Politicians from across Canada will spend the weekend in Regina as they look to plan a post-COVID future in Canada.
Homelessness and affordability appear to be the central topic on the agenda, according to Thursday’s opening news conference at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ 2022 annual conference.
Mayors from three cities said homelessness is a growing issue in communities across Canada and that it is quickly becoming serious enough for every level of government to start playing a role.
“When it comes to housing and homelessness, the feds have the money, the province has the jurisdiction and the cities have the problem. So we all need to be at the table at the same time,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, who chairs the Big City Mayors’ Caucus.
On Thursday, Savage was joined by Regina Mayor Sandra Masters and Laval, Que., Mayor Stéphane Boyer.
All three stressed that it’s important to start increasing the supply of affordable homes in an attempt to address the ongoing housing crisis.
Discussions about bringing all three levels of government together are set to begin this weekend with municipal officials at the conference set to meet with Dominic LeBlanc, Canada’s minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities.
Savage also pointed to the $4-billion federal housing accelerator fund that was announced in the last federal budget as one of the ways forward.
“It can help housing get built faster through direct and flexible investments, but only if it is designed together with speed and results in mind,” he said, stressing that more needs to be done beyond just this one pool of funding.
Masters said Regina is set to experience a housing crunch in the coming years and the solution is clear.
“Not unlike every city across the country, bringing more [housing] on stream and getting more built is paramount,” she said.
Halifax and Regina have seen their unhoused populations grow during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both municipal governments have responded to camps being established in public parks by attempting to engineer solutions.
Regina helped support the creation of an interim shelter in its warehouse district that was operated by community organizations.
Halifax purchased modular housing units that it placed on municipally owned property.
When asked how he saw municipalities dealing with homelessness in the future, Savage said it would require action.
“People don’t want to hear about jurisdiction, they frankly don’t want to hear about political parties. What they want to hear about are solutions,” said Savage.