By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
In advance of the release of the federal and provincial budgets on April 22 and 23 respectively, the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO) met with Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne to discuss the major issues affecting their cities.
Top priorities included discussions on transportation, gridlock and job creation.
Oshawa Mayor John Henry says these discussions are the first step to solving issues not only affecting Oshawa, but also major cities across Ontario.
“I think what it does, it delivers the message that we’re all working together to resolve some issues that are the same and I think that’s key,” Henry said following the April 20 meeting, which saw 17 of the 27 big city mayors attend.
LUMCO collectively represents approximately 67 per cent of Ontario’s cities, including Toronto, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Hamilton and Kingston among others.
The group looks to bring forward policy and legislation on issues affecting large cities to all levels of government.
In a news release, LUMCO stated increased investment in gridlock and transportation were top of the agenda, including which projects would get a leg up from the province’s recent announcement of increased infrastructure funding from $29 billion to $31.5 billion.
“The ability to get people to and from work and home again and to move goods throughout Ontario is essential to the economy of Ontario and I believe they understand what we’re talking about now,” Henry says.
Henry says he thinks LUMCO is seeing success in part due to the large voice the group represents.
“By coming together as a group, the nice part about it is we do get to meet with the premier. We are a large group, when you look at what we’re able to do,” Henry says.
“The great news is the premier is listening and she understands our concerns, especially around gridlock.”
The group has committed, along with the province, to bring forward an agenda focused on public transit to relieve gridlock. The province recently announced funding for Regional Express Rail for GO Transit.
Henry says while most of the talks are “big picture stuff,” this is where the conversations need to start to find solutions.
“It’s the concept I’ve always said, when you bake a pie, you can’t just bake a slice – you’ve got to bake the pie, and I think by bringing all the right pieces together, we can do a really great job,” he says. “As long as we have a conversation going on, then we’re going to get some place. It’s when the conversation stops that nothing happens.”