OTTAWA — Territorial governments are pressing the Trudeau government to rejig how much each will receive through the national housing strategy, saying the funding falls well short of meeting housing needs in the North.
The territories received $300 million in last year's budget to build and renovate 3,000 homes in the North, which has some of the most acute housing situations in the country. The majority of the money, $240 million, went to Nunavut where the incidence of families living in housing that is inadequate or too expensive is roughly three time higher than the national average.
Discussion started this week to address what the territories see as a shortfall in funding and a lack of transparency and fairness in how the federal government allocated money to each government.
"We feel that the allocation wasn't done in a fair process, but we're working with the government of Canada right now to address the shortfalls and working with them in areas of Indigenous housing," said Alfred Moses, the territorial minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corp.
Absent any changes, Moses said his government will stretch every dollar it can. In the meantime, the three territories will lobby the federal government to change its housing plans.
The Liberals unveiled their $40-billion national housing strategy late last year and one month ago received conditional approval for the plan from all provinces and territories, except Quebec.
The $300 million for northern housing flows through the territories, while an additional $1.5 billion for on-reserve housing will flow through national Indigenous organizations and directly to First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities.
Territorial officials have also told the Liberals that the design of the various housing strategies may inadvertently miss Indigenous communities in the North. In the Yukon, while there are First Nations still covered by the Indian Act, the majority are self-governing, said Premier Sandy Silver, who stressed that the Liberals needed to understand the unique needs and responsibilities in the North.
The Liberals have already shown a willingness to rework the housing strategy, promising urban Indigenous housing providers more space in spending plans to ensure they aren't squeezed out of opportunities. Silver said the Liberals have shown a willingness to make further changes to deal with the gap the territories have identified.
"The good news is Ottawa is listening," Silver said Thursday.
"The ministers that we meet with have grasped the understanding that in the North we have self-governing First Nations and funding that is on-reserve, off-reserve doesn't apply."
Jordan Press, The Canadian Press