Canada is the closest it has ever been to re-establishing a national housing program since it was cut 17 years ago.
Recently, with a razor-thin vote of 141 in favour and 132 against, Bill C-304, a bill to support a national housing program, passed through the House of Commons.
It will now go to committee for final amendments and, hopefully, for a final vote before the mid-December break. There is a small possibility that it won’t get voted on until late January or early February.
Housing activists are crossing their fingers that a spring election call won’t kill the legislation before it has a chance to pass.
Voting against the bill was the vast majority of the Conservative caucus, including Housing Minister Diane Finley and every Conservative member of Parliament in B.C.
With over 15,000 homeless people in British Columbia, it’s a crying shame that we have such pathetic representation for our province in Ottawa.
Even Conservative senator Hugh Segal has called for a national housing program. Brian Mulroney even supported a national housing program when he was prime minister. But, unfortunately, the Conservative caucus from B.C.—including James Moore, Stockwell Day, Dona Cadman, Andrew Saxton, and John Cummins—don’t think a national housing program is a priority.
The NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois all supported the bill.
This video ridicules Stephen Harper's opposition to a national housing strategy.
The research paints a very clear picture on what needs to be done. Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing Miloon Kothari articulated a blueprint for national standards in his 2008 report on Canada.
A 2009 report by the Canadian Senate cowritten by Segal and Liberal Senator Art Eggleton articulated more national policy interventions, including support for a national housing program.
The Research Alliance for Canadian Homelessness, Housing and Health also argues that the development of affordable housing and support services are essential to eliminating homelessness across the country.
Unfortunately, the Conservative government is continuing on with its obsession of limited government that it has turned in to some kind of fetishized obsession.
Ryan Sparrow, a spokesperson for Finley, recently told the Globe and Mail: “Housing is a provincial jurisdiction. Housing issues differ across [the] country, and provincial governments and municipal governments are best able to identify and implement effective solutions. Vulnerable Canadians don’t need more bureaucracy and talk.”
If the minister responsible for housing really feels that way, she should resign. There are 400,000 vulnerably housed Canadian across the country.
Homelessness and affordability issues don’t recognize provincial boundaries. We wouldn’t have the crisis we have today if the federal government hadn’t gotten out of affordable housing in the first place. Now, the minister is saying it’s a provincial jurisdiction.
We went down this road 10 years ago when B.C. and Quebec were the only provinces still building social housing. If the federal government had continued to be a partner, we would have built far more units of social housing in the lead-up to the 2010 Olympics.
In late October, Pivot Legal Society helped organize a Canada Day of Action as part of its Red Tent Campaign, in which cities across the countries joined in to call for a national housing program. With or without the Conservative government, Canadians will do whatever it takes to see this legislation passed.
One more message to Stephen Harper and the Conservative caucus: Canadians across the country will be watching how you vote on Bill C-304 and will take that in to consideration when the next federal election is called.
Am Johal is chair of the Impact on Communities Coalition.