Stand Up for Public Housing Releases Campaign Results: Greens, Liberal and NDP Support Federal Funding for Public Housing Renewal; Conservative Party and Candidates Non-Responsive

TORONTO, Oct. 15, 2015 /CNW/ - Three of the four main parties in the federal election support federal funding for the renewal of Canada's public housing stock, and are open to having Ottawa pay a one-third share of the $2.6 billion required to repair Toronto Community Housing units over the next eight years, the Stand Up for Public Housing campaign announced today.

The citizens' group represented by three former Ontario MPPs for the Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic parties, including two former Ministers of Housing, launched a grassroots campaign three weeks ago aimed at making funding for public housing a key issue in the October 19 federal election.

"Stand Up is today declaring its campaign a success," said co-spokesperson David Warner, a former NDP MPP and Speaker of the Legislature. "All four parties have taken clear positions on federal funding of public housing renewal. Three of the four parties – the Greens, Liberals and NDP – support including public housing renewal in the definition of public infrastructure qualified to receive federal funding, and are open to Ottawa funding a one-third share of the $2.6 billion cost of renewing Toronto's existing public housing stock."

"For voters who want to take federal funding for public housing into account on Monday, the party positions provide clear information on which to make decisions. Stand Up urges voters to understand the party positions, and vote accordingly."

"We're very proud today to claim some victories," said co-spokesperson Dennis Timbrell, a former Conservative Minister of Housing. "For public housing residents, by putting the quality of public housing on the map in this election. For voters at large, by validating and bringing to the fore, public housing as a social issue that a great number of them care deeply about. And with the candidates and parties, by getting them on the record with commitments on funding for public housing."

"Stand Up for Public Housing is launching this weekend a direct voter contact program targeted at residents of Toronto public housing," said co-spokesperson Alvin Curling, a former Liberal Minister of Housing. "Using phone and in-person contact, Stand Up is undertaking to mobilize the 120,000 eligible voters in Toronto public housing, and encourage them to get out and vote on Monday. On a riding-by-riding basis, Stand Up will urge public housing households to understand where the parties and candidates stand on federal funding for public housing, and to support parties and candidates who stand with them."

Since September 24, the Stand Up team has contacted candidates for the four main parties in the 25 Toronto ridings to ask them to take a position on changing the definition of public infrastructure to include public housing renewal, and on Ottawa contributing one-third of the $2.6 billion cost of renewing Toronto's existing public housing stock.

Conservative candidates declined to respond, telling Stand Up the funding of public housing renewal is "a municipal issue." The Conservative Party of Canada did not respond to Stand Up's request to provide a policy platform position on its questions.

In total, 21 candidates support changing the definition of public infrastructure to include public housing renewal, and support Ottawa contributing one-third of the cost of renewing Toronto's public housing, including to date:

Green Party (six candidates):  Colin Biggin, Toronto-Centre; John Johnson, York South-Weston; Angela Salewsky, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Dan Stein, Davenport; Lindsay Thompson, Scarborough Centre; Chris Tolley, Toronto Danforth

Liberal Party (four candidates):  Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Beaches; John McKay, Scarborough Guildwood; Adam Vaughan, Spadina-Fort York; Arif Virani, Parkdale High Park

New Democratic Party (11 candidates):  Hal Berman, York Centre; Andrew Cash, Davenport; Laura Casselman, Scarborough Guildwood; Olivia Chow, Spadina-Fort York; Tanya De Mello, Etobicoke Centre; Faisal Hassan, Etobicoke North; Akil Sadikali, Don Valley North; Craig Scott, Toronto-Danforth; Mike Sullivan, York South-Weston (deputy housing critic); Andrew Thomson, Eglinton-Lawrence; Phil Trotter, Etobicoke-Lakeshore.

Midway through the candidate contact period, as many candidates for the Liberals, NDP and Greens declined to provide individual responses and deferred to their official party positions, Stand Up asked the parties to provide policy platform statements on its two key questions and received the following responses:

The Liberal Party promises to spend $20 billion on Canada's social infrastructure over the decade beginning with 2016-17, including $5.65 billion in the first four years, through what it calls the New Building Canada Fund. In correspondence with Stand Up, Liberal policy staff specified: "The social infrastructure fund is available for the refurbishment funding that you are referring to (in addition to building)."

The NDP provided a response recognizing that Toronto Community Housing's $2.6 billion renewal plan requires support from all three levels of government, and committing to renewing federal investment in long-term housing agreements in the amount of $7.6 billion over the next decade with $2.7 billion to be spent in the first four years. They promise to "work with Council and the Mayor to identify priorities and dedicate funding accordingly." They say "this funding will be used to renew long-term social operating agreements where necessary and for capital repairs for existing social housing, in order to ensure that existing social housing is not lost. In Toronto alone, over 16,500 units of social housing will be saved by renewing the operating agreements."

The Green Party of Canada provided this statement: 

"The Green Party recognizes that the capital stock of social housing has been lacking in maintenance. It's time the federal government gets back into the business of investing in social housing, instead of offloading its responsibilities onto cash-strapped municipalities. For these reasons, the Green Party of Canada supports revising the definition of public infrastructure that qualifies for federal funding to include the renewal and repair of Canada's existing public housing stock. Within this funding framework, the Green Party of Canada further supports the federal government funding a one-third share of the $2.6 billion cost of capital repairs to public housing units in Toronto, matching the city's one-third contribution initiated in 2013.

The Green Party of Canada sees renewal of public housing infrastructure as a prime target for energy retrofits. Significant savings in operating costs, and recovery of renewal investment, can be realized by municipalities ensuring energy-efficient renewal and repair. The Green Party of Canada's Climate Plan can revamp Canada's public housing first."

With the party positions clearly articulated, Stand Up will continue to reach out to candidates who have yet to take individual positions and ask them to indicate where they stand. Updated results will be posted at s4publichousing.org over the duration of the campaign.

Stand Up will continue its advocacy campaign beyond election day, with the party and MP focus to be determined when the outcome of the election is known. With three of the four federal parties expressing support for federal funding of public housing renewal, Stand Up will expand its campaign to include securing provincial support for public housing renewal, to ensure all three levels of government contribute their share.

SOURCE Stand Up for Public Housing

For further information: or to arrange interviews with Stand Up for Public Housing spokespersons, please contact: Danna O'Brien, 416-500-0699, danna@obriencommunications.ca

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