Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith says he won’t comment on what he calls a “personal attack” from the city’s mayor as their debate over affordable housing continued Tuesday.
Smith and Mayor Diane Therrien have been embroiled in a battle of words over the past week over affordable housing funding. Therrien at a meeting last week said Smith was “missing from the equation” when discussing a proposal for 1,400 new housing units in the city.
On Twitter Thursday, and then in a letter to city council on Friday, Smith asked city council to decide if they still want affordable housing funding from the province, claiming the mayor must find the province’s $6 million in funding for recent projects “offensive.”
The letter stated council needed to provide an answer as the province wraps up preparations on the 2021-2022 budget.
However, during Monday night’s council meeting, council agreed the city still needs support from the province.
Therrien noted she will always fight for her constituents — who are also Smith’s — but said the funding he was referencing was “mandated” for municipalities. She said taken back by Smith’s “threat” of political action.
“My term as mayor has been full of surprises, but never would I have foreseen that my passion for housing — a key priority for council — would result in our member of provincial Parliament threatening to withhold funding from our most vulnerable members of our community,” she said during the meeting.
“That is wicked and immoral. We’re speaking about housing.”
She added she does look forward to moving forward with Smith on housing and other important projects such as a supervised drug consumption and treatment site.
Smith was unavailable for comment on Tuesday, but provided Global News Peterborough with the following statement in reaction to Monday’s council meeting.
“I am pleased that city council has reconfirmed that they wish to continue a partnership with the province,” he stated. “I will continue to advocate for the people of this riding and ensure that everyone is supported to the best of my ability.
“I have no comment on the mayor’s personal attack,” he added.
The war of words was also raised Tuesday at Queen’s Park. NDP Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife called on Smith to drop his “threat to withhold housing funds”
“It’s cruel for the local MPP to threaten to withhold housing funds when the need for homes people can afford is so great in Peterborough,” stated Fife. “The pandemic has only put more pressure on people who have been struggling to keep a roof over their head.
“People in Peterborough shouldn’t have to pay the price because their MPP would rather jeopardize local housing priorities than listen to legitimate criticism about his record on housing. Mr. Smith shouldn’t have to write the local city council to know that Peterborough needs more funding for housing, not less.”
UPDATE 5 p.m.
In a joint statement issued at 5 p.m., Smith and Therrien said they had a “productive conversation” on Tuesday afternoon and agreed that the residents of Peterborough must always come first and acknowledged their shared goal of bettering our city and region.
“They both reiterated their support for important investments by the Province in housing for the city. Moving forward, both the Member and Mayor are committed to strengthening their working relationship and advocating for the people and needs of Peterborough,” the statement read.