Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser spoke to the press before going to a meeting of the Liberal caucus in Ottawa on Wednesday.
Federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser recognizes that Ottawa attaches “conditions” to the funding planned for Quebec municipalities through its Fund to accelerate housing construction, mainly a target for the number of units to be built .
To receive their share of the $4 billion federal envelope, Quebec cities are first waiting for an agreement to be reached between the governments of Justin Trudeau and that of François Legault, and the Quebec Minister of Housing, France -Élaine Duranceau, suggested Tuesday that no agreement had been reached due to conditions set by Ottawa.
Questioned about this on Wednesday, Mr. Fraser said that “it’s not fair a conversation about conditions.”
“It’s a conversation about the priority that we share, in particular the reason for the fund to build housing in Quebec and across the country,” he said in French before going to a meeting of the Liberal caucus.
He insisted that the Accelerated Housing Fund, managed by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), is designed based on a number of housing units .
“So we are happy to have conversations about a transfer of funds, but the funds require reaching a particular number of units,” the minister added in English.
According to him, a agreement is possible soon since he believes that Quebec and Ottawa are “in the same place” regarding the desired accomplishments with the money that will come from CMHC.
“We have a duty to respect the jurisdiction of Quebec. We also have a duty to respect the money of Canadian taxpayers,” he continued.
Called to comment on Mr. Fraser's comments, Minister Duranceau's office simply stated that the Legault government hopes to “reach an agreement quickly, considering that housing is a provincial jurisdiction.”
Mr. Fraser's office indicated that he spoke with Ms. Duranceau in the evening. Ottawa considers that the discussion was “very positive and productive”.
In the eyes of Bloc leader Yves-François Blanchet, it is clear that Ottawa is engaging in “unacceptable gross interference in a jurisdiction of the Quebec.”
“Right now, there are people who are stuck between poverty, rent they're not able to pay and a risk of sliding into homelessness and they're being told 'Yes, we have the money to Ottawa, but Quebec will have to agree to sell me its jurisdiction or […] part of [it] so that I pay”,” he said in the press scrum.
New Democratic leader Jagmeet Singh believes for his part that it is “normal” for Justin Trudeau's government to ask Quebec what it plans to do with the funds before transferring them.
“I think that it’s something that everyone thinks is reasonable to say “What’s the plan? What are the guarantees […] that the money will be used to build […] affordable housing?” », he argued in front of journalists.
A few minutes earlier, however, he affirmed that his party, “in general”, defends the “policy […] that Quebec has the right to withdraw from [federal] programs unconditionally”, with full compensation.
< p>Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre did not make himself available on Wednesday to answer questions from the parliamentary press.
A housing bill that he tabled in the House, however, risks to be perceived by Quebec as a legislative piece attaching conditions to federal funding.
The bill provides that “high-cost” municipalities that do not increase the number of new housing units built on their territory by at least 15% per year would see their federal transfers for infrastructure decrease. Those who exceed the target would receive bonuses.
Quebec expects to receive $900 million
First announced in the 2022 federal budget , the Accelerated Housing Fund aims to build at least 100,000 housing units in Canada by 2026-2027.
The Union of Municipalities of Quebec (UMQ) expects La Belle province to receive $900 million of the total envelope of $4 billion.
Its president, Martin Damphousse, stressed Tuesday that Cities are awaiting an agreement between Quebec and Ottawa, in accordance with provincial legislative provisions.
“What we hear is that other municipalities throughout Canada, except in Quebec, have access to their share”, he argued during the work of the parliamentary commission which is looking into Bill 31.
“When you say that there is $900 million which is taken somewhere between the federal government and then Quebec, do you have an idea of the conditions that were imposed by the federal government in relation to this 900 million? » Minister Duranceau then asked out loud.
Mr. Damphousse said he understood the “issues” and the “conditions,” but hoped that the parties would work to resolve the problem to speed up construction.
With information from Lia Lévesque