Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow met with Canada's finance minister for the first time in Toronto on Friday afternoon as part of a string of meetings with federal officials to address the city's $1.5-billion budget deficit.
Chow and Chrystia Freeland had "an opportunity to discuss how the municipal and federal governments can work together to ensure Toronto thrives," the mayor said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
"It was a wonderful and creative first meeting," Chow said.
Freeland, for her part, told reporters after the meeting that it was a constructive first meeting.
"It was not a meeting about coming out with announcements or deliverables. It was a meeting about understanding Toronto's needs," Freeland said. The finance minister added the meeting was an opportunity to talk about the federal government's own fiscal position, which she called "constrained."
Chow went to Ottawa earlier this week in search of federal funding to address Toronto's financial crisis.
The mayor met Immigration Minister Marc Miller and Housing Minister Sean Fraser. She also met Toronto Liberal MPs, known the Government 416 Caucus, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and Conservative MP Melissa Lantsman, who represents Thornhill.
At a news conference on Friday, Chow said it is important for her to continue her quest to obtain more funding for Toronto. She said she was "encouraged" by her meetings in Ottawa.
"There were a lot of nodding of heads. There was a lot of listening on both sides," she said. "And I said we need immediate help now," she said.
Chow added: "There is a lot of work we can do together. I'm hoping for a commitment that this conversation is not just one time."
City needs federal money to house refugees: Chow
The mayor said Toronto needs federal help to address the growing numbers of refugees in its emergency shelter system, to build more affordable housing and to fund public transit projects.
In an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Friday, Chow said the city's temporary emergency shelter system is full, with roughly 10,0000 people staying in its shelters nightly. An estimated 4,000 are refugees, she added.
The city's central intake, a telephone service that offers referrals to emergency shelter, other overnight accommodation and information about homelessness services, received about 2,000 calls one night this week alone and it "broke the system," she said.
As well, she said there are about 30 refugees sleeping on sidewalks outside a homeless support centre at 129 Peter St. and about 30 inside. The shelter system continues to be under tremendous pressure, she said, adding the city has spent the $97 million announced by the federal government in July to help the city house refugees.
On Sept. 18, the mayor and Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a new working group to address Toronto's finances. They invited the federal government to join them at the table.
Chow said she thinks the formation of the working group sparked the meeting with Freeland.
"I think the federal government saw this effort, the willingness to work together, and so, we're now having the dialogue with the federal government."
The working group is expected to wrap up at the end of November with some possible solutions to Toronto's financial woes.