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Alberta government has ‘deep concerns’ about federal housing announcement

The Alberta government says it has “deep concerns” and not enough information about a $6-billion federal housing announcement made Tuesday morning.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement while he was in Dartmouth, N.S., as part of the government’s pre-budget tour. Trudeau says while the fund will help address the housing shortage plaguing Canadians, provinces and territories have to adopt certain housing policies in order to access it.

The offices of Jason Nixon, Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services and Ric McIver, Minister of Municipal Affairs, responded to the announcement in a joint release just before 7 p.m. Tuesday, saying they have “deep concerns.”

“The federal government to date has not provided adequate or appropriate funding to Alberta for housing, and are once again bypassing provincial jurisdiction by not consulting or even notifying provinces about the new program,” the statement read.

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“This is another example of the federal government’s long history of ignoring the province’s jurisdiction and playing politics with important issues like housing.”

The federal government announcement plans to make $1 billion directly available to cities for urgent infrastructure needs, with that money flowing in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

The other $5 billion would be allocated to agreements with provinces and territories meant to support long-term priorities. That funding would flow over a longer period of time, with those details hammered out during negotiations.

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In response to the Alberta ministers’ statement, a spokesperson from the office of the deputy prime minister and minister of finance said in a statement that everyone wants an affordable place to call home.

“In 2022, we committed to tying infrastructure funding to provincial and municipal action on housing,” Katherine Cuplinskas said in a statement.

“We hope provincial governments support these goals and that we can collaborate together.”

The Alberta statement says that the federal government hasn’t been clear on how they plan to distribute the funding and says this “will only make it harder and more expensive to build homes and will also heavily limit the kinds of homes that can be built.”

Alberta’s minister for seniors and community and social services, Jason Nixon. GAC

“It is a continuation of their punitive green agenda by attempting to ban natural gas by 2030 and nationalize housing. Unlike the federal government, we know that at a time in which construction of homes and purpose-built rentals is at an all-time high, imposing roadblocks on building will shut people out of the rental and housing market and discourage new construction, making the problem worse,” the statement said.

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Additionally, the statement says the province is already on the right track and “leading the country in having the fewest regulations and fastest permit approval times” and they don’t think the federal government should be involved with the decision.

“If the federal government wants to actually remove red tape and make housing more affordable as they claim, they would instead listen to our calls to remove the carbon tax so that building costs are lowered, and shovels can actually get in the ground faster.”

Cuplinskas said in her statement that “any allegation that the carbon price is contributing to the housing challenge is categorically false.”

Municipalities have been aggressively urging the federal government to commit more dollars toward infrastructure, noting their communities cannot significantly ramp up homebuilding to match population growth without things like water supply and roads.

While Tuesday’s announcement appears to respond to a plea from municipalities asking for more  infrastructure support, it’s also being met with pushback from some other premiers who are displeased with the conditions on provinces and territories.

With files from Canadian Press, Allison Jones in Toronto, Hina Alam in Fredericton and Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

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