Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that Premier Doug Ford’s hesitance to follow through on his predecessor’s commitment to provide millions of dollars in funding for a new community centre in Lawrence Heights is “not acceptable,” especially in light of a recent rash of gun violence in the city.
The previous provincial government committed $14 million for the new community centre, which represents about one-third of the cost with the municipal and federal governments covering the rest.
Ford’s government, however, has not yet followed through on the commitment. Last week, PC MPP for Eglinton-Lawrence Robin Martin told CP24 that the former Liberal government “essentially issued a press release saying they supported” the initiative ahead of an election without doing the proper due diligence. He said that his government is willing to consider making an investment in the community centre project but only after an application is made “under the regular process.”
Speaking with reporters following a meeting with Mayor John Tory at city hall on Tuesday, Trudeau criticized Ford’s government for slowing down work to move the project forward.
He said that projects likes the Lawrence Heights community entre are an important part of an overall strategy to reduce violence.
“We need to take a holistic approach if we want to stop the gun violence that has shaken this city. One way our government can help is by providing funding to build more safe community spaces where young people can spend time. A great example is the proposed new community centre in Lawrence Heights,” he said. “We have hundreds of millions of dollars available for these kinds of infrastructure projects through our bilateral agreement with the province but 14 months after they took office the Ford government still hasn’t opened that stream for applications. That is not acceptable.”
Tory’s meeting with the Prime Minister came one day after he announced an additional $4.5 million in funding from the federal, provincial, and municipal governments to help curb gun violence in the city.
Trudeau said that all three levels of governments need to “ensure that the police have the right tools and the right resources to be present and work with communities to keep them safe” but he said that they also need to “invest in families and communities,” whether that be in educational programming or community centres like the proposed Lawrence Heights project.
“We can’t simply arrest our way of this problem,” he said.
Meeting comes amid rash of gun violence in Toronto
It has been a violent summer in Toronto so far with 17 people being shot in 14 separate incidents over the civic holiday long weekend alone.
On Tuesday, Tory told reporters that he used the meeting to remind the Prime Minister of “strong and longstanding advocacy not just for stricter gun control but the need for stronger and more respected laws in area like bail and sentencing for gun crimes.”
He also said that the two had a conversation about “the need to invest in kids, families and neighbourhoods.”
“These are areas where there remains much to be done and at a time of increased anxiety and troubling criminal activity in our city I have asked the Prime Minister to consider doing more,” he said. “I believe that while it takes longer to get the effects you need, programs for kids and families and neighbourhoods are programs we must invest more in together. We have to address the root causes of violence and get much tougher with criminals who often laugh at things like bail and sentencing practices.”
In a statement provided to CP24 on Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford said that the previous Liberal government announced the funding for the Lawrence Heights project in “a desperate attempt to buy votes” and did so “even though no formal project proposal was made available.”
The spokesperson said that city is still welcome “welcome to submit a formal infrastructure project plan for consideration” when proposals for the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP) Community, Culture and Recreation open sometime next month.