Manitoba’s Liberal party is pledging to provide $15 million for housing construction in northern First Nations communities per year if elected as the government in April.
The funding would increase in subsequent years once the budget was balanced, party leader Rana Bokhari told reporters in Winnipeg Jan. 18.
“This is our commitment to those communities that we will work with you in partnership to make sure that your communities have the housing requirements they need,” said Bokhari. “Basic necessities of life. Nobody should be struggling for that.”
The Liberal leader said the housing situation in Manitoba First Nations communities, including many in the province’s north, is an embarrassment and that it isn’t good enough for the province to wait for the federal government before taking action.
“Manitoba has been facing a humanitarian crisis in our First Nations communities,” said Bokhari. “One of the biggest embarrassments for our province in terms of government is the fact that they've never addressed the housing crisis and taken a leadership role and that they've always waited for the federal government to come on board. The Manitoba Liberal party is taking leadership role in this and regardless of whether or not the feds are on board or not, which I believe they will be, we are committed to taking and addressing the First Nations northern communities housing crisis head on. This is a humanitarian issue and Manitobans are Manitobans are Manitobans and the fact that we feel like it's OK to play political football with people's lives living just a few kilometres north, it's unacceptable and our generation will not accept that and our party will not accept that.”
Decisions about where the money will be spent will be made in consultation with leaders from communities in dire need of housing, says Bokhari.
“We’re going to get people at the table and that's why some of the community leaders are here [at the announcement] today because we're going to start that conversation about what exactly that looks like in terms of housing,” she said. “That's why the candidates are here as well because they're somewhat of our northern caucus and they will be taking the lead on all of this.”
And while waiting for the federal government to come to the table before taking action is not an option, Bokhari said she feels Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government will be a willing partner in improving housing on First Nations.
“I have every bit of confidence in our federal government,” the provincial Liberal leader said. “I believe in the fact that they understand that this is a crisis now and we just can't keep doing the same thing over.”