An Open Letter: Housing and Infrastructure Deficiencies in Perth—Wellington
December 21, 2022
The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Hussen,
I am writing on behalf of the nine municipalities in Perth—Wellington, each of which continues to struggle to provide adequate housing and infrastructure for my constituents. Unfortunately, these struggles have been perpetuated by policy failures of the Federal Government.
Your Government’s National Housing Strategy is simply not working.
The impacts are being felt across Canada, including in every part of Perth—Wellington. Over the past seven years, my constituents have seen growing inadequacies in housing, from home ownership falling out of reach for young people to extreme shortages of rental units, to a lack of senior-friendly housing options; the situation is unacceptable.
The primary level of Government responsible for housing should be the municipal governments which are closest to the people they serve. The Federal Government should provide the necessary financial support to allow municipalities to conduct their work as quickly and efficiently as possible. It should not be creating complicated federal programs or additional layers of bureaucracy.
Every Mayor and Councillor I speak with in Perth—Wellington would like to develop more affordable and attainable homes in their municipalities. However, in order to create more housing our rural municipalities need to build roads and increase their water and wastewater capacity. It is decisions made at the federal level that are hindering their ability to do so.
As I have informed you and your Cabinet Colleagues on multiple occasions, the current application-based method of distributing federal dollars to municipalities is a disadvantage to our small and rural municipalities.
First, small municipalities do not have the resources to keep a professional grant writer on staff. These applications must be written and the process overseen by a member of their existing staff, likely their Chief Administrative Officer, who must do this work in addition to their other duties. A rural municipal CAO does not have the ability to dedicate enough time to compete with a full-time grant writer in a large city.
Second, even for funds that are accessible to rural municipalities, the applications are not open frequently enough. This puts municipalities in a position of having to wait, not knowing when they will be able to apply for much-needed funding. This often creates conflicts with their own budgeting processes and makes it more difficult to plan and prioritize their own local projects. For example, at least one municipality in my constituency has been waiting approximately two years for the Rural and Remote Homelessness funding stream to be opened for applications so it has the opportunity to apply.
Rural municipalities deserve fair, stable, and predictable formula-based funds to support their infrastructure needs. For many years, this approach has been successfully implemented through the Gas Tax Fund and should be replicated in other types of federal-municipal transfers.
Lastly, I would like to highlight that during the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ event held in Ottawa from December 6th to 8th the Prime Minister met only with the Big City Mayors’ Caucus. This disappointing decision did not go unnoticed.
It is choices like this that furthers the impression in our rural communities that your Liberal Government cares only about Canadians living in large urban centres.
Once again, I must encourage all Cabinet Ministers to truly listen to all sizes of communities and municipalities in order to ensure rural communities will finally be respected and considered in federal policies and programs.
John Nater, M.P.