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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Kujlit Dhinsa as he meets with parents ahead of a child-care funding announcement in Mississauga, Ont., on June 28.Andrew Lahodynskyj/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is brushing aside calls to help plug Toronto’s $1.5-billion budget shortfall, as he pushed provinces to do more to support cities that continue to struggle with the aftermath of the pandemic.

Mr. Trudeau on Wednesday said he spoke with Toronto’s mayor-elect, Olivia Chow, whom he called a “strong, progressive” leader, about support for the city. He said his government has “stepped up significantly” across the country on a number of initiatives, including a $30-billion child-care deal and billions in pandemic aid, but it is now up to provinces to help out municipalities.

“The provinces need to step up now to support the cities that are their area of jurisdiction,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters during a child-care announcement in Mississauga.

“We will continue to be there as a federal government, as a partner, but we will not be able to – with the importance of fiscal responsibility … be there in replacing the province in areas where they have the need and they have the means to continue to invest significantly in their cities.”

Toronto is facing a large budget hole from 2022 and 2023, owing largely to a drop in transit revenues, with council requesting the provincial and federal governments to cover it.

The province covered one-third of Toronto’s shortfall last year, but the federal government didn’t match the requested $235-million. Neither Ontario nor Ottawa have committed to provide extra funding to close this year’s projected gap.

Both former mayor John Tory and deputy mayor Jennifer McKelvie repeatedly called on higher levels of government to provide bailouts, and even asked residents to send their own letters asking Ottawa to pay up for last year.

This year’s budget has earmarked a reserve fund that could cover the shortfall if money isn’t received, but this would essentially deplete it.

Premier Doug Ford, however, has also appeared resistant to send more money to Toronto. “We’re doing our fair share,” the Premier said on Tuesday.

Mr. Ford’s spokeswoman, Caitlin Clark, said Wednesday that Toronto’s 2023 budget shows Ontario’s contributions are the second-largest line item after property taxes, with the province providing more than $3.3-billion to fund core services such as affordable housing, public health, child care and social services.

The province is also expanding Toronto’s subway system by 50 per cent with a $28.5-billion transit plan, and recently provided $226-million to build Toronto’s SmartTrack transit project.

Ms. Clark said Ontario provided more than $3-billion of COVID supports to Toronto, which includes the $235-million top-up earlier this year.

“Like the other 443 municipalities that Ontario supports, Toronto needs to be able to effectively manage their budget to ensure they are able to deliver the necessary services people rely on.”

Ms. Chow told The Globe and Mail Wednesday that she spoke with Mr. Trudeau on the phone the day prior and they are planning an in-person working meeting, with the date yet to be decided. Ms. Chow has also spoken with Mr. Ford and she is planning to meet with him, but it hasn’t been scheduled.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Ms. Chow said the city’s deficit is “very serious” and one of her first priorities will be to get support from the other governments.

“How am I going to deal with it? I will have to talk to the senior staff, talk to other councillors and see if we can persuade the federal and provincial governments to partner with us because at the end of the day, a healthy and livable City of Toronto means a strong Canada and a strong Ontario,” she said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said he’s looking forward to working with Ms. Chow, a former federal New Democratic MP, on issues such as standing up for minorities, women’s and 2SLGBTQI+ rights, as well as housing, transit and mental health.

“I’m really excited to have a strong progressive as mayor of Toronto, and I know she’ll be a real partner on a lot of things that we agree on,” Mr. Trudeau said.

With a report from Oliver Moore

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