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Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow shake hands following a news conference regarding housing development at Toronto City Hall, on Feb. 22.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press

Ontario Premier Doug Ford praised Toronto for exceeding its housing targets as he presented Mayor Olivia Chow Thursday with a giant novelty cheque representing bonus funding.

The city had more than 31,000 housing starts last year, roughly 50 per cent higher than the target set by the province. In return, Ontario is handing over $114-million to help with infrastructure and other housing costs.

Ms. Chow could not say specifically how the money would be spent, but said it was “a welcome boost to all the efforts that we are doing right now.”

The money announced by Mr. Ford and Ms. Chow at Toronto City Hall is part of the Building Faster Fund, which rewards municipalities that increase housing beyond provincially set targets. According to provincial figures, 19 of the 50 biggest cities in Ontario exceeded their targets in 2023. Seven municipalities were deemed to have come close and 24 missed by large margins.

In 2023, Toronto had more housing starts than the other 18 successful municipalities put together.

“If I had 444 municipalities hitting their targets over 51 per cent like this mayor has done, we wouldn’t have a housing problem,” Mr. Ford said. “All the folks out there, the mayors, the wardens, take a page out of Toronto’s book.”

The province’s decision to measure housing starts has proved controversial in some cities. Windsor, which by the provincial count achieved 36 per cent of its target, argues that building permits is a better measure. It has started its own tally.

But Paul Calandra, the Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, would not budge on the province’s approach.

“The [Building Faster] Fund was originally and continuously focused on the shovels in the ground, right, the housing that has been enabled,” he said.

Thursday’s appearance at city hall was part of a series of events featuring Ms. Chow and Mr. Ford, who prior to the 2023 Toronto mayoral election warned that she would be an “unmitigated disaster” if elected. He has since praised the new mayor and worked alongside her on a new deal for the city’s finances.

Asked by a reporter about Toronto’s 9.5-per-cent property-tax hike, enacted by Ms. Chow’s budget under her strong-mayor powers, Mr. Ford would not weigh in. The former municipal politician, who as premier slashed Toronto city council in half in the midst of a city election campaign, portrayed himself as hands-off.

“I have a phenomenal relationship with the mayor, and I don’t believe in telling any municipality, all 444 of them, what to do,” he said. “They know their needs, they know their requirements, and I have all the confidence in the world.”

He also took aim again at new Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie. Mr. Ford’s government this week introduced legislation that would require a referendum before any new “carbon tax” or carbon pricing scheme takes effect, and Ms. Crombie would not answer questions when asked if she supports carbon pricing.

Ms. Crombie accused Mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives of attempting to distract from their own controversies and said she will consult on her party’s environmental plan with scientists and stakeholders.

“I just need to know: Is she for the carbon tax, or against the carbon tax?” Mr. Ford said Thursday. “That’s a simple question; she needs to answer it and she’ll be held accountable. But make no mistake about it, she is the queen of the carbon tax.”

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