Hands Off Our Housing
It was bound to happen eventually.
Justin Trudeau was finally right about a policy:
“I’ll be blunt ... housing isn’t a primary federal responsibility,” said the Prime Minister in a press conference earlier this week.
I know, right?!
We finally found something Trudeau doesn’t want to control from the ivory towers in Ottawa.
The constitution grants the provinces control over housing policy and programs.
And the Prime Minister finally agrees with us!
Unfortunately, it's not that simple.
With house prices skyrocketing and homeownership becoming increasingly impossible for most Canadians, it's a very convenient time for the Prime Minister to suddenly realize that that's not his job.
Of course, despite Trudeau's newfound passion for provincial autonomy, his federal government has had its grubby, unconstitutional paws all over housing policy for years and years.
Housing is just another area that the federal government can’t help but interfere with.
You see, just as they do with virtually every single social program, Ottawa collects far more in taxes than they need to pay for the things that are actually the federal government's job.
And then, they use the extra money to fund various social transfers to the provinces or directly fund specific programs in provinces and/or specific municipalities.
And, as we've pointed out so many times, this results in Alberta subsidizing programs in other provinces, while the transfers come with conditions that increase the federal government's control.
More government everywhere else in Canada, paid for by Alberta.
Of course, as it is with other transfer programs, the solution is for the federal government to stay in their lane, abolish these transfers, and stick to the policies that are actually their responsibility.
But, until we can get them to abolish these handouts entirely, they should, at the very least, be forced to treat Alberta fairly.
That's not what's happening though.
On Monday, Trudeau’s newest Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, Sean Fraser, received a letter from Alberta’s new housing czar, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services Jason Nixon.
It is co-signed by the mayors of Alberta’s largest two cities - Calgary’s Jyoti Gondek and Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi.
They aren’t happy.
You would think that because of growth patterns, the federal government would be at least redistributing the money fairly, right?
Alberta is the fastest-growing province in the country, and now represents almost 12% of Canada’s population.
And yet, of the federal government's $1.5 billion Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) fund allocation, only $38.3 million is heading to Alberta - just 2.5%.
Of the 5,200 total units funded through the initiative, only 200 units are in Alberta - just 3.8%.
It doesn't stop there - the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has shortchanged Alberta by $114 million on housing, while approving just six of 39 proposed housing project applications from Alberta.
It turns out that federal housing funding is just another transfer program.
“This is our money and he spends it elsewhere to buy votes,” Nixon says of Trudeau.
“It’s disgusting the prime minister and the federal government divert resources from Alberta to buy votes in eastern Canada on the backs of fixed-income seniors, homeless people, single mothers, people facing disabilities and Indigenous people.”
As we said, ideally the federal government takes Trudeau’s advice and gets out of housing entirely.
They should eliminate federal housing programs, return the tax dollars to the provinces they came from, and let us get on with the job.
But they won’t.
Alberta will need to stand its ground.
One of the major takeaways from the recent provincial ministerial mandate letters was that under the Danielle Smith administration, Ottawa has been put on notice.
Nixon got the message.
“Our premier has been clear. Ministers like myself need to be constantly in the face of Ottawa every time we see unfairness for Albertans,” says Nixon.
Nixon expects a response from Ottawa by the end of the week.
No matter the response, Alberta can't afford to give any ground.
The Free Alberta Strategy is a series of policy proposals designed to limit federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction - essentially forcing the federal government to stay in its lane.
The Sovereignty Act is our most well-known proposal, but we're working to push Ottawa back into its lane on a wide range of other policies too.
If you want to learn more, and help us advance these ideas, you can do so by reading the full, detailed Free Alberta Strategy here.
And you can help us spread the word to more Albertans by making a donation:
Thanks for your support, as we continue to develop and promote detailed solutions to the challenges facing Alberta.
The Free Alberta Strategy Team