Feds, Alberta set to clash over cash for new rent supplement

Feds, Alberta set to clash over cash for new rent supplement

OTTAWA — Alberta is pushing back against the Trudeau Liberals’ expectation that provinces and territories pick up half the cost of a new rent supplement, asking instead to substitute federal funding for their own.

The promised supplement was originally proposed as a joint funding venture between the federal and provincial governments.

But in negotiations over the funding arrangement, Alberta officials have sought to have their existing spending count towards the cost-matching approach instead of increasing funding as other provinces have said they would.

The details of the behind-the-scenes talks were provided to The Canadian Press by multiple people with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity, either because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss federal work, or to ensure relationships with governments and agencies weren’t compromised.

What has housing advocates concerned is that the new supplement may have limited effects if spending doesn’t increase as originally envisioned.

A spokeswoman for Alberta’s housing minister says the province hopes to finalize a funding arrangement with Ottawa to streamline provincial rental assistance programs.

“We are working with the federal government to reach an agreement under the Canada Housing Benefit to better support Albertans in need of housing and our government hopes to co-ordinate this new federal funding with our rental assistance program,” said Natalie Tomczak, press secretary to Alberta Housing Minister Josephine Pon.

“This will reduce duplication in the application process and ensure Albertans in need of housing can access the supports they need quickly and efficiently.”

What makes the new rent benefit unusual is that it will be tied to a person, rather than a social housing unit — meaning tenants won’t lose the supplement if they move out of social housing, but rather get to apply it against the rent in a private unit.

The supplement is part of the federal Liberals’ decade-long housing strategy and is slated to cost $4 billion when accounting for collective spending by federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The supplement spending is part of what the parliamentary budget officer has noted is $11.7 billion in cost-matching from provinces and territories contained in the Liberals’ housing strategy, which is billed as carrying a $55-billion price tag.

Cost-matching provisions could lead lower levels of government to shift existing funds to meet federal demands without an overall increase in spending, the budget watchdog warned in a report earlier this year.

Pon spoke with her federal counterpart, Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, on Nov. 28. In a statement at the time, she said that Alberta’s “key unilateral spending commitments” made as part of “a sustainable financial framework” must be treated as cost-matching under the housing strategy.

The housing benefit wasn’t mentioned by name in the statement.

“The federal government must respect how, when and where provinces choose to spend our money in areas of core provincial jurisdiction,” Pon’s statement at the time said.

Even though the housing benefit is mentioned in deals provinces and territories signed with Ottawa to get money through the Liberals’ housing strategy, the main agreements didn’t contain the fine print about the rent benefit. The Liberals have to sign separate deals for that because the benefit is tailored to fit with each jurisdiction’s unique needs and programs.

The first such deal was signed with Ontario this month. Each side is to put up $730 million over eight years for a $1.46-billion total.

At an event in Ottawa announcing the agreement, a Liberal point man on the housing file said different provinces are challenged by different economic constraints, but argued spending a little more on housing could save governments money in the long-term from things like reduced health care costs.

“This initiative, small at start, is going to free up other resources to tackle some of the other challenges we have in the housing sector,” said, Toronto MP Adam Vaughan, Hussen’s parliamentary secretary.

Quebec remains the only province that hasn’t signed funding agreement to be part of the national housing strategy, but Vaughan said a deal is close.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(File photo by Advocate staff)
Zero tax increase approved by Red Deer city council for 2021 and 2022

City council passed operating budgets for the next two years on Thursday

Red Deer city council approved a $39.6 million police budget for 2021, up for inflationary reasons from $37.9 million in 2020. (Black Press file photo).
Red Deer city council retains police funding, while also launching a crisis team

De-funding police is not a conversation in this municipality

Alberta reported an additional 1,854 cases of COVID-19 Thursday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories)
Red Deer has 289 active cases of COVID-19

Province now has 17,743 active cases

The Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre in Red Deer has new owners. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Cambridge Hotel in Red Deer has new ownership group

‘They’re making an investment in this iconic hotel for the future,’ says general manager Gil Vallee

The new Gasoline Alley Farmers Market officially opened on Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Gasoline Alley brewery a collaboration between brewers and farmers

Red Deer County’s newest brewery has been built from the ground up… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Volkan Bozkir, President of the seventy-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly, chairs the General Assembly: General Debate, during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, at UN headquarters in New York. The U.N.'s first virtual meeting of world leaders started Tuesday with pre-recorded speeches from some of the planet's biggest powers, kept at home by the coronavirus pandemic that will likely be a dominant theme at their video gathering this year. (Rick Bajornas/UN Photo via AP)
UN chief: Vaccine can’t undo damage from global pandemic

UN chief: Vaccine can’t undo damage from global pandemic

This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in a scene from "Wonder Woman 1984." The film isn't skipping theaters or moving to 2021, but it is altering course. The last big blockbuster holdout of 2020 is still opening in U.S. theaters on Christmas Day but it will also be made available to HBO Max subscribers free of charge for its first month, Warner Bros. said Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020. (Clay Enos/Warner Bros Pictures via AP)
In seismic shift, Warner Bros. to stream all 2021 films

In seismic shift, Warner Bros. to stream all 2021 films

Shawn Mendes is shown in a scene from "In Wonder" in this handout photo. Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes says the much buzzed-about shower scene that opens his new Netflix documentary was a result of great trust between himself and the director. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Netflix *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Shawn Mendes says ‘In Wonder’ shower scene was a result of great trust with director

Shawn Mendes says ‘In Wonder’ shower scene was a result of great trust with director

Elliot Page poses for photographs on the red carpet for the movie 'Freeheld ' during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, in Toronto, on Sunday, September 13, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Elliot Page coming out offers historic visibility for trans and non-binary community

Elliot Page coming out offers historic visibility for trans and non-binary community

Patrick Guimond, owner of One Eleven Grill, has made a desperate plea to the premier to help restaurants who are struggling with the new COVID-19 restrictions. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
700 reservations cancelled: Red Deer business owner makes impassioned plea to Premier

Patrick Guimond had simply reached a tipping point. The owner of One… Continue reading

The Canada Revenue Agency building is seen in Ottawa, Monday April 6, 2020. Opposition MPs pressed officials Thursday to say how pared they are to begin collecting GST on sales by foreign companies such as Netflix, AirbnB and Amazon starting next year, as proposed by the Liberal government. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs probe officials on ability to collect GST from Netflix, other foreign companies

MPs probe officials on ability to collect GST from Netflix, other foreign companies

An Airbnb logo is shown during an event in San Francisco on Feb. 22, 2018. Airbnb says it has a plan to curb New Year’s Eve parties this year in the wake of COVID-19, after a short-term rental was the site of a 60-person party in Mississauga last weekend. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eric Risberg.
Airbnb rolls out restrictions in Canada to prevent New Year’s Eve parties

Airbnb rolls out restrictions in Canada to prevent New Year’s Eve parties

Bay Street in Canada's financial district is shown in Toronto on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
S&P/TSX composite again creeps higher as investors digest solid November gains

S&P/TSX composite again creeps higher as investors digest solid November gains

Most Read