Liberals promise billions for Indigenous housing, mental health

·3 min read

IQALUIT, Nunavut — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is promising to pour billions of dollars into housing and mental health for Indigenous communities if his party is re-elected.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Iqaluit, Trudeau pledged to spend $2 billion over four years on housing for First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities.

He said more than half the money would flow in time for the upcoming summer construction season.

Another $300 million would be earmarked to co-develop a housing strategy for Indigenous urban, rural and northern communities, in partnership with Indigenous organizations.

Trudeau also promised an additional $1.4 billion over five years for a mental health and wellness strategy to be developed with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation.

He said the money is on top of previously announced funding of more than $597 million.

The early evening announcement capped off a day that also saw the Liberal leader stop in Granby, Que. to pledge $1 billion over a decade to protect and restore Canada's big lakes and river systems.

A re-elected Liberal government would also build on its budget commitments by fully funding the creation of a new Canada Water Agency to co-ordinate freshwater initiatives, with a launch set for next year, Trudeau said.

The 2021 budget allocated $17.4 million over two years to begin work in preparation of the agency's launch and in establishing the scope of its mandate.

Trudeau branded his party's new campaign commitments on the environment as a continuation of work started six years ago when they were first elected, warning that if the Conservatives come to power the fight against climate change would be compromised.

Trudeau said Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole would set Canada back to the era of former Tory prime minister Stephen Harper, who was defeated in 2015.

Trudeau said voters face a choice of supporting his plan, which he said had the backing of environmental organizations, or "going back to the Harper targets, going back to the Harper approach on the environment under Mr. O'Toole."

The Liberal leader also said he planned to release his party's platform in the coming days. He has been under attack from his political opponents on the federal campaign trail for not doing that.

Trudeau needs to make inroads in Quebec if he wants to make gains in this election, so he also took aim at the environmental stewardship of his Bloc Québécois opponent, Yves-Francois Blanchet, for his record while in his previous job as Quebec's provincial environment minister.

Trudeau defended his government's decision to fund the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, saying his new plan is dedicated to stopping the rise of carbon emissions from Alberta's oilsands.

"But the industry knows that and indeed Albertans, and people in the energy industry have always been innovative and leaders in figuring out new solutions to move forward in the right way," he said.

The freshwater funding promised Monday will first go toward initiatives involving the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River System, Lake Simcoe, the Lake Winnipeg Basin, the Fraser River Basin, and the Mackenzie River Basin, the Liberals said.

The announcement also included $37.5 million in funding over six years for freshwater research at the International Institute for Sustainable Developments Experimental Lakes Area, a natural laboratory in northwestern Ontario that the party said is the only place in the world where experiments are conducted on real lakes.

Trudeau was able to make his announcements Monday free of the hecklers and protesters that disrupted his two previous campaign appearances in Ontario.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 30, 2021.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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