British Columbia Premier David Eby says while he had hoped to get more support from Ottawa in his push to solve the province’s housing crisis, two days of meetings with federal policymakers on a wide range of issues was an overall success.
Eby was in Ottawa on Monday and Tuesday along with Housing Minister Ravi Khalon, Economic Development Minister Brenda Bailey, Transportation Minister Rob Fleming, Attorney General Niki Sharma, Tourism Minister Lana Popham and Nathan Cullen, the minister of water, land and resource stewardship.
They attended sit-down meetings with Justin Trudeau and his ministers to discuss how federal government support and financing is needed to create much-needed housing in B.C., where average rents have sky-rocketed and many residents struggle to find and pay for housing that meets their needs.
“I think the greatest success of these meetings is continually advancing our relationships with the federal government to the point now, when we sit across the table we’re able to speak quite frankly and openly,” he said at a media availability Tuesday.
“The biggest challenge remains the issue of housing and how we’re going to really push the envelope.”
Eby said he tried to get Ottawa excited about undertakings in B.C. such as using public land or relationships with First Nations to come up with housing projects. He did not announce any new funding or legislative changes around the issue from his meetings.
Eby said he did not get any firm commitments from Trudeau or federal Minister of Housing Sean Fraser. The Trudeau government is still working on a new national housing strategy.
“We need new models and need a strong federal government presence there,” said Eby. “We didn’t make as much progress as I’d hoped, but I still hope we’ll be able to get there. They will not find a better partner across Canada to tackle this issue.”
In a post on the website X, formerly Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he and Eby discussed housing, clean energy growth and Indigenous partnerships when they “touched base” on Monday.
“Great to meet with [David Eby], … as we focus on getting more homes built for British Columbians,” said Fraser in a post on X.
In order to solve the housing crisis we need to be at the table working with mayors, city councillors, and premiers to get more homes built for Canadians at prices they can afford.<br><br>Great to meet with <a href=”https://twitter.com/Dave_Eby?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Dave_Eby</a> today as we focus on getting more homes built for British Columbians. <a href=”https://t.co/K8ssSxwTop”>pic.twitter.com/K8ssSxwTop</a>
On Tuesday, the federal government announced an additional $20 billion in financing available for developers looking to build rental units.
Eby also asked the Trudeau government for more information about the death of Sikh advocate Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C, in June.
Last week, Trudeau told the House of Commons that Canadian intelligence services were investigating “a potential link” between the Indian government and the murder of Nijjar.
On Friday, Eby said he “strongly” suspects the federal government is holding back information that could help the province protect residents with connections to India from foreign interference.
He said his briefings so far have been limited to information publicly available.
He was assured by the prime minister and the federal public safety minister that legislative changes were underway to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act that would address that “blockage,” said Eby — “to ensure we can have fair elections and make sure communities are safe, particularly communities that may be targeted by foreign governments, and that we’re able to address trans-national crime like money laundering effectively, true information sharing.”
Trudeau and Eby also discussed how the federal government could better support provinces in responding to emergencies such as wildfires and floods.
Eby’s visit comes as British Columbia nears the end of a record-breaking wildfire season where more than 2,200 fires have burned nearly 25,000 square kilometres.
Last month, Canada’s premiers wrote to Trudeau asking for a meeting to discuss future infrastructure investment across the country.