Housing woes, climate change dominate 2nd day of annual meeting for Canadian municipalities

·3 min read
Dominic LeBlanc, federal intergovernmental affairs minister, says the Canadian government is putting money into housing, transit and addressing issues including climate change and homelessness in municipalities. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News - image credit)
Dominic LeBlanc, federal intergovernmental affairs minister, says the Canadian government is putting money into housing, transit and addressing issues including climate change and homelessness in municipalities. (Kirk Fraser/CBC News - image credit)

Canada's intergovernmental affairs minister outlined some big plans for municipalities, all focused on creating more housing and addressing climate change, as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' 2022 annual conference in Regina Friday morning.

Dominic LeBlanc spoke to politicians from across the country, putting extra emphasis on Ottawa's approach to housing and homelessness while echoing the funding already slated to help municipalities.

"The housing accelerator fund is deliberately designed to say to municipalities, 'What tools do you need to quickly enable more houses to be built in Regina or in Moncton or in Iqaluit?'" LeBlanc told reporters after speaking at the conference.

"Sometimes they don't have the resources … so if we can sort of breathe adrenaline into that, we think it'll help municipalities get more housing built faster," he said.

Kirk Fraser/CBC News
Kirk Fraser/CBC News

The government will be providing incentives for communities to add new housing near transit routes, LeBlanc said, pushing residents to hop on the bus and reduce the number of fossil fuel-driven vehicles on the road.

He said that plan will complement the permanent public transit fund, to start in 2026, that will earmark portions of a $3 billion a year funding for provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous communities.

He said the success of the fund depends on the collaborative relationship among all levels of government.

While he said Ottawa can help cover the cost and try to help families with the high cost of housing, LeBlanc said, he put the onus back on municipality officials to consider how that would look. He doesn't expect there will be one universal and affordable housing plan that could work in every major city across Canada.

"All across the country, people are innovating and coming up with solutions that are right-sized to those communities — probably better than thinking up something in a boardroom in Ottawa," he said.

Overall, LeBlanc expects increasing the supply of housing will deflate rising costs of housing across the country.

"But we also, as a national government, have to accept there's a role to directly subsidize people and families to have access to affordable housing and that's something that we're excited to continue to do."

When asked by Joanne Vanderheyden, FCM president, what Ottawa is doing to keep up with climate-related risks — like the wildfires that devastated Lynton, B.C., in 2021 — LeBlanc said the government has a role in footing the recovery bill but also working with municipalities to improve infrastructure to manage disasters.

CBC News/Skype
CBC News/Skype

Later in the afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared virtually to more broadly discuss housing, substance use, energy, immigration and climate change.

"Obviously municipalities can't be the only ones trying to build for the future, because your resource base is limited, partners at the provincial and federal level need to be there," he said.

Vanderheyden asked Trudeau how the federal government would work with municipalities. He said it was a vital relationship.

"I find that municipalities are such careful and responsible stewards of every single dollar they get because you have such a challenge on raising resources," Trudeau said, noting cities know how to stretch dollars well.

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