Question re: Housing action plan - April 27, 2015

Mr. Silver: In this year’s budget, there is $240,000 for a housing action plan. This is good news. The bad news is that it has been over two years since a former Yukon Party minister proudly boasted his government’s plan to develop a housing action plan for Yukoners. It was March of 2013 when this announcement was first made.

Two years later, Yukon residents who have, and continue to struggle with, housing issues are asking, “Where is the plan?” This is yet another item that falls under the unfinished-business column when it comes to this government’s track record.

The question is: When will this long-overdue plan be released to the public?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: As the member knows, the housing action plan is being undertaken by groups of NGOs — all of the partners involved in housing issues throughout the Yukon.

The plan is in final draft, but until the budget is approved, the department cannot proceed with implementation. We are moving forward and in due time, this plan will come to fruition.

Mr. Silver: With all due respect, it has been a few budgets now since this announcement of an action plan. I am pleased to see the government is spending the last of the affordable housing money. Some of it is actually even being spent on affordable housing.

It took nine years, so I’m sure the minister can understand my reluctance to jump to my feet and applaud and hopefully he’ll answer some questions that I have here today. For example, it is interesting that the government chose to spend the money before the housing action plan was put in place. Proper planning would have seen a plan developed and then spending decisions being made to implement that plan. The government is doing it backwards and that comes as no surprise as we’ve watched this government over the years. It’s the same approach that they have taken with respect to many issues — for example, implementing decisions in mental health without a plan.

Mr. Speaker, why did the minister make these major spending decisions without having a plan in place?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: I guess I don’t understand what the problem seems to be with the member opposite, but this money is being spent with collaboration and tons of planning. Many organizations, many NGOs, many different walks of life have got together and given input on this. I mean, I didn’t just step in as the minister and say, “Oh boy, we have $6 million or $7 million to spend. Let’s get it done.” This government has talked to a lot of people. The housing action plan is just a part of this. The housing action plan doesn’t direct how all the money is going to be spent on Yukon Housing projects for the next 100 years.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of thought put into this and this government continues to listen to the people and spend the money wisely.

Mr. Silver: I will give the new minister credit for getting this money out the door. It is certainly more than his predecessors accomplished. The only serious attempt made at addressing affordable housing collapsed last summer due to political interference by this government. It is disappointing, however, to see its willy-nilly approach behind it. There is no coincidence that big announcements are being made as we near a territorial election. These pre-election announcements are typical strategies used by the Yukon Party. They believe Yukoners have a short memory and will forget that this money was hoarded away through some very, very difficult times for people who needed that money. At this point in time, one has to ask the Premier why he didn’t help those who were in need in the past and why he has chosen now to announce spending on housing issues only now that there’s a lead-up to the next election?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: There is no confusion on this side of the House, but there certainly is confusion with the Liberal leader.

As we’ve heard him say recently and through this session — telling us to spend the money; spend the money. Now he stands up and says, “How can you spend the money when you don’t have a plan?”

The only confusion that we see is on the other side of the House. We have invested over $150 million into housing. We have built seniors residences in many communities and we currently have a seniors residence under construction here in Whitehorse and also in Mayo.

This government has been committed to housing and committed to ensuring that not only are we building houses, but we’re creating jobs for Yukoners.