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Summer Conference 2002

SUNDAY AFTERNOON
Building Strong and Secure Urban Communities in a Changing World
Closing Keynote
THE HONOURABLE DAVID COLLENETTE,
P.C., M.P., Minister of Transport (bio)
Moderator

DAVID McGOWN, Vice-President Program, CIPA Board Member (bio)

TRANSCRIPT

[TAPE 1 SIDE 1]

DAVID McGOWN, moderator:

. . . from speakers internationally, from Africa, from the UK, from across Canada, and now we have a chance to hear Minister Collenette’s perspective on the linkages between cities and globalization from a Canadian perspective.

A couple of opening comments. First, my name is David McGown. I’m president of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, at your pleasure, and will be for the next two years, it is my pleasure and honour to have just stepped into that role. Couple of things. Bobbi Speck may be somewhere here in the audience. Bobbi is the mother of three vintners of Henry of Pelham, and it is her vineyard and her sons’ who have produced the wine that we have been enjoying all weekend, and we just want to thank Bobbi and her family team for all of their support.

This is a lesson in hubris, again. Clearly, one of the things that one always wants to do with a closing speaker is to take one aside and suggest the intricacies and the formalities of what is the Couchiching conference. Margaret Lefebvre and I were all set to do that over lunch, to explain the 70-year history of Couchiching, the intricacies of the Saturday-night party, the skinny-dip at one in the morning, only to discover that the Minister has had previous experience. Some 30 years ago, the Minister was involved in the organization of the 1972 summer conference, and so is all too familiar with the challenges of herding the cats that are the Couchiching audience, knows what it’s like to provide the logistical support to put on a four-day conference like this, and in fact may have known something or other about some the intricacies of Couchiching traditions, including the Saturday-evening entertainment. For those of us who have been involved with Couchiching for significantly less than 30 years, it is always surprising and most heartwarming to know that those traditions have extent back at least 30 years.

Minister Collenette was here 30 years ago; has been involved in politics for about 19 of the intervening years; it’s a true pleasure to have you back after a 30-year absence. The Minister’s bio is in each of your handouts. Suffice it to say that he has been involved in federal politics with several administrations in Ottawa, and has held a number of eminent portfolios, currently transport.

Over the course of the past four days, we have been looking at the linkages between cities and globalization, or what globalized issues are as urban communities face those challenges. What we’re going to hear from the Minister now is yet another perspective on the linkage between cities and globalization, and Minister, welcome back to Couchiching, and we look forward to your remarks.

DAVID COLLENETTE:

Thank you very much, David, ladies and gentlemen, I am extremely heartened that on such a beautiful Sunday afternoon you've decided to stay over and listen to a politician conclude this particular Couchiching. As David said, it was 30 years ago that I was in need of a summer job, having come back rather poor from two years in Europe, and Michael Hinesmith [sp?], who was then the president of the Canadian Institute on Public Affairs, which was the forerunner of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, got wind of me through a friend, and I was able to work for, I think they paid me a thousand dollars, David – for 10 weeks – which was big money in those days, and of course there were all the perks, as David alluded to, which we will not in public describe in detail. It wasn’t the late night on Saturday that bothered me, or the other activities, it was the kind of refreshment that I was forced to imbibe at 8:00 in the morning on Sunday before the final session. Perhaps Couchiching has changed since that time.

But when we did the 41st annual Couchiching conference, the topic was "how much government is enough?" And today, we’re now arguing from a different premise. We have to get government more active again. Thirty years ago, you can see the cycles, government was too intrusive, it was too all-encompassing, and we went through the last 30 years of disengagement, some of which I’ll refer to in my speech, and now we’re back talking the need to re-engage government, especially as it pertains to our cities.

Now, I would like to congratulate the organizers for this conference, you’ve got a great list of speakers, and the theme of course is a very prescient one, with the problems that are facing not just Canada but communities around the world as we become much more urbanized.

I am not the expert here, in any way, in terms of cities. My expertise is as a politician dealing with public policy and government administration, but I have lived all my life in large cities, like most of you in this room, and as a member of parliament from Toronto for 19 of the last 28 years, I think I’ve have had a unique opportunity to understand the challenges of urban life.

Now, in the age of knowledge, cities are at the centre of social and economic development, often a window to the world. For Canada to succeed, we must ensure that we have cities that are strong enough to compete globally for jobs and investment.

That means we need to be able to offer a knowledgeable workforce, reliable transportation and communication systems, a clean environment, safe streets, affordable housing, competitive taxes and a high quality of life, which takes into account our cultural and linguistic diversity.

As a member of the Government of Canada, I am very proud of the things that we have done. We have already invested heavily in Canada's universities through Chairs of Excellence in research and we’ve improved access through the Millennium Scholarship Fund. We have to do more, though, to promote knowledge clusters and ensure we have world-class infrastructure which can add to the competitiveness of our cities.

I think many of the subjects that you’ve discussed this weekend, and which I’ll touch upon in the next few minutes, can be summed up in the experience of some people who currently commute from Barrie to Toronto. Most of you who came up from Toronto obviously came up the 400, and went through the city of Barrie. It’s a far cry from the city that I remember as kid, when I used to go to Muskoka on that two-lane road, Highway 11, because the 400 wasn’t built when I was young.

Barrie is one of the fastest-growing communities in North America. This is happening in large part because it offers a very good quality of life, 90 kilometres from the downtown core of Toronto.

But someone who gets up in Barrie at 6 o’clock in the morning and expects to be at work at 9 o’clock, just isn’t going to do it, because the rush-hour traffic builds up as you get further and further into town and you have all of those other communities, from Vaughan, King, Bradford, Innisfil, Bolton, Newmarket and everywhere else, all those people coming together, trying to get into Toronto. And this typical 90-minute drive turns then into two to two and a half hours.

Twenty years ago, I don’t think any of us imagined that it would take two and a half hours one way to get to a job, and that it would be acceptable as part of daily life for many urban dwellers We have to ask ourselves what the cost is to society of this stressful wear and tear on people, the lost productivity and the quality of life? How do communities, governments, industries, businesses, individuals cope with this challenge?

Now, I know it doesn’t come as any great news to you, but cities developed over the centuries because people needed to gather so that economic benefit could be maximized within the perimeter of a defined, relatively secure and socially interactive community.

But look at us today. We are now in a situation where our "communities" are so populated that a sound economic environment, one which is healthy, safe and socially appealing, is becoming tougher to deliver.

Canadian cities, like many around the world, are faced with the pressures of urbanization, changing economic and social circumstance, adaptation to new technologies, mass immigration and the need for more private and public investment.

One way to cope with all of this is to adopt better policies to help make our cities sustainable and livable; policies which break the link between GDP growth and carbon production, something which is not easy to do.

Now, I came in at the end of the one of the discussions this morning, and certainly the kind of thoughtful discussion that we have is overlaid with a pride about Canada, the fact that we have created in this country a wonderful place to live, perhaps the best place in the world to raise a family, a great place to work and play. But our valued place within the global community is I believe at risk if we continue to circle the wagons and not work together to confront the challenges of our cities.

The current structure of government, despite the fact that 80% of Canadians now live in urban areas, seems unable to meet the demands of our growing cities.

Is it because of a lack of understanding of the challenges? Or because governments are not listening? Is it because of a misapplication of resources? Or because we’ve become too focused on our own political agendas? Or do we simply lack the collective will? Maybe it’s all of the above.

The federal and provincial governments, over the last 10 years, have been so preoccupied with cutting back on spending and restructuring their debt that much responsibility for the programs and services on which cities rely, have been downloaded right across Canada to municipal governments.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this exercise has not been an even swap.

The results are, sadly, plain to see. In my home city of Toronto, one of the wealthiest in the world, there are people sleeping in the streets – in summer and winter, families living in motels and automobiles and a shantytown has now started within a stone’s throw from downtown corporate towers. More and more children condemned to a cycle of poverty and dependency.

In December 1999, the federal government launched the National Homelessness Initiative, which is a three-year, $753 million program to engage all levels of government, as well as non-profit and private sector agencies, to develop approaches to help the homeless – to help them make the transition from the streets and emergency shelters to more secure lives.

I should say that without the prodding of Anne Golden, who spoke here a few days ago, and her seminal report, which we in Ottawa funded along with the city of Toronto, we would be much worse off than we are today. And I also should signal Chaviva Hosak, formerly of the Prime Minister’s office, I think she’s still here, because I can tell you that without her, we wouldn’t have gotten that $753 million through an incredible inert bureaucracy in Ottawa, and some political questioning as to whether or not we needed to take ownership of this problem.

Now, the downloading exercise has left municipalities with added responsibilities, but they’ve constrained by law from raising revenue to pay for increased obligations. In fact, some provinces are not content to just download – they lowered taxes to such a level that they left themselves no wiggle room to invest in social services or municipal needs. Now, far be it from me as a federal politician to be accused of attacking the provinces. Obviously, the federal government started the downloading process when we were faced with a $41 billion annual deficit with a $580 billion public debt. So yes, we take responsibility, and we cut back, the provinces cut back, and then the cities had to pick up the pieces.

Now, there won’t be any solutions to the dilemma we now find ourselves in unless all politicians – regardless of political stripe, and from all levels – community leaders, and corporate Canada vow to put the soap boxes away and to roll up their sleeves to fix the problems.

I think it’s time for us all to put the interests of our cities at the forefront and our individual biases on the back burner. Otherwise, we threaten the very existence of the healthy society that most of us now enjoy. And I think that kind of an attitudinal change is taking place. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities is an outstanding group that has put the urban agenda right before the provincial governments and the federal government. And my advice to them is, don’t give up – keep up your pressure – because we need to hear your concerns.

And as I said a few months ago, it’s been a bit of a slog in Ottawa to get the system for want of a better word to recognize the need to put away past reluctance and pitch in to help the cities. But we’re all engaged now – from the Prime Minister through the Ministry, right through the mandarinate – everybody is now involved. And I’m pleased to say that some members of the public service representing different government departments have attended this Couchiching conference. It’s because we are all now engaged.

I don’t want to be too negative. There is much right with our cities, we should be proud of our cities, but I think that Canadians are looking to governments to show leadership in addressing a growing list of issues.

Canadians see first-hand congestion and pollution; they see problems with the quality of drinking water, sewage disposal, garbage, housing; health care and policing issues and of course, there is always a constant preoccupation, as there should be, with employment opportunities.

As a career politician, I would argue that the preoccupation of Canadians with the quality of their urban existence is manifesting itself in disengagement from politics – at the local and national levels and particularly among young people. In fact, the panel I listened to this morning talked about this particular problem. We have to find ways to help people re-engage in the political process. And I think that one way to do this is for government to return to the activism of an earlier age and that activism must be applied first and foremost to the problems of our cities.

So in 1972 we were talking about how much government is enough, now really we’re talking about how can we re-implicate government back into the problems of society – how can we make it more active.

Now, of course, whatever action is taken at the national level, cannot be done without provincial consent or acquiescence. That’s the reality.

The Canadian Constitution gives no direct responsibility to the federal government to help cities. In fact, we have a 19th-century constitution for a 21st-century nation-state. But to open up the Constitution is, of course, the same as opening a Pandora’s box. We’ve done it twice in the last 20 years; I was in parliament in 1981-82 during the patriation process as the parliamentary secretary to the House Leader, and I can tell you it was not a very pretty sight, and those of you who remember the national debate, it became quite acrimonious. And then a few years later, the government that followed us engaged in more constitutional changes with Meech Lake, and that acrimony almost led to the splitting up of the country. And we’ve only just now begun to put Pandora back in its box.

But we must be imaginative and work within the constitutional framework to ensure there are no legal or constitutional procedural arguments preventing money from going to benefit the millions of our citizens in big cities. You know, the public doesn’t want to listen to constitutional constraints. They want to know why the money isn’t flowing. Why are the resources not made available?

Now, while we don’t have direct responsibility for our cities, we are able to influence the direction of urban areas through various tax incentives, grants and cost-share programs working with the provinces.

That’s why the government led by Prime Minister Jean Chretien has committed itself to finding ways by which we can engage in the urban agenda. Most of you are familiar with the Prime Minister’s Task Force chaired by my Toronto colleague Judy Sgro. This Task Force work fulfills a commitment made in the last election, in our manifesto, otherwise known as Red Book 3, and in the Throne Speech after parliament was reconvened, to "launch a dialogue on the opportunities and challenges facing urban centres." So we’re launching the dialogue, but talk is cheap, and the dialogue has to lead to more substantial action.

The interim report makes many recommendations which will be the foundation of the cities agenda which will be unveiled this fall.

In the meantime, the federal government has, I believe, moved already in a meaningful way to help our cities, and I don’t think we get enough credit for it from all and sundry across the country.

You know, we’ve instituted three federal/provincial-territorial/municipal infrastructure programs since we came to power in 1993, and in the last budget, Christmas last year, we announced a $2 billion strategic infrastructure program.

In the program that was announced, the last of the three tri-level infrastructure projects, hundreds of different projects were funded which benefited countless municipalities across the country. In Ontario, more than $200 million was spent on improvement of the quality of drinking water and sewage treatment in smaller communities. And I should note, we have a lot to be proud of in Canada, because the major cities in this country have some of the best-quality drinking water in the world, and we shouldn’t be afraid to turn on our taps if we live in Vancouver, or Montreal or Toronto. But we found, too tragically, through what happened in Walkerton, and then in Saskatchewan in Newfoundland, that the smaller communities have been left behind. Well, this infrastructure program has dealt with this, and I salute the province of Ontario, who recognized the problem and asked us to make it a priority in that particular infrastructure program, and money is flowing, and within a short period of time improvements will be made, so that smaller communities, like Orillia, like the Walkertons, we will not have the kind of tragedy that we had before.

A few weeks ago, we announced $230 million for expansion of the cultural infrastructure in Toronto, including some of the great national institutions like the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Ballet School, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art and Roy Thompson Hall.

And that is so important. Because culture reflects who we are and helps define us as a people. It is a lifestyle. It is an industry. With investment in the arts we add to our civility and also to our wealth.

In the previous infrastructure program, we also made an announcement of $76 million to the Toronto Transit Commission for green transportation initiatives. And this is going to help the TTC with its funding. But while it was a welcome move, it was one-time capital assistance that will only help in the short term. I have also announced other initiatives locally in the Toronto area, $35 million for Union Station, and improvements and promotion of a rail link from downtown to Pearson Airport.

But it is clear that we need a permanent national urban transit infrastructure program to help all of our transit needs.

There are 31 regions in this country with more than 100,000 people – from Halifax to Victoria. Our cities and towns have become powerful magnets that draw people from all over the world.

These communities have become the victims of their own success. They have grown so large, so quickly, that the infrastructure – especially transportation – is not keeping up with the growth. This rapid urban growth, and the inability to manage it, is one of the most daunting challenges facing public policy makers in the years to come.

Urban sprawl is creating an unwanted legacy – gridlock. You know, I haven’t driven up on the 400 for about a year, but even in a year I can see the sprawl continue. I think we need to take a pause and wonder what we’re doing to our farmland, to our way of life, by the sprawl and its growing congestion. And its growing congestion is not just at the cities in the downtown cores, it’s right around – in fact, I would argue that in the Toronto context, and perhaps in Vancouver and Montreal, that the worst congestion is in the outlying areas that do not have the public transit infrastructure that the downtown cores of Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto have.

But there’s also congestion at the borders, which is becoming debilitating, and it must be checked, because if left untended, it will affect our competitiveness, our productivity, our environment and our economy.

Forty per cent of our GDP is directly linked to trade. Much of it is goods that flows to and from the United States.

In the last 10 years, the number of trucks crossing the Canada–U.S. border has almost doubled from 20,000 a day in 1991 to 37,000 in 2000. And these trucks are held up in traffic, whether it is on the 401 in Toronto, which is 14 lanes right through the heart of my constituency and has become a parking lot at different times of the day, or Highway 15 in Vancouver, has the same problem, the result is costly delays in moving goods between communities in Canada, and of course, to markets south of the border.

In the Greater Toronto Area alone, we estimate that $2 billion a year is lost in delays and lost productivity.

Time wasted idling in traffic puts a big dent in productivity. And while we in Toronto experience it in an extreme way, the other big cities, and I’ve mentioned Vancouver and I’ve mentioned Montreal, but there are others, like Calgary and Edmonton, Halifax, they’re all starting now to have the same kinds of challenges.

I mean, take the situation in Windsor, this is absolutely ludicrous for a G8 nation, that we have a six-lane municipal road with 12 traffic lights servicing the border – the Ambassador Bridge. And you know that there’s more trade that goes between Canada and the U.S. over the Ambassador Bridge at Windsor every year than goes between the entire United States and Japan – which I think is its third or fourth largest trading partner – I mean, just think of that. It’s going down a six-lane municipal road. And the old joke you’ve probably heard about it, is that there are 13 traffic lights between Toronto and Miami, and 12 of them are in Windsor. This is the number-one surface-transport priority for the federal government, and it’s just not in Windsor. We have a similar problem in Montreal. Can you believe the trucks coming from the east coast, from New York State, New England, coming into this part of Ontario and the West, have to go through the city streets of downtown Montreal – have to go across those bridges – and along the various highways, maybe up to Decarie Boulevard, Boulevard Métropolitain, it has to go right through the heart of the city. And that’s why the other pressing surface transportation problem that has to be addressed is to build the A30 bypass around Montreal, and I hope we’ll be able to make announcements on both the initiative for Windsor and for Montreal very shortly. Because these particular transit problems are creating great difficulties for those communities – for the people that live in Windsor, for the people that live in Montreal.

Those are two examples. I can give you lots of other examples. The mayor of London said, you know, Mr. Collenette, the one thing that you can do for us is to put money into this grade separation, there’s one of the roads in London, because the trains go through there so frequently, especially the long freights, that it creates delays for the buses and other commuting within the city of London. So there are things that we can do across the country, and we are working on these plans for the next year or so, so that we can actually deal with these challenges.

Now where we’ve really, I think, as the federal government, done a pretty good job has been with the National Airports Policy, because we’ve turned over these national public assets – we still own them, the government still owns them on behalf of the people of Canada – but we’ve turned them over to local airport authorities, people who are from the communities, nominated by regional or local governments, or the Chamber of Commerce, or tourist association, people who know the area best, to promote and market the airports. And they’re not-for-profits, but they’re able to go out and raise money on the open market, and right now we have about $7 billion of construction of new airports right across the country, from Victoria to St. John’s. And of course, the biggest is down the road here in Toronto, where $4.5 billion has been raised off the private sector, the biggest public placements in Canadian history, to build a terminal that I think is going to be not only the best in North America, but probably one of the best in the world. And of course, having good airport infrastructure is helpful to the economies of urban areas, and it’s not just the Torontos, and the Vancouvers and the Montreals that benefit, it’s all the smaller communities that have benefited out of the National Airports Policy.

The federal government can also help cities by creating large public recreational spaces and rehabilitating brownfield sites. One of the biggest projects underway, again, I keep coming back to Toronto, but I’m sorry, I’m the Regional Minister for the Greater Toronto Area, and that’s where I have the greatest experience, but the revitalization of the Toronto waterfront is a massive project, a $12 billion project where the federal, the provincial, and the municipal governments have committed an initial $1.5 billion to get this underway. And we have a common vision for that waterfront which will integrate green space, housing, industry, and commercial interests.

Over the past 30 years, the federal government has been involved in similar projects in other cities such as Montreal, Quebec City and Vancouver, but what we need, again, is an ongoing program to assist cities to be revitalized and redevelop these brownfield sites.

Now I should say this is certainly going to be foremost in my mind as I take up my new responsibility for Canada Lands Corporation, which until now has functioned mainly as the agent for disposal of federal lands to flow cash back to the Treasury. There is a question as to whether or not we should look at all of the land assets, and before selling them, see how these assets can be used, and I see Gordon McIvor, sitting on every word that I’m talking about, because I haven’t even been briefed by him and his colleagues at CLC or CMHC, so he’s probably thinking, I’ll teach him a thing or two when he comes in there for his briefing. But I do think, Gordon, and to others, that we have to look at the mandate of CLC and just say, is it good enough just to have this as a zero-sum exercise, just to get money for the Treasury, or can we find imaginative uses for the land, which we’ve done at Downsview, and which will really take shape in the next year, now the papal visit is finished. You know, how can we use this land for the benefit of citizens? Are there large tracts that could be used for low-cost housing? We have to look at – we have to be innovative. We just can’t be stodgy and not make changes to the way we do things.

Open spaces are part of the cultural life of the city. They play incredible roles for people at all times. And I mentioned Downsview, which, I was Minister of Defence and I went to the Prime Minister, and I said, you know, this is the largest tract of land within the city of Toronto, on the watershed of two rivers, it’s basically not polluted, it was largely just an airfield there, there was no real industrial pollution, we should keep this for a park. And the Prime Minister absolutely agreed and has been very supported. And there’s been some ups and downs, and we’ve had some resistance within the bureaucracy, it hasn’t been easy, but we’re going to make it a dream. Because when Central Park was built in New York, when the royal parks were turned over to the public in London, or the great squares and parks in Paris and other places, people didn’t say, oh well, do we really need this now? They thought ahead generations. Let’s think ahead for a hundred or two hundred years and that park will, I am sure, be an incredible asset, not just to the Toronto area, but to Canada as a country.

I was determined when I came into transport, and especially after I flew in a helicopter over the Pickering lands that were expropriated over 30 years ago for an airport that didn’t get built, to put as much of that land back in perpetuity for greenspace. Now, an airport will be built on those lands, but it won’t nearly be as big as what was originally forecast, and jets are quieter today, so we don’t need all the land that was expropriated. So last year I announced that 7500 acres, 3000 hectares of land, will be kept in perpetuity – and this is beautiful farmland, you should just drive down that way, it’s not far from Toronto, those of you not from Toronto, go through it on your way back to wherever you’re going. But we want to preserve that through the Oak Ridges Moraine. Because we have a natural formation that has to be protected, called the Oak Ridges Moraine, and we have to stop the development. There’s a lot of brownfield sites, there’s a lot of other land that can be developed and redeveloped without encroaching on ecologically sensitive land, and I think that we’ve led the way in preserving these 7500 acres, this is the largest single tract on the Oak Ridges Moraine. And it doesn’t just make sense for future generations, it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right public policy choice.

Now, another new responsibility I received this past week, and don’t worry, I’m winding up, you’ll have your questions, you’ll have your chance to prod and poke at me, but another new responsibility I received this past week from the Prime Minister was oversight of CMHC, Canada Mortgage and Housing. And you know, in the last few years, we have now started to get back into a more activist role in providing Canadians with affordable housing, and we announced $680 million for new initiatives, but clearly this is not enough. We also not only need more money for CMHC, and for housing, but we have to, I think, unleash CMHC so it can once again be at the forefront of innovation in the housing field.

I mean, just think back. Thirty years ago, when some of the bright lights were getting the people at Couchiching to talk about how much government is enough, CMHC was one of the preeminent agents for change in the housing field, not just in this country but around the world. And it’s basically been turned back into a reinsurance, banking financial institution. Again, I haven’t met with the CMHC board, so maybe I should come back next Sunday, and we’ll exchange experiences. But I believe that CMHC must return to its activism and innovative ways of an earlier age, because it was delivered – whether it was not-for-profit, whether it was limited-dividend housing, whether it was co-ops – there was all manner of housing that was generated for those who need it most. You know, condo building is exploding across the country because, and as I read in the Toronto Star just yesterday, because of course the rental situation is so tight. So a lot of young people are buying condos, and that’s the right thing to do – home ownership, but there’s many people that couldn’t rustle up a downpayment. They can’t afford condos. Where do they go? Well, as I said earlier, they’re ending up – many of them – on the streets, in cars, in motels. That’s not the mark of a vibrant, healthy society. So we have to ensure that we provide a better range of housing stock. And we have to perhaps, in my view, get back into the social housing field in a bigger way.

In the mid-1990s the provinces wanted Ottawa out of the housing field and we transferred $2 billion in annual subsidies to them. The provinces felt that there was too much overlap and duplication. But the result of the transfer is that affordable housing is not being built, and somebody said to me the other day, you know, there’s a big black hole, and nobody wants to talk about it. The whole, the money’s gone, no new housing’s being built, and nobody wants to talk about it at the provincial and federal levels. Well, I’m talking about it today, and we’ll see how far I get in cabinet. But I tell you that we have to act, if we want to be relevant to the needs of Canadians, we have to ensure that the needs of all Canadians, not just the wealthiest Canadians, are met.

Money. Well, I’ve touched on it, and it’s a good way to come to the end of a speech, talking about money. Money, money, money. You addressed the issue, in your agenda: will there ever be enough money?

Well of course, it’s like in our own personal lives, there’ll be enough money. Everybody could use a few more bucks. But when you’re looking at funding issues, there are again no easy answers. But certainly in Ottawa we’ve gotten the message, we’ve gotten the message in spades: urban issues facing cities MUST be a priority for all governments and all of us are going to have to put up more cash. After all, it’s not our money, it’s your money. It’s a question of redirecting the public’s money to where the need is greatest.

I think financing is an obstacle, but of course it’s also the solution. It’s been the topic of various ministers, and even ex-ministers. I believe everything has to be on the table to ensure a healthy and substantive discussion which can result in action.

There are some who say, you know, you get this in the bureaucracy, not only the provinces but the federal government, we don’t believe in dedicated taxes. We’re against taking half a point of the GST and matching it with the PST? Well, ok. Why are we against dedicated taxes? Well, because that’s just not the way we do things. The concept of dedicated taxation is an anathema to many in government.

Yet I could tell you, there’s all kinds of examples of revenue streams which are matched to expenditures. We just put one in in the last budget, called the Air Security Charge (not tax). And the money raised from air travellers is going to pay for security measures. So I don’t care what you call it. Let’s just do it. And let’s ensure that those monies are put to those specific purposes.

I think we can’t dismiss any option. Some may be more radical than others, but you know, these problems facing cities require radical solutions. We have to look, I think, at revenue sources with an objective and fresh eye.

Now, we can’t just raise money at one level of government, in the case of the federal government, and turn it over to the provinces or municipalities. We have a responsibility to ensure that money raised is spent for the purposes intended – whether that’s transportation or housing. And that’s not always welcome. Provinces love to have the money. You know, the mayor of Toronto says give me the money, show me the money – but no strings attached. Well, it doesn’t work that way. Because if we’re going to go out there and justify raising money in election campaigns, we have to tell the people that elect us that the money is being spent properly, that it is being spent for public policy purposes that can be supported.

Look, I don’t have the answer for all these questions, they’re complex issues that will require complex solutions. I’ve been the champion at the cabinet table of urban issues for many years, trying to find these funding solutions, and I’m glad the tide is now turning, and I’m going to continue to fight for the cities, as will many of my colleagues, who share the view that the cities need help.

Ottawa is listening – I want to assure you of this – we are hearing the message and we will act.

And the result, I think, will be a more engaged government that will work with our partners to find the solutions to the needs of Canadian cities to help them compete and be livable in a global environment. Because today, people aren’t saying, as we said 30 years ago at Couchiching, how much government is enough, it’s government – why aren’t you doing as much as you should be to help society, and in particular, deal with the problems of our cities?

Thank you.

DAVID McGOWN, moderator:

Brief technical interlude here.

The minister has suggested that he would be willing to take questions from the floor for the next short while. It’s about 10 to 2 right now, so maybe we’ll be looking at 15 minutes or so try and keep everybody to a reasonably tight agenda, so, the mike’s in the middle of the floor, and I think our first questioner is Steve [Frolan sp?].

Q: Mr. Minister, thank you very much for a very interesting speech. I wanted to ask you about one issue that you did allude to, and that is, in the GTA I would imagine one of the leading issues must be air quality, and its effect on peoples’ lives and on public health. And in that context, we’ve been hearing quite a lot, and I must say some mixed messages, about the federal government’s intention to ratify the Kyoto Accord. We’ve got another mixed message this weekend, which says not until 2003. Given that over 100 countries have ratified the Kyoto Accord, and given that Canada may be crucial to its implementation because of the 55% of pollution requirement to enact the accord, could you tell me what your personal views are on moving this agenda item forward?

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, my personal views are the government’s views, and the Prime Minister stated unequivocally that we will sign on to Kyoto.

Q: When?

DAVID COLLENETTE: The lady says "when?" and I can tell you I’ve had more late nights in the last six months on the climate-change committee, working on the various options and we are really working hard, there is a wide range of views across the country with respect to the provincial governments, but at a certain point in time the federal government’s going to have to say, ok, enough is enough, we’ve got to move ahead.

Q: My name is Mala, and my question is that it’s so heartening to note that you’ve put so much aside for cultural pursuits, and these cultural pursuits, the money put aside is put aside for structures like ROM and Art Gallery of Ontario, all these massive structures, but I want to know is there something put aside for multicultural pursuits, for defining cultural values, or some things which are accessible to the young people who really need to express themselves and their cultural medium? How do they come to know what you’ve put aside, when they really don’t have a clue? So if these groups get to know that there is something for them to express their cultural values, to define their cultures, and exchange these programs, that would be extremely helpful. Thank you.

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, in 1983, I was asked by Mr. Trudeau to be one of the Ministers of Multiculturalism of the last 30 years. I spent a year as Minister of Multiculturalism, and I had certain views. Up until that period of time, multiculturalism was in essence money that was used to try to acclimatize various communities to integrate them into Canadian society. And then, it took on a new phase of dealing with bias, institutionalized racism. And then I tried to put in another direction of harnessing our multicultural talent, our languages, our culture, for our own economic good as well as our cultural good, and I think you’re seeing that reflected. So many Canadians speak a second or third language, are able to use those linguistic skills and their cultural knowledge to help in acquiring new markets, in helping generate wealth for Canada. There is still a Minister of State for Multiculturalism, and that’s Jean Augustine, my colleague from Toronto, and there is still a budget, but if you look at Canadian society, we have evolved in such a way that we have a culture that is multiculture. And when you invest in the ROM, the AGO, or the National Ballet School, these are not franco, anglo institutions of an earlier time. They’re institutions that represent the cultural dynamic of Canada of today, and those institutions reflect who we are, and reflect multiculturalism. So I think ethnic diversity is now becoming so mainstream that it’s difficult to talk about it as we did 20 years ago, in terms of segregating multiculturalism and so-called mainstream culture.

[TAPE 1 SIDE 2]

Q: . . . suggestion you’d save a lot of money because you wouldn’t have to build roads to the same extent. In the early 1990s I would bring up containers from Mexico, and there was no difference between doing a piggyback system where you’d take a truck to the railway and dump the thing on the railway and go a very long distance on the rail, and then take it off again and stick it on another truck and bring it to my door, versus taking it up by truck all the way from Mexico to my door, but I mean, there’s tremendous environmental differences and congestion differences. And I was thinking, with the breakup of the telephone system where before you had Bell owning the telephone lines and no one else could use them, I thought, would you not consider maybe doing the same thing with the rail system? Because in a way it seems kind of silly to me that you’ve got the highways that are completely clogged with trucks, and nobody can move, I can’t drive my car on the railway, and yet you’ve got all these railroad tracks that are just dead empty everywhere, so if you change the price structure, plus, you kind of did to the railway system what was done to the telephone system, so other all sorts of different, maybe smaller companies could use the railway lines, so they were used better, and then change the pricing system to sort of bias it against having one truck hogging a road with a relatively small load, I think you could make a huge difference. I know, maybe you haven’t thought of this before, but I think it’s something to think about.

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, not to contradict, but this is a major issue that we’re going to have to tackle this fall when the Canada Transportation Act comes before parliament. And I’m being lobbied, I’ve been lobbied for five years that I’ve been in the portfolio, by shippers on one side and railways on the other side. Because open access, that’s what you’re referring to, to use the analogy of the telecommunications system, it’s called open access in the railways, where you allow other companies to run over the rails of Canadian National, Canadian Pacific for example, is a very hot topic. On the one hand the shippers say, well, this will give us more competition, and lower prices, on the other hand the railways say there’s no incentive, then, for them to invest in the infrastructure, in the rolling stock, and it amounts, and I’m using the words of the presidents of two railways, amounts in a sense to expropriation. And we have to be careful how we move on this, I mean, a country like Britain has had a disaster in taking its rail infrastructure from British Rail and putting it into private hands, and the investments haven’t been made, not only because of privatization, but because of lack of investment for 40 years, but the result has been service interruptions, fatal crashes, and accidents. And you know, Canada has among the safest railways in the world, Transport Canada is the regulator. We have probably the most efficient railways in the world. Canadian National, Canadian Pacific haul the heaviest loads over the longest distances in the worst terrain anywhere in the world, and they make money. And that means that we’re doing something right. But to get to your point about how you get an intermodal shift, you get more trucks to use rail, well that’s happening, and it’s happening right now with the congestion becoming so great, the shortage of truck drivers, that trucking companies are making deals with CN and CP, especially in the Montreal-Windsor corridor, to have those loads put on the truck and then picked up at the other end by their drivers. In fact, Canadian Pacific is actually engaged in rail delivery of just-in-time parts for Chrysler, taking parts from Brampton to Windsor, rather than putting them on a truck on the 401. And so, more and more of this is going to happen. The question is, should we as a government accelerate this by making investments in the railways? I personally feel, yes. But I met with the head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance on Friday, who gets nervous about this, [inaudible] claims, you know, that this is misplaced, that the railways do not have the same pollution-standard requirements that the trucking companies have, and that this isn’t the most efficient way to move goods. I happen to believe there should be an intermodal shift, and it should be encouraged, and it should be seen in the best interests of both the trucking companies and the railways, and that will in effect guide our policy in the next few months. The issue on open access, though, is one where I certainly wouldn’t tell you today, publicly, where we’re coming out on this issue, because it is an emotional issue. The farmers in Western Canada, especially the grain farmers, are suffering, you’re seeing what’s happening with the beef farmers, these people believe that open access will give them lower prices. The railways say, no, it’s just going to encourage disinvestment and you’re not going to have as efficient system as you now have. So it’s a very complex issue, but it’s one that’s right on the front burner.

Margaret Lefebvre: Minister, thank you very much for your thoughtful speech. I was particularly pleased to hear your openness on looking at the mandates of both the Canada Lands Corporation and the CMHC, largely because at one point in my career, I was involved in a project in which we received land that was released from the government pool, and a mortgage that came from CMHC which guaranteed us 50 years’ worth of financing at a fixed rate, which we were able to put at the disposal of single mothers who were raising their children and going to school, as a project that looked at actually implementing a change that would have an effect on breaking the poverty and the welfare cycle. And I cannot stress again how much the fact that the land was made available and the fact that the mortgaging was made available – this is not possible today, but it was 15 years ago – and it made such an enormous difference in the public policy and in the social welfare of mothers and their children, so I encourage you to continue. Thank you.

DAVID COLLENETTE: I take that as a representation. This looks like somebody from the media, Adam, you know we have a media opportunity after.

Q: Just because the camera’s here, I’m not actually appearing as a member of the media today, but as a citizen, which gives me a chance finally to vent my opinions with you, David.

DAVID COLLENETTE: You mean you never do that?

Q: No. No. Lucky you. It’s remarkable – I hear you talk, and I think, geez, it’d be great to have a guy like you in cabinet.

DAVID COLLENETTE: Are you accusing me of fraud, of taking money from the Treasury for non-performance?

Q: Perhaps if Toronto elected more Liberals, we would. The thing that confounds me as I look as a citizen of Toronto and I hear your speech and say thank God, it’s long overdue, and I don’t care that you didn’t use the word New Deal to describe it, but it sounds like a New Deal to me, and it’s about time. I was shocked last year when I started to see rats in Toronto for the first time in my life. I was even more shocked when I heard gunshots outside my condominium in downtown Toronto just a week ago. There’s some serious problems in the city, and telling us that you understand them is no longer adequate, and I think that come September, something has to change. It’s too important not to. But one of the things that you look at when you look at this country, is you see that quite often things are expressed in regional differences or provincial differences, electoral results are analyzed along geographic boundaries that really throw back to a colonial time in this country – Upper and Lower Canada is such an example. During the last federal election, though, I pulled the results of the Liberal Party out of urban Canada, to see where it left you as a party politically, and I was surprised to find that if you take the results from Vancouver and Calgary and Edmonton, from Victoria, from Winnipeg, from Toronto, from Ottawa, from Montreal, from Halifax, St. John’s, if you pull those results out of your party you’re about the size of the Tories. Meaning that there isn’t any [split ?], the election doesn’t end and begin as we move to Manitoba in this country, you’re not an eastern regional party. The question is, if you are in fact this urban reality, which electorally you are, and if 80% of Canadians live in urban centres, the 20% that is the opposition, the 20% of your party which comes from non-urban areas, why are the urban areas thwarted by this relatively small opposition, and what do we have to do as urban dwellers to get to this remaining 20%, to convince them that speed is of the essence and that programs are needed now, and not next year?

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, I think that my speech really answered your question, and it’s, we’ve had a tough slog in the last five years to push these issues to the fore. We’ve been preoccupied with cost-cutting, and now we’re in a better financial position, we have to deal with some of the real public policy pressures. And I would agree with you, the Liberal Party is an urban party, and in my constituency, we won every single poll, and there were a few others in Toronto that had the same benefit. And so obviously we must deal with the needs of our citizens, and I think that some of the things that I’ve done in the last five years as a regional minister in Toronto have, I think, made a difference, some of them I’ve enunciated, but we need a much more institutionalized and less ad hoc approach, so it’s just not one-offs at Downsview or the Pickering lands or the waterfront or Union Station. We need, as I said, a permanent infrastructure program for urban transit, we need a permanent program to transfer brownfield sites, we need to reinvigorate CMHC as an innovative and developmental agency in providing shelter, and we need to look at CLC as a provider of land for the public-policy good, and just not for replenishing the bottom line. And I’m glad I ended with that, because Gordon McIvor is going to rebut me.

Q: I was not, Minister, going to ask you a question about Canada Lands, I was advised that might be a career-limiting opportunity. I just wanted to ask you – I live in Cambridge, Ontario, and every morning there’s between 12,000 and 17,000 people that drive into the central core, and so I was very sensitive to your opening message about living far from where you work. And what really discouraged me is when I approached the mayors of these three municipalities – Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge – I was advised that they were actually encouraging transportation infrastructure to be built between the tri-city areas so as to keep people working and living in the same area. In other words, they discouraged people commuting into Toronto, and it was against their urban philosophy. I wish I’d known that before I moved out there, because that was quite a revelation to me. But I’m wondering, as someone that I know you’re a great believer in mass transit and trains, and whether in the future you see the federal government being able to provide more of a mass-transit train link from the hinterland, not only the suburbs but the hinterland – into central Toronto.

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, yes, I think that what you describe as the philosophy of the local politicians in, was it Cambridge or wherever, is the right one in the sense of trying to build up their own infrastructure and have people commute. But I think that a lot of people move to the Cambridges, and the Brantfords, and the other smaller places to have more scale to their lives and less pressure, and yet they still need to work in downtown Toronto. You know, if downtown Toronto continues to be weakened, it will weaken the region, and it will weaken the country. Adam sort of made reference to the other 20% of supporters of the Liberal Party, and you could make reference to other parts of the country that always resent the Torontos. In each province they resent a Calgary, or an Edmonton, or a Vancouver. A lot of people resent Toronto, but if Toronto is not revitalized, then the whole country will suffer. And one way we can do it is by allowing people to have a different quality of life, living in the towns like you live in, and getting to Toronto very quickly. And that’s why we put in another $400 million dollars for Via Rail, we’ve got new equipment, new cars are now in service, and by this time next year, there will be an incredible amount of equipment available for more services. I want to restore the train service from Toronto to Peterborough. I’d like it to actually be extended from Bradford up to Barrie, maybe even to Collingwood. We have – but again, I’m a Toronto minister, and it’s not easy to get this accepted. But we’re doing similar things in the Montreal area, and there’s similar things we can do in the Vancouver area with commuter rail, and using Via, and we have a suburban strategy, or an outer urban strategy for Via, and the new night train from Ottawa, which will meet up with the night train from Montreal, and spend about two hours with passengers on in the siding near Kingston is the 6:30 train from Kingston, and that capacity will be almost doubled starting this fall for commuters, and I’ve been on that train, getting on at Cobourg, where you have to stand to Toronto. So we now have more equipment, we’re putting it on. The real answer in the inner urban – or the inner outer urban core, if you will – is to try to make big capital improvements so that GO Transit, which is a wonderful service, can expand. I mean GO’s problem is it just doesn’t have the equipment, the money, and of course the Union Station bottlenecks have to be dealt with. And so one of the things that I’m trying to advocate is that this new strategic infrastructure fund, that we announced last year, that we have a rail-based solution for Southern Ontario, which will largely deal with the area from sort of Cobourg to Hamilton, and we’ll put a lot of money into rail infrastructure that will enable GO to double its capacity. And we are talking to the province about that, and again, I have to convince my colleagues. So we are doing things. Rail is certainly, I think, the one solution that can help. And it means that people like you can live in a smaller town, you can have the small-town feel, you can within 15 minutes be out into the countryside, into farmland. But you can come to Toronto every day. If you go to places like New York and Chicago, I mean, people commute from very long distances. If you go to London or Paris, it’s the same thing. I mean, people commute 40, 50 miles easily, maybe even 60, 70 miles. So if you have the infrastructure, you can have the benefit of these smaller communities and still contribute to the vitality that we absolutely must maintain, which is the city of Toronto as the Canadian financial corporate centre.

DAVID McGOWN: Last two questions.

Q: Thank you, Mr. Collenette. I’d like to download my concerns to you both as a citizen and a minister. We just had, I don’t think maybe you saw the first part of the last session, in which we had a teacher come up from Frontier College. And what he did was, he presented to us a view of Toronto, and what he managed to do was match up resources, utilities with a lack, a need, in the city. Which raised in my mind the role of an actor that we’ve perhaps forgotten, and that is corporations and business in cities. What is the role of corporations in ensuring sustainability of cities, and my question to you is: do they have a social and environmental responsibility to cities, and if they do, what can the federal government do, and what cannot it do in order to encourage this type of sustainability within cities?

DAVID COLLENETTE: Well, we have corporate leaders who give their own personal wealth for the public good. Ted Rogers gave, I think, $25 million to the U of T scholarships and money to Ryerson. Izzy Sharp has given $20 million from Four Seasons Hotels for the new opera house. I mean, we need more of this. We need more kinds of giving from those who can afford it. American cities have had this benefit for many many years, wealthy people putting money back into the urban core. There is a worrying trend, a lot of corporations, sort of, just escape a place like Toronto, and they’ll build a head office in Brampton, go to Burlington, Markham, places like that, and this hollowing out of the downtown core is a great concern. It’s just not in Toronto – this is happening in other large cities across the country. I think that perhaps there are ways we can encourage these companies to stay. Most of it has to be dealt with at the municipal level. You know, the taxation levels in the city of Toronto are a lot higher than they are around Toronto. But what’s happened in Greater Toronto is that the model that Leslie Frost adopted in 1952, 53, 54, with the establishment of the Metro government, where services were pooled, where tax revenues were sort of equalized – we’ve gotten away from that. And we have, we have cities like Mississauga sitting on huge cash surpluses, while the city of Toronto is taking buses out of service because it can’t afford to maintain them and it can’t afford new equipment. And if this continues, the core of Toronto, the core of the big cities will be for the poor, and the wealthy will live around. And that happened in US cities after the war, and that trend is now starting to change. And it really has more to do with provincial policies and the federal government, but I’m sure there are things that we can do to help.

Q: Thank you.

DAVID McGOWN: And the final question.

Q: My name is Deanne Taylor, I’m a playwright. I was on the panel last night about, talking about culture in cities. I’m going to go back to the infrastructure issue here. The $230 million for the opera house, and the National Ballet School and so on is much appreciated to anyone who appreciates the classics, and most of us in the arts realize that it’s important to perform the great works and to perform them at a very high quality, and in congenial surroundings. However, I wonder if – I wish you’d been here to hear the ranting that went on last night. It would be, I’d like to know if it would be possible for you to take back to cabinet the understanding that the living artists who are generating original Canadian plays, ballets, and so on – the funding for their work has been shrinking for the past 20 years. And now you will say the Canada Council budget has gone up – it has gone up very, very slightly, almost – I don’t even believe it’s gone up at a cost of living level. But it’s also being shared now among 10 times the number of artists that the budget served 20 years ago. I know you’re not the minister responsible for this area, but you’re very important to the infrastructure program, and you are the regional minister. I can assure you, I’d love to assure you at greater length sometime – that the original artists, the artists making original work in Toronto are, how can I put it better than to say that playwrights are writing one-man shows. You know, 20 years ago we could dream and train and become writers who could write plays for 20 or 30 characters – that isn’t happening anymore, because there’s no money for the artists, the living artists who are making the new work. Any comments?

DAVID COLLENETTE: Look, I agree with you, and I think it comes down to, again, to resources. Let’s face it. I think 30 cents out of every tax dollar going to Ottawa goes to service the debt. And while we still have this debt hanging over us, it prevents us from investing in things that we would want to invest in.

Q: We see a $100 million here, a $100 million there, a $100 million here – the Canada Council total budget is $100 million. The part for original work is probably about $30 million. To double that, to triple that, to quadruple that, to make it times ten, is not actually a great deal of money.

DAVID COLLENETTE: But the Minister of Finance, if he was here, would tell you that, you know, you double, you triple these things, and you do it enough times and you start running out of money. I’m not arguing against, I totally agree with you, it’s just a matter of application of resources and the tough choices that have to be made. I happen to believe that unless you invest in creativity and art, this diminishes society. But I think we have to appreciate what has gone on in the last 10 to 20 years with the revenue shortfalls, but now we are, we are now getting in better shape, and we should start to reinvest. Now, the infrastructure funds are invested, and that’s going to help, you know, those cultural investments will help.

Q: How do they help? How do they help the living artists?

DAVID COLLENETTE: I’ll tell you how they will help. They will help in the case of Toronto, to revitalize Toronto as an artistic centre. It will draw more people into the city. It, in tourist dollars, there will be spin-offs. That money, I think, will help generally, the economy, and will attract more and more artists, and hopefully they will be able to earn a living while they are writing. But the point that you make is that we should increase the Canada Council budget, and . . .

Q: Without, without allowing them to create a whole bunch of new and unnecessary programs with the next increase, if that would be possible.

DAVID COLLENETTE: I agree with you, but it’s a question of money, and you know, we have reinvested in the arts, the Prime Minister and Sheila Copps announced $500 million last year in Toronto, and but more and more should be put into the arts as we get into a better financial position.

Q: I think you would find that the economic spin-offs of investing in living artists in cities would be phenomenal.

DAVID COLLENETTE: Thank you.

DAVID McGOWN: Ladies and gentlemen, that in fact concludes the 2002 Couchiching conference. Minister, on behalf of the institute I want to thank you very much for your thoughtful remarks today.

One of the objectives of Couchiching is not to take a stand on the issues, so that tomorrow morning you won’t hear, or you won’t see a headline that says, "Couchiching says," or "Couchiching reports," or "Couchiching rejects." But what we do try and encourage is, for the couple hundred folks that are here in the audience, who have sat through three-and-a-half days of differing perspectives on the issue of cities and globalization, to take that knowledge and those ideas back to their communities, back to their families. The comments that you made around the importance of revitalizing Canadian cities, the concept of leadership, the cities agenda you made reference to, you can certainly expect that there’ll be at least a couple hundred Canadians who will be looking forward to seeing what comes out of Ottawa this fall. And again, thank you very much for your thoughts and comments.

END OF RECORDING