AMBM President and Reeve of the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie, Mr. Ivan Normandeau, issued the following statement following the release of the Federal Budget 2024:

The AMBM welcomes this week’s Federal Budget 2024. We note in particular the announcement of major investments that will help tackle the ongoing housing crisis that is significantly slowing the development of communities across Canada.

Investing in housing and related municipal infrastructure

To tackle the housing crisis effectively, we also need to invest in related infrastructure. According to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), to build the 5.8 million homes planned by 2030, existing infrastructure will have to be renewed and new ones built. At present, municipalities collect only about 8 to 10 cents of every tax dollar to make the necessary investments in infrastructure that are essential to housing construction efforts; an amount that is well below the required level. We are pleased to see that the Budget recognizes that investment in infrastructure and housing are interrelated, and that they are fundamental to meeting housing challenges and sustaining the country’s growth.

Overall, the AMBM recognizes the importance of the investments contained in Budget 2024 to address the housing crisis, including:

  • The new $6-billion Canada Housing Infrastructure Fund (CHIF) to accelerate housing construction, including $1 billion for urgent municipal infrastructure needs such as drinking water and wastewater treatment management. Manitoba alone faces a billion-dollar deficit in drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
  • An additional $400 million to the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF). Many of our rural members are eagerly awaiting the green light to resubmit their applications to this Fund, totalling over $40 million. None of these requests, initially submitted to the HAF in 2023, were accepted. We will be keeping a close eye on the details surrounding the announced enhancement; it must include a significant rural lens to really make a difference.
  • A new Canadian Rental Protection Fund (CRPF), expected to provide $470 million in subsidies over five years, as well as $1 billion in loans to support affordable housing in Canadian communities.
  • The addition of $500 million over five years through the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program (GICBP), for municipal community, cultural and recreational buildings. Our members have benefited from this program in the past and intend to apply again in the next call for projects.
  • Implementation of the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s (CIB) Infrastructure for Housing Initiative (IHI), launched in March 2024 with an initial commitment to invest up to $140 million (in the form of a loan) in new water and wastewater infrastructure in southeastern Manitoba, notably in the bilingual Rural Municipalities of Ritchot and Taché, while supporting their sustainable growth, with the creation of additional housing.

Importance of supporting municipalities in accommodating record demographic growth

We note, however, that this Budget provides no financial support for local governments to help address the many issues associated with record population growth in their communities. More than ever, municipalities need a bold, visionary solution to the challenges they face on the ground. At our level, compared to 2016, the 2021 Census shows that bilingual municipalities recorded an average population increase of 8.1%, exceeding the overall Manitoba average of 5%. And this growth continues. Hence the importance of negotiating a new permanent framework for municipal growth involving all orders of government. In doing so, our communities would have the resources to offer their residents the quality of life they expect.

Other measures of interest

We would like to acknowledge the announcement of certain measures of interest to our communities and subsidiaries in the Federal Budget 2024:

  • The investment of over $2.1 billion to make zero emission vehicles more affordable, and over $1 billion to build more charging stations across Canada. Our subsidiary Eco-West Canada (EWC) is ready to continue its partnership with the Government of Canada for the installation of charging stations across the Prairies and Western Canada.
  • A commitment of $4.1 billion towards the ongoing implementation of the Action Plan for Official Languages (APOL). We are confident that the deployment of the APOL will adequately support the continuous improvement of municipal, provincial/territorial and federal government services in both official languages. We also expect it to support government leadership and greater collaboration between all orders of government on official languages.
  • The provision of $26 million over five years, starting in 2024-2025, to the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages to support the implementation of an Act for the Substantive Equality of Canada’s Official Languages. In particular, the implementation plan should apply an OLMC development lens as part of infrastructure funding programs.
  • Measures to support the growth of the skilled rural workforce, such as encouraging health professionals to work in rural communities and doubling the tax credit for volunteer firefighters from $3,000 to $6,000. Legislative amendments to the Canada Student Financial Assistance Act and the Canada Student Loans Act have also been promised to extend the student loan forgiveness program to early childhood educators working in rural and remote communities (allocation of $48 million over four years, starting in 2025-2026, and $15.8 million per year thereafter). All these measures are in line with our Strategy to Support Economic Immigration in Manitoba’s Bilingual Municipalities, in terms of regionalization of immigration and skilled labour.

Ultimately, we feel that the Government of Canada’s Budget 2024 takes convincing steps to provide solutions to the country’s widespread housing shortage. We hope that this will translate into sufficient infrastructure investment for the country’s rural communities.

We are committed to working with our municipal partners, including the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and other orders of government, to implement the new and expanded programs identified in the Budget.

The AMBM is the voice of bilingual municipal leadership in the province of Manitoba. It represents 15 local governments committed to offering services in both official languages to their citizens. Together, these municipalities represent the majority of Manitoba’s population. Manitoba’s bilingual municipal leadership is also at the helm of the AMBM Group, a consortium of three complementary organizations: the AMBM, the Economic Development Council of Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities (Conseil de développement économique des municipalités bilingues du Manitoba, or CDEM) and Eco-West Canada (EWC), which specializes in the green economy. These three complementary organizations actively contribute to the development, vitality and sustainability of the province’s Official Language Minority Communities (OLMCs) and the province as a whole.

Information: Office of the Chief Executive Officer (O-CEO), 204-289-4077, [email protected].

Federal Budget 2024: investing to tackle the housing crisis