What do Justin Trudeau’s Liberals stand for?

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An interview with his downtown M.P. Adam Vaughan

Liberal M.P. Adam Vaughan is running for re-election in the new downtown riding for Spadina-Fort York.  The former two-term City Councillor and advocate for a new national urban agenda will be on the ballot for voters from Liberty Village to Southcore/CityPlace to the Distillery District.  Spadina-Fort York is predominantly a condo riding with a substantial population of young urban professionals.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, in a June 2015 speech to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference, was quoted as saying,

“As municipal leaders, you shouldn’t have to wait six months or a year to have your concerns heard by your federal partners. That’s why I’m committed to holding regular meetings with municipal leaders. And I’m very excited to be leading a team that is dedicated to making sure that the voices of your communities will be heard in Ottawa each and every day.”   Adam Vaughan is a part of that team.

The 416 Mag made a request, via social media, for people to send in questions they would like us to ask Adam.

416: Who will benefit from a middle class tax cut, and what does Justin Trudeau consider to be middle class?

AV: Canadians know the value of fairness and the importance of a strong middle class. A Liberal government will give a tax break and cut the middle class income bracket by 7% (from 22% to 20.5%). That means a saving of nearly $670 per person every year. Stephen Harper has looked out for the wealthy and that is unfair. The Conservative policy of income splitting has helped the 15% most affluent Canadians. Canada’s middle class has seen its hard-earned money used to give a tax break to the wealthiest Canadians.  We have a better plan.


416: What is the role of the Senate?

AV: The Senate was created to counterbalance representation by population in the House of Commons. It was intended to provide Parliament with a second chance to consider and review legislation before it is passed. Senators may pass bills, propose amendments to them or vote to defeat them.

Canada’s Senate needs to change. The status quo is not an option. Stephen Harper has filled the Senate with partisan appointments, some of who are now under police investigation. Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair have both proposed solutions that they know are unworkable, as they require protracted rounds of constitutional negotiation. Liberals would rather talk with the Premiers about job creation and fighting climate change, not re-opening the Constitution.

A credible plan is one that ends the partisan nature of the Senate, so that it can better serve its core function of legislative review and in-depth study. That is why Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau took the bold move to remove all Senators from the Liberal Caucus and why we will also create a new, non-partisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments. Unelected representatives should not be blocking legislation passed by elected MPs.

We will also work to implement the recent recommendations of the Auditor General regarding Parliamentarians’ expenses, including with legislative measures where necessary.

416: What is the Liberal Party’s position on Marijuana?

AV: The status quo isn’t working. The Liberal solution is clear: If we pass smart laws that tax and strictly regulate marijuana, we can better protect our kids, while preventing millions of dollars from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs. It’s a position that even the New York Times is calling for in the United States.

We believe it is time to change how we confront marijuana use in Canada. It is time to have an adult conversation with Canadians and in Parliament about this issue- a debate that is mature and driven by facts and evidence.  I believe Canadians are ready.

416: Two of Toronto Mayor Tory’s top priorities are funding for transit and affordable housing. What would a Liberal government do for Toronto?

AV: Transit – Congestion is a critical issue. Transportation investments have not kept pace with growth. It is clear that we don’t just need new lines and roads serving the suburbs, we badly need better service in older parts of the downtown too. Waiting for five street cars on King in the morning rain, or being dumped in the middle of the road on Spadina in the cold as a streetcar is short-turned is not acceptable. The Liberal plan will quadruple federal investment in public transit over the next decade by investing almost $20 billion more and provide stable funding for state-of-good-repair, fund service level improvements and build new lines. Local projects will be prioritized.


Housing – The Harper government has deepened the affordable housing crisis and somehow at the same time managed to put the private housing market in a very precarious position. A new housing plan must address both affordable housing and housing affordability which are critical in downtown Toronto. A Liberal government will restore federal leadership on affordable housing by investing in a comprehensive National Housing Strategy.

While the need for social housing is obvious, only the Liberals are focused on making sure the homes and condominiums many of us live in retain value and become more affordable. Once you own property, your investment must be safe guarded. If interest rates went up by only a point or two, your mortgage fees would double. If the housing bubble burst, you could lose thousands in hard earned equity. A federal government must protect the housing market on a regional basis and build stability into the market so that condo owners, like you and I, are not put at risk. The Liberal housing plan is the most comprehensive, and the only plan that deals with a complete spectrum of housing challenges.


416: How will the Liberals address climate change?

AV: Stephen Harper has refused to take action on climate change, slashed environmental protections, cut funding for science, and allowed other countries to take the lead in the race to create new, high-tech, clean jobs. We have also witnessed Canada’s reputation spiral downward on the global stage. Under our platform, a detailed approach to the environment and climate change is outlined. It includes:

  • The creation of national emissions-reduction targets, informed by the best economic and scientific analysis;
  • Ensuring that the provinces and territories have adequate tools to design their own carbon pricing policies – including targeting federal funding;
  • Fulfill Canada’s G-20 commitment to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry;
  • Attend the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris and invite the Premiers to attend;
  • Convene a First Ministers meeting to work on a framework to combat climate change;
  • Work with the United States and Mexico to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environment agreement – including climate mitigation and resilience polices, and appropriate alignment of international negotiation positions;
  • Incorporate climate resilience as a key pillar in federal infrastructure programs;
  • Apply climate impact analysis into federal government contracting; and,
  • Implement a comprehensive action plan that allows Canada to better predict, prepare for, and respond to weather related emergencies.

We need to rebuild our regulations. Clean air and clean water are not just good for the residents of Spadina-Fort York and the planet; they are good for business too. Investments in cities are also a critical way to adapt to climate change while reducing emissions. Transit and housing improvements can not only solve social problems, they can help us tackle climate change too.


416: Toronto is Canada’s financial and cultural capital, how will the Liberals encourage stronger economic growth and job creation in both areas?

AV: The most important thing a Liberal government will do is invest in cities by investing in infrastructure. In the last year, not a single dollar from the Harper Conservatives New Building Canada Infrastructure Fund arrived in the City of Toronto. There have been promises for projects 5 to 6 years from now. Both the NDP and the Conservatives have backed things like the Scarborough subway, but that project has not even seen its route chosen, let alone been approved for construction. For cities to prosper and grow they need stable, predictable and robust funding. A Liberal government will make the largest new infrastructure investment in Canadian history, almost $125 billion over the next decade. It will provide new revenue for Toronto so that we can repair and build roads, transit, community centres and parks. It will create stronger neighbourhoods and a better city.

The federal government must also address the new digital economy, much of which is located in Spadina-Fort York. Stable funding and independence for the CBC is only one part of the equation. The CRTC and the impact of unbundling and new Canadian content rules has devastated local media production. It is time for a new digital media strategy for Canada. One that supports the development of new software, protects access to delivery systems, and ensures good jobs for people working in new media.

416: Is there anything Liberals will do to support condos and condo owners?

AV: Like many of you, I live in a condo. The choice to embrace the new neighbourhoods of Toronto without leaving the downtown is not just an exciting option, it’s a smart one. Urban sprawl is costly for both individuals and governments, as well as the environment. All that being said, living in a neighbourhood of condominiums does present some challenges.

The most significant concern facing many places like Liberty Village, City Place and The Distillery District is what is happening in the condo market. Having lost their bet on oil, the Harper Government is now trying to kick start the economy by lowering interest rates. This is happening at the same time as the Canadian Dollar is plummeting and our trade balance is in deficit. Two federal agencies, the Bank of Canada and the Canadian Housing and Mortgage Corporation (CMHC) are warning of a housing collapse. The other distinct possibility is that interest rates could rise to boost the dollar and lower the cost of imports while trying to attract foreign investment. If these things happen we could see condo values drop while mortgage fees increase. We need a new federal government to pay attention to this. Those of us who live in condos are most at risk. Only the Liberal Party is watching this issue. As the Party’s Housing Critic, and as someone who lives in a downtown condo in the riding, I know how critical it is to make sure we don’t gamble with your investment and home as we try to pull the national economy out of another recession. Our plan is to reform CMHC. Our National Housing Strategy will review escalating home prices in high-priced markets, like Toronto, to keep home ownership within reach for residents. We will also modernize the existing Home Buyers’ Plan so that it helps more Canadians finance the purchase of a new home. We must also do more to create affordable housing and tackle homelessness. Two areas the current Conservative government has completely abandoned.

The other major issue is transit. Even though much of the community is well served by transit, that service is only present when you map it. When you actually try to use the TTC, it’s a much different story. As a City Councillor, I fought to stop service cuts on Spadina and Queens Quay. We won a few service improvements on Bathurst and King, but without more support for existing transit routes, the situation is unlikely to improve. One of the reasons I left City Hall to become a Member of Parliament was to secure more funding for public transit from the federal government. The focus of the other political parties is to focus on new lines for new parts of the city. As the Liberal Urban Affairs and Housing critic, I have played a major role in creating our party’s policy. Our infrastructure money will fund state of good repair and maintenance budgets, allow cities to add capacity to existing routes and fund expansion. This would allow City Hall to add more service to King and Spadina streetcar lines, while also helping push for new service between Queens Quay and King St. It would also set the stage for streetcar service in the Eastern Harbour as the city builds out that corner of the Harbour.

Dean Maher

Dean Maher is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The 416 Magazine.

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