Minister Solberg boycotts meeting, then promises to meet

Federal housing minister Monte Solberg boycotts housing summit,
Then promises to meet provincial counterparts within two months

(February 6, 2008): Provincial and territorial housing ministers met today (Wednesday) in Vancouver and, for the first time in almost a decade, the federal housing minister refused to participate. However, during the meeting, federal minister Monte Solberg told his provincial and territorial counterparts that he would meet with them within 60 days.

The three major national housing and homelessness programs (the federal affordable housing program, the federal homelessness program and the federal housing rehabilitation program) are all due to expire in fiscal 2008. At their Vancouver meeting, the provincial and territorial housing ministers added their voice to that of many housing groups in calling on the federal government to immediately renew funding for these critical programs.

At the last provincial-territorial housing ministers’ meeting in September of 2005, the ministers announced principles for a new Canadian Housing Framework, but there has been no action on developing, funding or implementing that framework. At their Vancouver meeting, the P/T ministers confirmed their support for the 2005 principles, without making any specific commitments regarding funding or programs to support those principles.

A national housing report card released on Monday by the Wellesley Institute (available at wi.cmohr.ca) shows that most provinces and territories, and the federal government, have failed to meet the commitments that they made when they signed the Affordable Housing Framework Agreement in 2001.

Canada needs a comprehensive, fully-funded and durable national housing strategy with the full support of the provinces and territories, but the Vancouver meeting did very little to realize that goal. While the promise of another meeting within two months offers some hope, the provincial and territorial ministers have failed in the past two and one-half years to put any flesh on the bare bones of a housing framework that they set out in 2005.

Newfoundland and Labrador will take over from British Columbia as the provincial lead on housing issues.

The full communiqué from the P/T ministers’ meeting is set out below…

Provincial-Territorial Meeting of Ministers responsible for Housing
Vancouver, British Columbia – February 6, 2008

‘We are unified in taking action to address housing needs’
Provincial and Territorial Ministers

VANCOUVER – February 6, 2008 – Provincial and territorial ministers responsible for housing are taking action and engaging the federal government to address the country’s critical housing issues. Ministers stress the urgency of responding quickly to support the four million Canadians in need.

During the provincial/territorial forum of Ministers responsible for Housing, the ministers reaffirmed the principles adopted in White Point, Nova Scotia in 2005 that define an effective federal/provincial/territorial partnership to meet the housing needs of Canadians. At that time, provincial and territorial ministers agreed upon a set of shared guiding principles for current and future housing initiatives that defined roles, responsibilities, and funding mechanisms.

“Access to appropriate housing forms the foundation of strong communities, strong provinces and territories,” said British Columbia’s Minister Responsible for Housing Rich Coleman. “Each province and territory faces distinct challenges but we also have achieved remarkable successes. Together we look forward to working closely with the federal government to ensure the housing needs of Canadians are met – now and in the future.”

Ministers were disappointed the federal minister was not present at the forum; however, while at the meeting, ministers received a commitment to meet with the federal minister in Ottawa within 60 days. At that meeting, Provinces and Territories expect to establish a federal/provincial/territorial partnership based upon White Point principles, including adequate sustainable funding. The White Point principles can be found online at http://www.scics.gc.ca/cinfo05/860507005_e.html.

Provincial and territorial ministers are seeking an immediate commitment in the upcoming federal budget to increase the level of funding for housing programs, including those set to expire in March 2009.

During the forum, Ministers also discussed housing issues facing First Nations, Metis and Inuit people; changes to the tax system to promote rental housing; how best to support Canada’s existing stock of social housing; and the need for partnerships with local governments, non-profit groups and the private sector.

Today’s meeting marks the end of Minister Coleman’s term as chair of the provincial/territorial housing forum. Newfoundland and Labrador Minister responsible for Housing Shawn Skinner now assumes the role. As the chair, Minister Skinner also becomes the provincial/territorial co-chair of future federal/provincial/territorial meetings of ministers responsible for housing.