Ottawa mayor asks Ontario premier why Toronto has 60 times more homelessness funding
Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has written to Ontario Premier Doug Ford asking him to revisit the amount of funding Ottawa is receiving through provincial homelessness programs.
The 2023 budget announced an additional $202 million per year in funding for supportive housing and homelessness projects in municipalities across the province, but Sutcliffe says Ottawa’s allocation is disproportionately small.
“We have recently learned that Ottawa will receive $845,100 of this funding, while Toronto will receive $48 million,” Sutcliffe wrote. “That’s almost 60 times as much, despite Toronto’s population being approximately three times larger than Ottawa… Based on Toronto’s allocation, Ottawa’s share should be in the range of at least $16 to $18 million.”
The $845,100 is the total amount of increased funding from the province in the 2023 budget and not the annual total. The province says Ottawa is receiving $48,464,600 this year, up from $47,619,500 in 2022.
But Sutcliffe pointed to other municipalities that received significant increases in funding, including some that are doubling their base budget, an apparent reference to the funding announced for Leeds and Grenville. Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark announced earlier this month that the region—part of his riding—would receive more than $3 million in funding this year, up from $1.5 million last year.
Speaking to CTV News Ottawa, Sutcliffe said he wasn’t sure if the fact that Ottawa does not have an MPP in cabinet played a role, but he does want to see a strong voice for Ottawa in cabinet in the future.
“It’s unfortunate that since Dr. (Merrilee) Fullerton resigned from the legislature and from cabinet that we don’t have a cabinet minister in Ottawa, arguing on behalf of the people of Ottawa and fighting for the people of Ottawa. We need a voice at the cabinet table,” he said.
Premier Doug Ford said shortly after Fullerton’s resignation that he would “always be there for Ottawa” despite the city not having an MPP in his cabinet.
OTTAWA HAD BEEN GETTING MORE THAN ITS SHARE IN THE PAST, GOV’T ARGUES
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing told CTV News Ottawa that the city had been receiving a disproportionately higher amount of funding under a previous funding model.
“The updated funding model was developed based on feedback from the auditor general and municipal stakeholders who were clear that the previous model was not transparent and didn’t accurately reflect measures of local need. Under the previous model some municipalities, like Ottawa, received disproportionately higher funding than other municipalities with higher determined need. Under the updated model all municipalities will maintain or receive increased funding,” the statement said. “As has been explained to Mayor Sutcliffe and City of Ottawa officials on multiple occasions over the last several weeks, homelessness prevention program funding (HPP) is based on an updated formula that applies to every municipal service manager in the province.”
Sutcliffe said in his letter to the premier that the smaller increase leaves Ottawa with a $37 million funding gap, which he claimed would force the city to cancel 54 current supportive housing projects and would prevent the city from building 570 to 850 new affordable units per year.
“This small budget allocation is devastating news for our community,” Sutcliffe wrote. “I’m appealing to your sense of fairness and your concern for the most vulnerable in our city and asking you to revisit the allocation to Ottawa in the Homelessness Prevention Program.”
He told CTV News Ottawa that more details would be presented to city council on Wednesday.
In the meantime, Sutcliffe is asking for funding that is similar to Toronto’s on a per capita basis.
“I welcome an explanation from the province but I think it’s clear that Toronto and Ottawa are the two big cities in Ontario that are experience the highest level of acuity when it comes to the homelessness problem. We are grappling with this issue and we can’t handle it alone. Municipal government is not set up to handle all of the solutions on our own without support from other levels of government, particularly the provincial government.”
City council declared a housing and homelessness emergency in Ottawa in 2020.
Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa executive director Kaite Burkolder Harris told CTV News shelters in Ottawa are over capacity.
“We have almost a 400 per cent overcapacity rate for our family shelter,” she said. “We now have a waitlist for families to get into shelter, not even a housing waitlist, that’s how bad the housing crisis is in Ottawa and this kind of funding cut shows this is not a priority for the provincial government.”
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