Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Housing minister open to negotiating with Alberta to adopt Quebec model

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Housing Minister Sean Fraser says he is willing to negotiate with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who plans to adopt the Quebec model of federal-provincial relations when it comes to issues like housing.

In an interview with CTV Question Period host Vassy Kapelos, Fraser said he is “ready to take the call,” but Alberta must come to the table by matching federal investments and implementing housing reforms.

“If they want to reach out and say, ‘we should have a province-by-province bargain, and we’re going to match you and put measures in place and accelerate homebuilding,’ I’ll take that call seven days a week,” Fraser said. The full interview airs at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Since the end of March, the federal government has made several housing announcements that will be included in the April 16 federal budget, such as a new $6-billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund. Under the program, there will be $1 billion for municipalities to spur additional housing, and $5 billion for provinces and territories that meet certain requirements or conditions.

But several provinces, including Alberta, have described the new proposed measures as overreach.

The Quebec model

Smith delivered a speech to conservatives in Ottawa on Friday for the Canada Strong and Free Network, a day after tabling the “stay-out-of-my-backyard” bill, which aims to block Alberta municipalities from negotiating deals directly with the federal government.

“My message to Ottawa is that federal politicians, and the prime minister in particular, should do his job, and stop trying to do my job,” Smith told the crowd in Ottawa.

“When you see in Alberta that we are going to take a posture more like Quebec, which is ‘no thank you,’” Smith also said. “We don’t need your policy advice on school lunch programs, on pharmacare, on dental care.”

“Just give us the money and trust that we’ll be able to deliver,” she added.

In October, Quebec reached a $900 million agreement with Ottawa under the Housing Accelerator Fund, and pledged to double the amount to build affordable housing over the next five years.

In Quebec, the law prohibits the federal government from sidestepping the province to negotiate such agreements directly with municipalities.

When asked by Kapelos why Quebec is treated differently than Alberta, Fraser reiterated the call for Alberta to commit to reforms.

“If Alberta wants to come forward and say ‘we’re going to match your investment, and we’re going to implement reforms and make it easier to build homes,’ we’ll have those conversations with a goal of reaching a deal in good faith. I’ve not yet seen that,” Fraser said.

The housing minister, in his interview, also discussed the federal government’s new housing strategy, and said the federal government is “asking (Canadians) to believe in a plan,” when asked by Kapelos why voters should have confidence in the Liberals’ track record.

“We are putting forward a full and comprehensive set of policies that we believe is actually going to solve the housing crisis. It’s going to help build more homes at a pace we’ve never built before,” Fraser said.

According to a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Canada needs to build 1.3 million additional homes by 2030 to close the housing gap. Meanwhile, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) says Canada needs to build 3.5 million homes by 2030 to restore affordability.

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