Canada’s housing ministers held their first national meeting in almost three years on Wednesday evening in Ottawa, at the invitation of federal housing minister Monte Solberg.
The provincial and territorial ministers left the meeting disappointed. Not only did they fail to get any specific commitments from the federal minister regarding the expiry of the three major national housing and homelessness programs this year, but the provincial and territorial ministers failed to get any promises regarding the deteriorating federal support for the country’s existing social housing or even some much-needed attention to the urgent housing concerns facing Aboriginal people.
The federal minister wouldn’t even agree to a formal meeting (the meeting on Wednesday was not a formal federal, provincial, territorial housing ministers’ summit, but an informal meeting organized after federal Minister Solberg boycotted the last formal meeting in Vancouver in early February).
Provincial and territorial ministers have agreed to meet again in September in Newfoundland and Labrador, and have challenged the federal minister to attend.
The full communique from the provincial and territorial housing ministers is printed below.
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Provinces and Territories Disappointed with Federal Government’s Lack of Engagement on Housing Issues in Canada
Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Housing met last night with the Honourable Monte Solberg, Federal Minister Responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in Gatineau, Québec, to discuss a series of critical housing issues.
The Provincial/Territorial Housing Ministers expressed their great disappointment that Minister Solberg is not able to provide a firm response to any of the issues they raised.
“It has been nearly three years since this country has had a formal Federal/Provincial/Territorial discussion about the state of housing in Canada and that’s not acceptable”, said Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister Responsible for Housing, Shawn Skinner and co-chair of the next Housing Ministers’ conference.” The Federal Government doesn’t appear to see housing as a priority for Canadians. We are very concerned by the lack of commitment by the Federal Government to address the country’s critical housing issues. We will continue to do our utmost to impress upon the Federal Government the urgency of Canada’s housing situation.”
This meeting provided an opportunity for Provincial/Territorial Housing Ministers to reiterate the necessity of having formal discussions regarding the major issues facing the future of housing in Canada and more precisely the importance of establishing a federal-provincial partnership based upon the principles they adopted in White Point, Nova Scotia in 2005. These shared principles defined the roles, responsibilities and funding mechanisms for current and future housing initiatives, including adequate sustainable funding.
As a first step, the Provincial/Territorial Housing Ministers urged the Federal Government to immediately extend its financial contribution to housing, especially in the areas of Residential Rehabilitation, Homelessness and Affordable Housing which are currently slated to expire in March 2009. They unanimously requested that the Federal Government begin to work immediately with them regarding long term, predictable and sustainable funding for housing in Canada.
Ministers pointed out the need for funding to support Canada’s existing social housing stock. Declining federal funding, increasing operating costs and “flat” rents threaten the viability of this $100 billion public asset.
Provincial/Territorial Housing Ministers also raised the issue of Aboriginal and Northern housing concerns with Minister Solberg.
Finally, there has not been a Federal/Provincial/Territorial Housing Ministers meeting since the September, 2005. Provincial/Territorial Ministers impressed upon Minister Solberg the need for the Federal Government to commit and participate in a Housing Ministers’ Conference.
Since the Federal Minister could not commit his presence at a conference in the next few months, the Provincial/Territorial Ministers will meet in September 2008 in St. John’s, and it is expected that the Federal Government will be there to address the critical needs of 1.5 million Canadian households.