Toronto Mayor John Tory, who has called for cities to take a leadership role in the refugee crisis, says he hopes the federal government will speed up its response to those fleeing chaos in Syria.
With the refugee crisis emerging as a key issue in the federal election, the Toronto mayor avoided assigning blame or weighing in on Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's response thus far. Still, he said, he hopes to see the federal government act more quickly.
"I will say with governments, as with any organization, there's always ways in which you can speed up what you do without sacrificing quality," Mr. Tory said.
"I don't see that as having me enter into the debate in how many and how fast, but really just to say that I think the scope of this crisis is such that we should be – as I'm sure people are in Ottawa … turning their minds to how we can do better and faster at what we're doing in this country."
Throughout the past few weeks on the campaign trail, critics have demanded quicker action from Mr. Harper to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. At the same time, Globe reports have detailed the long waits and bureaucratic hurdles many refugees face in coming to Canada.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tory and other municipal leaders have vowed to take the lead in helping to resettle refugees. In the past week alone, the Toronto mayor's office has spoken with mayors across the country, including Vancouver, Calgary, London, Winnipeg and Ottawa, to talk about what cities can do to expedite the resettlement process.
The issue of Syrian refugees has also been added to the agenda of a big city mayors' meeting later this month in Toronto.
And while other mayors, like Calgary's Naheed Nenshi, have been openly critical of the federal government's handling of the situation, Mr. Tory was more circumspect – sticking to a promise he's made to remain neutral throughout the election.
On Thursday, Mr. Tory followed in the footsteps of Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, and met with faith leaders to ask for ideas on how the city can help with resettlement. Some of the suggestions that came out of that meeting, Mr. Tory said, include creating a housing registry, as well as medical and dental programs for refugees.
"For our part here," he said, "I will confine myself to doing what we can as a city government to make sure that, if other people do what they're supposed to be doing, we can welcome those people and make sure they get integrated successfully into our city and live a new life here."