The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition is disappointed by Yukon MP Ryan Leef’s decision to vote against Bill C-400 at its second reading.
The bill called for the federal government to create a national strategy for providing safe and affordable housing. This strategy would be made through discussions with provincial ministers, representatives from municipalities and aboriginal governments and businesses and non-profits.
Canada is the only G8 country without such a strategy. The bill was defeated Wednesday by a vote of 153 to 129. All Conservative MPs voted against it, including Leef.
“We’re disappointed,” said Bill Thomas, a co-chair of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.
“The issues of homelessness are not going away. We still have to address these very serious issues.” There are about 100 chronically homeless people living in Whitehorse right now, he said.
A national housing strategy would have required clear timelines for providing housing and eliminating homelessness. “This just by itself would have been a tremendous boost to addressing this problem,” said Thomas.
But the outcome doesn’t surprise him. NDP MP Marie Claude-Morin, the MP for the Quebec riding of Saint Hyacinthe-Bagot, introduced the private member’s bill last year. Private member’s bills rarely become law, said Thomas.
The coalition will continue to work with the territorial and federal governments to work on solving poverty and homelessness.
It’s already received support from Whitehorse city council. On Monday night, council unanimously passed a motion expressing its support of the bill.
“We’re delighted at their response,” Thomas said of the city’s continued support to help end homelessness. “We need champions for this, and we see the new city council and the mayor as being … a very important champion for this. It’s no mystery that housing and homelessness is on the radar now.”
These issues are on Leef’s radar too, he said. He sits on the Anti-Poverty Caucus in Ottawa and spoke with the anti-poverty coalition before the vote, he said Thursday afternoon from Ottawa. He also knew about the city’s motion, he said.
He supports the intent of the bill, he said. But he was concerned about giving the federal government more control over housing. “Housing and housing plans are the authority of provinces and territories that can be delegated down to the municipal government,” said Leef. The bill could have taken away some of the flexibility provincial and territorial governments have right now, he said.
“That to me was a bit concerning,” said Leef. “That’s not how we’ve set up our system in Canada.”
Solving homelessness requires partnering with different levels of government, including municipalities and First Nation governments, he said. “There isn’t even a broad brush solution in the Yukon,” said Leef.
The federal government supports housing initiatives across Canada, he said. More units have been opened in the Yukon for seniors and people living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. And in the next couple of weeks, Leef will be in the territory to announce $600,000 for strategies to deal with homelessness in the Yukon, he said.
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