Kathleen Wynne says she’s preparing for some robust conversations with Mayor Rob Ford as she delves into her new role as minister of municipal affairs and housing.
After a sound victory in Don Valley West on election night, Premier Dalton McGuinty moved Wynne out of the transportation portfolio and into municipal affairs. She is also minister of Aboriginal affairs.
Now, as she prepares to foster relationships with local politicians in every corner of the province, Wynne acknowledges that she doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with her own mayor.
“We need a cooperative relationship,” she said. “It’s very important to be respectful but having said that, we see the world very differently.”
But Wynne says she is a problem-solver and welcomes the opportunity to find creative solutions to some of Toronto’s current woes.
“We have to remember that a mayor in a municipality is only one part of the equation and the council has a very strong voice,” she said. “And I think what we’re seeing in Toronto right now is that the council and the mayor are having to work together in way that maybe wasn’t envisioned by the mayor when he was first elected.”
Her new portfolio is a natural fit because municipal issues were driving forces behind her entrance into provincial politics in 2003.
A former school board trustee, Wynne says she wanted to be part of a positive change in the late 1990s when the relationship between the provincial government and municipalities had been really poisoned by amalgamation and downloading.
Though it’s too early to set an agenda, housing in particular, she says, is a local issue near and dear to her. She said she’s already heard from Don Valley West constituents on the issue of affordable housing. She’s also had an initial conversation with Health minister Deb Matthews regarding housing options and support for seniors, she says.
Wynne said she’s also got her work cut out for her with the Aboriginal Affairs portfolio as it’s often underestimated in its importance.
“Aboriginal children are the fastest growing demographic in the country and so as a province we have a lot of work to do to make sure that those kids and their families get their needs met.”
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