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WHITEHORSE - Yukon Party Official Opposition Housing Critic Yvonne Clarke is questioning the Liberal government’s inconsistency regarding federal funding for housing.
In response to her April 14 question in the Legislative Assembly about the fact that the Northwest Territories and Nunavut each received double the amount of money for housing in the federal budget, the Premier told the Legislature that federal housing money had been diverted to the Atlin Hydro Expansion Project.
This was notable because it meant that funding intended for housing in the Yukon instead went to a project without any Yukon ownership, and based outside of the territory.
The Premier fueled this inconsistency earlier this month at the Northern Premiers Conference. He criticized the federal government for not providing enough housing support and called for a renewed partnership with consistent and adequate funding.
“When asked about why the Yukon was short-changed on housing money in the federal budget, the Premier said that they had requested federal housing money be redirected to another priority,” said Clarke. “Now the Premier is claiming that housing will continue to be an issue ‘without consistent and adequate funding’ from the federal government.”
While the Atlin hydro project will partially address the energy supply gaps in the Yukon, Yukoners deserve to know why the Liberal government decided to direct funding meant for much-needed housing to a hydro project in BC, especially when the Premier is criticizing the federal government for inadequate funding for housing.
Over the course of the Spring Spitting, Clarke pressed the Liberal government to focus more attention and resources towards the housing crisis.
“Yukoners are increasingly concerned about affordability and access to housing in the Yukon,” Clarke added. “We have been proposing solutions such as immediately identifying unused government land to release for private sector development, creating tax incentives to encourage rental developments, and to stop delaying the release of lots in Whistle Bend. I remain hopeful that the Liberal government considers some of these suggestions.”
Premier Silver in Question Period April 14, 2022 Hansard Page 1891:
Hon. Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, what the members opposite are not telling you is there is dedicated funding to three territories. That’s $60 million to Nunavut, $60 million to Northwest Territories, and $62.2 million to Yukon. Now, out of that, what they’re also not telling is that $32.2 million did not go to the other two territories for hydro expansion. That’s what we put our money for; that’s the money that we got from the federal government.
So, the members opposite can make it seem like the federal government is somehow turning a blind eye to housing, but on the contrary, actually, another half-billion dollars over the next five years is going to self-governing and treaty First Nations for housing as well. That is a massive influx of money to First Nations who are self-governing. We have 11 self-governing First Nations here in Yukon. The challenge that we’re going to have is to be able to work with the First Nation governments to make sure that we’re planning properly and coordinating a bumper crop of money when it comes to housing from the federal government.
The members opposite can spin it any way they want, but the reality is we are aflush with federal support that we will spend. Again, when the members opposite got federal money for affordable housing, they sat on it for years. We will not do that. We will make sure that we work with the First Nations. I will say as well, the Yukon Days and the Yukon Forum — these are the conversations that really helped the federal government decide where they’re going to focus their attention when it comes to housing.
Premier Silver at the Northern Premiers Conference May 9, 2022:
You know, there's lots of changes that we want to see in support of housing in the north, increasing the long term and sustainable federal funding. It's one thing to say that we're going to announce funding dollars. But Caroline mentioned, you know, there's operations and maintenance considerations that are extremely important to to have this longer term vision than just building buildings. It's not about building buildings. It's about communities. Building communities, building homes for people. More consultation is needed in the design of federal programs that are designed to accommodate these housing needs. A renewed partnership with the federal government is needed in long term sustainable, adequate housing in general without consistent and adequate funding, governments in the North, too, to the governments in the north, housing will continue to be an issue in the north.