OTTAWA — Quebec legislators have denounced a proposal to create a department of urban affairs in Ottawa — after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair promised Friday to establish a federal minister of urban affairs.
In a speech to party faithful in Montreal, Mulcair said if elected on Oct. 19 he would name a minister of urban affairs to work with the provinces and territories on vital projects such as public transit, infrastructure and social housing.
Mulcair said his plan would ensure that Ottawa isn’t dictating infrastructure terms to the provinces, such as introducing tolls on the new Champlain Bridge that links Montreal with communities on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River.
But Tuesday, politicians in Quebec City unanimously adopted a motion — without debate — from Parti Québécois MNA Stéphane Bergeron denouncing any proposition to establish a department of municipal or urban affairs. Bergeron’s motion stated urban affairs is an area of jurisdiction that belongs exclusively to Quebec.
Reached Wednesday in Ottawa, Mulcair’s spokesman Karl Bélanger told The Huffington Post Canada the Quebec motion dealt specifically with “a department” and that was not what Mulcair was suggesting — he was only suggesting a minister without a department.
“We agree with this motion, obviously,” he said.
But Bergeron told HuffPost it didn’t matter whether a Mulcair government would establish an urban affairs minister with a department or without a department.
“To have a minister whose only responsibility would be to take care of municipal affairs, that is totally unacceptable,” Bergeron said.
“Whether there is a department or there is not a department, to me, that makes no difference.”
He said a cabinet minister would still have political staff assisting him.
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