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Ottawa mayor says premier called after Toronto highway deal

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, left, speaks at an announcement this June as Ontario Premier Doug Ford listens behind him. Sutcliffe said he had a phone call with Ford Monday following news that responsibility of two major Toronto highways will be uploaded to the province.  (Giacomo Panico/CBC - image credit)
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe, left, speaks at an announcement this June as Ontario Premier Doug Ford listens behind him. Sutcliffe said he had a phone call with Ford Monday following news that responsibility of two major Toronto highways will be uploaded to the province. (Giacomo Panico/CBC - image credit)

Ottawa's mayor says he talked to the premier Monday about the possibility of uploading some responsibilities such as Highway 174 to the province to alleviate pressures on the nation's capital.

On Monday, Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow announced that oversight of two major Toronto highways — the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway — is being uploaded to the provincial government.

That deal would open up $1.2 billion for Toronto over the next three years, the province said. It will allow the city to focus on transit projects and support for shelters.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe told CBC Tuesday a similar agreement may be possible for his city.

"(Ford) called me, we chatted briefly and I think there's a willingness to listen," Sutcliffe said.

"The big cities in Ontario are facing many, many challenges and so I think it's the start of a conversation now that they've completed the process with Toronto about what can happen here in Ottawa."

Sutcliffe added that "all options should be on the table in terms of what we can do together" and said he's looking forward to how the province can help alleviate Ottawa's financial burdens.

Ottawa's draft budget for next year proposes to raise property taxes by 2.5 per cent amid inflation pressures and a gaping hole in OC Transpo's finances.

The "split" east of downtown Ottawa where Highway 417, right, and Highway 174 either divide or come together depending which direction drivers are going. This photo was taken using a drone.
The "split" east of downtown Ottawa where Highway 417, right, and Highway 174 either divide or come together depending which direction drivers are going. This photo was taken using a drone.

The "split" east of downtown Ottawa with Highway 417, right, and Highway 174. The 174 continues through east Ottawa until Clarence-Rockland. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

On Monday, MPP for Orléans Stephen Blais called on the Ford government to give Ottawa a "new, fairer deal, just like what was announced for the City of Toronto."

For more than a decade, Blais has been calling on Ontario to take back control of the 174, which was downloaded to Ottawa in the 1990s.

On Monday, Blais criticized the province's "consistent catering to Toronto at the expense of Ottawa and other cities."

"As the second largest city in Ontario, taxpayers of Ottawa should not be continuously ignored by the Ford Government ... especially during these tough economic times," he said.

Mayor Sutcliffe said should the province upload Ottawa highways, it would make a difference for the city's operating costs to focus issues like transit and affordable housing. He noted that the process in Toronto took months, so Ottawans shouldn't expect news anytime soon.

"I'm really pleased that the Ford government is showing the willingness to have that conversation," Sutcliffe said.