The federal government has convened a national homelessness consultation today and tomorrow in Ottawa that has brought together about 100 leading experts from across the country (homeless service providers, agencies, advocates, academic experts, government officials). About the only person missing is the federal homelessness minister, Monte Solberg, who sent a video instead of appearing in person.
Why would the minister miss such an important session? The number one issue on virtually everyone’s lips at this meeting (I’m at the meeting representing the Wellesley Institute) is the fact that the federal funding expires at the end of fiscal 2008. Without a new commitment, the entire national homelessness strategy – and all the dynamic success stories in 61 communities across the country – will come to a skidding halt. Everyone was hoping that Minister Solberg would use this session to announce that the federal government was renewing and enhancing its commitment.
Instead of doing that, Minister Solberg in his video praised the program without paying attention to the single most significant piece of business on the federal plate regarding this program.
The second biggest concern for most participants is the urgent need to link a national homelessness strategy (which Canada has, although the federal funding is not certain after this year) to a national housing strategy (Canada is the only major country in the world without a national housing strategy). Minister Solberg made no reference to a national housing strategy in his videotaped greetings.
Provincial and territorial housing ministers are meeting in Vancouver on Feb. 6 and it would be an ideal time for Minister Solberg to announce the federal proposal for a new national housing strategy. Unfortunately, to use the political parlance, Minister Solberg has “not yet confirmed his participation” in the national housing summit early next month.
Maybe he’ll send another video.