Housing, the government negotiates with “rebel” Alberta

OTTAWA – Yet another “trouble” for Justin Trudeau’s government: the premier of Alberta, Danielle Smith, intends to adopt the Quebec model of federal-provincial relations when it comes to issues such as housing (so essentially, she wants greater freedom of action), and the federal housing minister, the liberal Sean Fraser, is forced to declare his willingness to “negotiate” with the (conservative) premier of Alberta. 

In an interview with CTV, Fraser said he is “ready to answer the call” but Alberta needs to come to the table by matching federal investments and implementing housing reforms.

Since the end of March, the federal government has made several housing-related announcements (basically one a day) that will be included in the April 16 federal budget, including talk of a new $6 billion Canadian Housing Infrastructure Fund. Under the program, there will be $1 billion available to municipalities to promote additional housing, and an additional $5 billion will be added to provinces and territories that meet certain requirements or conditions. But several provinces, including Alberta, have described the proposed new measures as excessive.

Smith, in fact, gave a speech to Conservatives in Ottawa last Friday for the Canada Strong and Free Network, the day after presenting the “stay-out-of-my-backyard” bill, which aims to prevent municipalities from Alberta to negotiate agreements directly with the federal government. “My message to Ottawa is that federal politicians, and the prime minister in particular, should do their job and stop trying to do my job” Smith said in Ottawa.

“In Alberta we are going to take a posture more like Quebec, which is ‘no thank you’. We don’t need your policy advice on school lunch programs, on pharmacare, on dental care. Just give us the money and trust that we’ll be able to deliver” she added.

In October, Quebec reached a $900 million agreement with Ottawa under the Housing Accelerator Fund and committed to doubling the sum to build affordable housing over the next five years. In that province, the law prohibits the federal government from bypassing the province to negotiate such agreements directly with municipalities. “If Alberta wants to come forward and say ‘we’re going to match your investment, and we’re going to implement reforms and make it easier to build homes…’ we’ll have those conversations with a goal of reaching a deal in good faith. I’ve not yet seen that” Fraser said.

The housing minister also discussed the federal government’s new housing strategy and said it is “asking (Canadians) to believe in a plan. We are putting forward a full and comprehensive set of policies that we believe is actually going to solve the housing crisis. It’s going to help build more homes at a pace we’ve never built before” Fraser said.

Canada will need to build 1.3 million more homes by 2030 to close the housing gap, according to a new report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. But according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), Canada will need to build 3.5 million homes by 2030 to restore affordability.

In the pics above, from their respective Twitter profiles X, Danielle Smith and Sean Fraser