Statement from the B.C. Urban Mayor's Caucus on Federal Budget 2021

On behalf of the B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus, Co-Chairs Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps released the following statement following the tabling of Federal Budget 2021.

“Today’s Federal budget includes measures that will help safeguard and improve the livability and sustainability of municipalities across B.C. during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, while, most importantly, supporting the health of our citizens.

“We are pleased to see many commitments in the budget, including on pandemic support programs, housing affordability, and mental health services, that align with our B.C. Urban Mayors’ Caucus Blueprint, which presents a vision to address the most pressing issues facing cities across B.C. as we fight and recover from COVID-19.

“We welcome the extension of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy and lock-down support until September. We call on the government to collaborate with all stakeholders on the optimal design of those programs going forward and the right parameters for their eventual tapering.

“The shortage of affordable housing continues to be a critical issue in our communities and dedicated federal attention to the issue is an essential part of the solution.

“The budget allocations of $1.5 billion for the Rapid Housing Initiative in 2021-22 and $600 million for the Affordable Housing Innovation Fund are crucial re-investments in programs that have increased the affordable housing stock in our communities. The decision to re-allocate $1.3 billion in other affordable housing spending to this fiscal year from later years also demonstrates that the Federal government understands the urgency of this matter.

"It is also heartening to see that mental health services and substance use treatment are a major focus of the budget. We know that the pandemic has been hard on many people.

“New funding announced today for the Substance Use and Addictions Program, to support harm reduction, treatment, and prevention at the community level, is a needed investment that empowers our communities to participate in addressing the opioid crisis and other forms of substance use. The funding allocated for mental health supports for those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, like health care and front-line workers, youth, seniors, Indigenous people, and racialized people, will also be invaluable in the coming months and is the kind of prevention needed ensure these situations don’t become chronic.

“Finally, prior to the budget, the Federal government announced potentially transformative investments in public transit, including new permanent funding for municipalities and a one-time top-up of the Gas Tax Fund. As we build back from COVID-19, we know how important clean, affordable public transit is to the growth and competitiveness of our cities. Proper consultation on the design of those transit programs is essential in the near term.

“As the Mayors of B.C.’s largest urban centres, our Caucus looks forward to continuing to work with the Federal government for the benefit of all our residents.”

 

About the BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus

The BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus is an informal, non-partisan group of mayors from Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Prince George, Richmond, Saanich, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria, representing over 55 per cent of the province’s total population. The group came together in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and acts as a unified voice on critical issues facing their communities and urban British Columbia.

The group published the Blueprint for British Columbia’s Urban Future, which outlines four key priorities for urban communities across the province:

  1. Mental Health, Substance Use and Treatment
  2. Affordable Housing
  3. Public Transit
  4. A New Fiscal Framework 

Read the Blueprint.