Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow says the federal government has agreed to join the city and the province at the table for talks about a new financial deal for Toronto at a “critical” moment in the discussions.

Speaking with reporters during a break from a meeting of her Executive Council, Chow told reporters that the city got a “sliver of hope” last night in terms of involving all levels of government.

“There’s a sliver of hope, a glimmer of hope,” Chow said. “Last night we heard from the federal government, that they will join the working group that we have between the provincial and the city governments. So they will now be at a table discussing various issues. That's hopeful.”

Chow and Ford convened the group to come up with a new financial plan for Canada’s biggest city following a meeting between the two leaders in September. Municipal officials have long said that the city has been starved of necessary ongoing funding in order to provide all the services it is tasked with.

During the mayoral election earlier this year, one of Chow’s key platform promises was negotiating a new deal for the city, which faces a staggering $1.5 billion operating deficit.

Most crucially, the city wants help with refugees, housing, mental health, highways and other areas where higher levels of government have a mandate.

The working group has been meeting twice a week to come up with a range of options for helping to stabilize Toronto’s finances, one of them being the possible return of the Gardiner  Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to provincial responsibility. The highways, which were downloaded to the city by the Mike Harris government in the 90s, cost hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain.

Chow said Tuesday that “the next few weeks will be critical” and said “great progress” has already been made.

“Over the last few weeks, the working group has met six times and developed a shared understanding of the city’s financial position. They have begun drilling down on shared priorities, including supporting transit, infrastructure, shelters and housing, as well as getting Toronto’s finances back on a stable and sustainable path,” Chow and Ford said in a joint statement.

“Over the next month, the working group will develop a set of concrete, actionable recommendations that will be put in front of us to carefully consider. We are moving quickly and are grateful to our respective senior public servants for their dedication.”

Until now, the federal government has declined to take part in the discussions. Chow has acknowledged that they likely face some political obstacles in coming to the table in terms of how other municipalities across the country might react.  

In their statement Tuesday, Chow and Ford said that “when Toronto wins, Canada wins” and reiterated that they would like the federal government to be part of the discussions.

“As we look for long-term solutions, the federal government has an important role to play as well. Toronto is Canada’s most populous city and is the largest municipal contributor to the country’s economy,” the statement read.

“Left unsolved, the problems the city faces, including housing asylum seekers, spill over into the broader region. We continue to invite the federal government to be a partner in a new deal that will help make sure Canada’s largest city, and through it, the region, province and country, is set up for success.”