Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crown Corporation Weighing in on NDP Housing Bill Surprises Critics

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Crown Corporation Weighing in on NDP Housing Bill Surprises Critics

Article excerpt

Crown corporation weighs in on NDP bill

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OTTAWA - A Crown corporation's decision to publicly comment on an NDP-backed bill is raising questions about whether the Conservative government is using the public service for partisan aims -- again.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. claims on its website that the New Democrats' proposal for a national housing strategy will cost "$5.5 billion per year in rental subsidies alone."

The CHMC did not explain on their website how they arrived at the number nor was it explained by Conservative MPs and their party who used it all day Wednesday in their attacks on the bill.

The sudden emergence of a dollar value from a non-partisan Crown corporation left New Democrats and observers scratching their heads.

Bill C-400 doesn't contain measures that come with a clear price tag -- as an Opposition bill, it can't call for any new spending.

Instead, it calls for all levels of government to sit down with the private and civil sector to draw up a plan to ensure all Canadians have access to housing, using a number of defined parameters.

"A number of times the government referred to a costing study on a New Democrat private members' bill supporting, at last, affordable housing for Canadians," Cullen said in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

"I ask the government to table this document, if it even in fact exists."

Treasury Board President Tony Clement responded that the number comes from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, the federal department that oversees the CHMC.

He said he'd be happy to provide the information.

Late Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for the corporation said they were doing their due diligence.

"The preparation and review of cost estimates on proposed opposition bills is necessary so that the government can make informed decisions. This is not partisan activity," Kate Munroe said in an email.

She said the figure was derived by assessing what subsidies would be required in order to meet the bill's demands that housing costs don't compromise people's abilities to meet other basic needs.

"The bill does not specify who would provide funding for the implementation of the Act, or the duration and limit of funding that would be required," she said.

"This could expose the government to significant financial risk and could place additional financial pressure on provinces and territories through possible implications for health and social assistance programs."

The bill was introduced over a year ago but was up for a vote Wednesday night. The CMHC's backgrounder was posted as the Tories spent the day attacking the bill as being "a dangerous new NDP spending scheme."

The bill was defeated.

The federal Conservatives have long resisted calls for anything that resembles a national housing strategy, though committees in both the Commons and the Senate have recommended such an approach. …

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