Feds to Offer $114M to Provinces, Cities for Asylum Seeker Housing

January 29, 2019 Updated: January 29, 2019

OTTAWA—The federal Liberals plan to spend an extra $114.7 million to help pay for temporary housing for asylum seekers—a sum Ontario’s government criticized as being hundreds of millions short of what is needed.

The influx of irregular migrants has increased pressure on provinces to provide shelter and social services. Cities too have felt the crunch with the mayors of Canada’s largest cities on Monday calling for more federal housing money they say is badly needed.

A spokeswoman for Border Security Minister Bill Blair said the extra spending—referenced among $2.5 billion in new spending plans tabled late Monday by the government—is an acknowledgment that irregular border crossers have had a significant impact in places like Toronto and Montreal.

HEMMINGFORD, QUEBEC - FEBRUARY 23: A family of three is escorted to a police vehicle by a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Canada, February 23, 2017 in Hemmingford, Quebec. In the past month, hundreds of people have crossed Quebec land border crossings in attempts to seek asylum and claim refugee status in Canada. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
A family of three is escorted to a police vehicle by an RCMP officer after they illegally crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Quebec in Canada, on Feb. 23, 2017. In the past month, hundreds of people have crossed Quebec land border crossings in attempts to seek asylum and claim refugee status in Canada. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The money is on top of $50 million the Trudeau government offered to Quebec, Ontario, and Manitoba last summer to help with temporary housing costs for asylum seekers.

The majority of the money, $100 million, will flow to provinces, with the remaining $14.7 million earmarked for temporary housing provided by the federal government.

Breakdown of Funds Not Yet Determined

No breakdown has yet been offered on exactly how much each province or municipality will receive as part of this planned new spending, nor about how decisions will be made on what eligible costs will be covered.

Marie-Emmanuelle Cadieux, Blair’s press secretary, said cost-sharing agreements will be developed with provinces and cities to help with “immediate housing pressures” let local officials make decisions because they are “best-placed to manage pressures felt across their cities.”

However, the new spending falls far short of what the Ontario and Quebec governments say they have spent on irregular migrants, $200 million and $300 million respectively.

MPP Lisa MacLeod in this 2015 file photo. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod in this 2015 file photo. Macleod said that the new $114 spending did not meet the funding request for Ontario and Quebec in a tweet Jan. 29, 2019. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

On Tuesday, Ontario Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod tweeted Tuesday that the new spending is “a full $400 million less than the request from us (Ontario) and Quebec combined.”

MacLeod was not made available for an interview. Her office said the minister provided a cost breakdown in August, and the legislature has asked the provincial auditor general to review Ontario’s asylum seeker costs to ensure transparency.

In July, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen called his provincial counterpart’s hardline stance on border crossers “dangerous” and “not Canadian.” MacLeod, whose provincial department oversees immigration, called Hussen’s comments “divisive rhetoric” and walked away from participating in an ad hoc intergovernmental task force on irregular migration.

The Liberals have blamed the frosty relationship with Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government to explain why some cities didn’t get money to help defray housing costs. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Monday that housing irregular migrants cost his city $5.7 million in 2017, but said federal compensation only flowed to Toronto, which received $11 million last year.

“However ambitious and willing we are to assist cities like Ottawa, we need the partnership of the government of Ontario, and that complicates our relationships with cities across Ontario,” Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos told reporters Monday.

In response, the federal government accused the Ontario government of not playing ball in funding negotiations.

The rest of the $2.5 billion in new money in Monday’s spending plans include $323.2 million for demand-driven services to veterans; $313.9 million for international military missions; $163.5 million to write off unrecoverable Canada student loans; $159 million for arctic and offshore patrol ships and $149.7 million to fund the government’s feminist international-assistance agenda.

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