mayors do speak, we do collaborate and we do talk to each other. We’re all kind of, you know, WhatsApp, Messenger, Groups, etc. We have each other on speed dial. We have those big city mayor meetings just about once a week on a Thursday, local mayors or large urban mayors of Ontario or meeting a little more regularly. It was every second or third week. Now we’re live meeting a little more regularly. Most of us know each other because of the meetings we’ve had to attend. And I’m quick to Brian Bowman and I, as you mentioned, you from Winnipeg, he and I did the Bloomberg program together. So I call him up all the time. Mayor Nenshi, Mayor Iverson and other. I text with them all the time. What are you doing, Calgary? What are you doing in Edmonton?

Mary Rowe [00:58:50] Do you think there’s a moment here for Canadian cities to kind of lead lead the way? After COVID, can we be models? Can other Mayors learn from you guys?

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [00:58:59] Oh, I think well, I hope so. I mean, I think we are leaders. I think we do. We do try to speak out. But often our voices are muffed by the federal agenda. And the amount of media that’s attracted to really the political parties. Right. The partisan politics, the federal leaders, the provincial leaders. And we do get drowned out. But we do have a voice. We have a very strong voice. And what we learned as as municipal leaders is that when we act in unity and in unison, we have a much stronger voice. So when we act, when we’re united and we come together and talk about common themes that impact each of our municipalities, like our infrastructure funding, our transit funding, affordable housing, green infrastructure, etc. When we talk about those common themes and do it with one voice, we have the most impact on all levels of government.

Mary Rowe [00:59:46] On that note that is what the Canadian Urban Institute is all about is about unifying all of us around the future of urban Canada. So Mayor Crombie, thank you very much for talking to us for such a generous amount of time the last hour. We wish you well. We hope you get more peach cobbler to your mother and. And we hope the next time we speak, of course, we’ll be in a different phase of this new normal. And I look forward to that. And I want to thank all our listeners for joining in this. This will get posted. Wow. I mean, I can speak and you’ve probably received an e-mail telling you what’s on for next week, Tuesday. It’s about bringing back Main Street Thursday we’re doing dispatches from abroad and Canadians who are working in different cities. Some of the ones that actually Mayor Crombie mentioned, people who were on the ground in those cities telling us what’s going on. And then on Friday, we have a conversation with Jeff Newman, the Mayor of Barrie

Mayor Bonnie Crombie [01:00:29] So it was awesome. Love, Jeff.

Mary Rowe [01:00:31] He has a great conversation there, Crombie. Thank you again for joining us. Happy to have you on weekend. Thank you. One day is the same as the other one. Happy New Normal again. Bye bye.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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 events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.

13:01:48          From Alan Kan to All panelists: Hi Madame Mayor

13:02:59          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 covidresponse@canurb.org

13:03:39          From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

13:05:29          From Mayor Bonnie Crombie to All panelists: hi everyone from Mississauga

13:05:31          From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

13:05:55          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s conversation is with Bonnie Crombie, Mayor of Mississauga, ON.

13:06:20          From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

13:27:10          From Lukas Golka to All panelists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GA8YMrAtmg

13:29:14          From Rita Bijons: What is the name of the Bloomberg platform that Mayor Crombie, Don Iveson et al. are involved with?

13:29:59          From Lisa Cavicchia, CUI Staff: https://www.cityleadership.harvard.edu/

13:29:59          From Irena Kohn: https://ash.harvard.edu/cityleadership

13:32:28          From Alan Kan to All panelists: I live in a high rise and our elevators are working

13:32:48          From Alan Kan to All panelists: But we are limited to three people in an elevator at any given time

13:32:55          From Suzanne Kavanagh: My condo one person per elevator, 10 storey building. 3 working elevators

13:33:03          From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

13:33:34          From Alan Kan: I live in a high rise and our elevators are working. Limited to three people though

13:34:06          From Brian Owen to All panelists: Re: Elevators – protective button covers, voice activation is now possible, and … you have the elevator service contractor recalibrate the weight to the number of occupants, ie – 2 BUT we will need the cooperation of the TSSA

13:34:46          From Brian Owen: Re: Elevators – protective button covers, voice activation is now possible, and … you have the elevator service contractor recalibrate the weight to the number of occupants, ie – 2 BUT we will need the cooperation of the TSSA.

13:36:53          From Brian Owen: Explanation: if you haver ever been in a modern overloaded elevator, it won’t move if overweight.

13:37:45          From Alan Kan: Can the mayor talk about the recent suspension of noise bylaw to allow mosques to broadcast call to prayer (azan)

13:43:14          From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at

https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

13:46:13          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2LlLfFR

13:47:36          From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

13:50:49          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 covidresponse@canurb.org

13:51:17          From Brian Rooney to All panelists: Very important to support local businesses

14:00:44          From Catherine Soplet: Great conversation, Thank you Mayor Crombie and thank you Mary Rowe @ CanUrb for this webinar

14:00:54          From Mirella Palermo: Thank-you for the great discussion & resources!

14:01:10          From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

14:01:27          From Eva Chu: Thanks to everyone for the great conversations!!!

14:01:29          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2LlLfFR

14:01:38          From Francis Wallace: Thanks everyone!

14:01:58          From Melissa Ricci: Thanks you for all the insight!

14:02:12          From Tracy Tang: Thank you, CUI and Mayor Crombie!

14:09:31          From Canadian Urban Institute: Chat will close in two minutes.