Election season has started. There will be a federal election in Canada on or before Oct. 19. The party leaders have begun to criss-cross the country to make promises and announce policy ideas, adding planks to growing platforms that will be debated endlessly in the months to come.
Adam Vaughan, Liberal MP for Trinity-Spadina in Toronto, has been front and centre recently. As a part of ‘Team Trudeau,’ Vaughan and the Grits try to retake parliament for the first time since Paul Martin’s defeat in 2006.
“I’ve run for federal office to help cities make life easier for people,” Vaughan says, “and to return autonomy and local power to governments.”
For many years Vaughan was involved in media and journalism in Toronto before getting involved in local politics. He was manager of Ryerson University’s campus radio station and a broadcast journalist with CBC and CITY TV before his election as councillor for Ward 20 in the 2006 municipal elections. Before entering federal politics in 2014 he had worked hard for a variety of causes within the city, including affordable housing and transit.
The 2011 federal election saw the Liberal Party lose much of their support to the NDP in the urban centres of the country, particularly in Quebec. But, the Grits believe they’re the party with the ideas and the strategy to win back ridings in Quebec and in the growing suburban ridings in the West.
Vaughan, for years an urban specialist in Toronto’s city council, is taking his vision across the country to help build support for ‘Team Trudeau’ and sell the Liberal’s ‘Urban Agenda’ to voters in critical ridings.
The former journalist has quickly attracted the spotlight in a Liberal caucus that can afford to be innovative while firmly planted in the backbenches as the third party in the House of Commons.
By focusing on issues of transit, housing and building bridges between Ottawa and the city hall’s across Canada, the Grits hope to architect a strong foundation of support in suburban ridings that have been the centre of Tory power since Harper’s election.
For this new generation of Liberals, the future rests with cities and their greater metropolitan areas. Getting people moving in and out of economic centres is their priority. Will this translate to more votes on election-day? Trudeau and Vaughan are counting on it.
“Federal government, through its spending power, hasn’t allowed municipal governments to be strategic in their planning. Transit and housing are issues that require large amounts of spending, and as a result, a greater amount of cooperation between all levels of government.”
The Liberals have long found support in Canada’s largest cities and economic centres, but it is in areas where growth is stagnant that Vaughan hopes a focused Grit message and policy of increased attention will help them gain back seats in the lower chamber.
“Explosive growth is really happening in four or five cities across the country,” he explains, “while the rest of the country is facing a lack of growth.” Through a forward-thinking policy based on big visions and 20 to 25-year timelines, the Liberal caucus hopes to sell urban Canadians, where growth has stalled, that the future of their neighbourhoods can be bright.
“We need a government that learns to trust city halls across the country and the knowledge they bring about their own development.”
Vaughan’s focus isn’t only on the brick and mortar issues facing Canadian urban centres. It is also on the social issues Canadian cities face.
In his short time on the Hill, Vaughan has spoken on the causes of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. The problem is a systemic one according to the MP.
“Federal government has a clear role to play in aboriginal populations in cities. There are few safe spots in cities, and we need to bolster the shelter system for aboriginal women and young people”.
With a growing demographic of Aboriginal Canadians in cities across the country, including Toronto, Vaughan hopes that greater attention to the issues facing them will have benefits for Canadians of all backgrounds “struggling to swim.”
Although the government has until October to call an election, many expect the writ to drop some time this spring or summer.