Canada’s cities can look forward to fresh investment from Ottawa after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised on Friday to restart a relationship that he claimed was neglected under a decade of Conservative rule.

Appearing alongside Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in Ottawa, Trudeau said that investing in cities – be it for housing, infrastructure, or resettling refugees – made for “better government at all levels of government.”

The PM made his pledge on the same day that mayors from Canada’s biggest cities met with Trudeau’s Infrastructure and Communities Minister Amarjeet Sohi to discuss needed investments in local infrastructure, transit, and housing can bolster the economy, according to a Feb. 5 news release.

“Ensuring that we get the money flowing in a responsible and rapid way is a priority for all of us,” said Trudeau during his appearance with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson.

Robertson, who is also chairs Canada’s Big City Mayors Caucus, described cities as key drivers of the Canadian economy and held up Canada’s cities as the world’s “most liveable, innovative, green, and multicultural.”

However, Statistics Canada data released the same day of Trudeau and Robertson’s joint speech recorded 5,700 jobs lost in January and a 7.2 per cent unemployment rate, up from 6.8 per cent in February 2015. Alberta has been worst-hit, shedding 35,000 jobs this past year as its energy sector crashed, while Ontario has added 100,000.

Robertson himself said that issues including poverty, homelessness, aging infrastructure, transit gridlock, and climate change had to be tackled if Canadian cities were to keep driving Canada’s economy.

“We need to up our game across the country,” said Robertson.

PM Trudeau echoed Robertson’s concerns by saying that building new infrastructure would help create jobs in the short term and boost economic growth in the long term.

In their meeting with Sohi, mayors said that repair and renewal of existing infrastructure should be a major priority.

At present, Canadian municipalities own almost 60 per cent of the public infrastructure in Canada including roads, bridges, buildings, and water treatment facilities, according to the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.

“We are very encouraged by our discussions with Minister Sohi and appreciate how much the Minister values the role of cities as Canada's economic engines,” said Robertson.

“Canadians expect all orders of government to work closely together to build urgently-needed new affordable housing and transit infrastructure. It is clear that Minister Sohi understands how important that partnership is in making smart and effective infrastructure investments to grow our economy and create thousands of new jobs across Canada."

Going to pot?

Mayor Robertson then discussed the issue of marijuana legalization, telling media that he was looking forward to Trudeau honouring his election promise to do so, as in his view it would help protect Canadian youth.

“Kids today in Canada have too much access to marijuana and we’ve taken action in Vancouver to regulate micro-marijuana dispensaries to make sure there’s some framework locally to address the risk to kids and the proliferation of dispensaries,” said Robertson.

He further said that marijuana was already low down on policing priorities in his city, saying it freed up Vancouver’s law enforcement to tackle serious and violent crimes.

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