First posted: Sunday, August 27, 2017 03:14 PM EDT | Updated: Sunday, August 27, 2017 03:22 PM EDT
This is a case where you want to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth.
Ontario Housing Minister Peter Milczyn has just announced plans to make “major investments in social housing repairs and retrofits” across the province.
“Helping Ontario’s most vulnerable find stable housing is critically important to our goal of ensuring everyone in the province has a safe place to call home,” Milczyn said in announcing a five-year cash commitment of $657 million.
Except that’s not what’s happening.
On the surface, the announcement is good news for residents in Toronto’s dilapidated social housing homes and apartments, and for the City of Toronto, which has a $2.6-billion social housing repair backlog and unsolvable social housing crisis.
Toronto will get about half the funds Milczyn announced, but here’s the rub
All the money, the minister’s office confirmed, is earmarked for green energy renovations, not what’s actually needed — cash to fix units and buildings so run down from neglect and abuse that they are uninhabitable.
As Mayor John Tory wrote in letters to provincial MPPs earlier this year: “Without immediate support, the City of Toronto expects that 400 units will be at risk of closing this year and 600 units will be at risk of closing in 2018.
“That’s 1,900 of the city’s most vulnerable residents at risk of losing their homes in two years,” he wrote.
Apparently not a single Liberal MPP, not Milczyn nor Premier Kathleen Wynne responded, until this past week with a green energy retrofit program.
So instead of cash for worn out kitchen cabinets, broken toilets and new floors, the city will get money for building insulation, maybe some rooftop solar panels and new energy efficient windows — “to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money on electricity costs,” the province said in a release.
All of which is good for the environment, and without doubt will be some help to TCHC. Ontario’s electricity bills are the highest in Canada, thanks to the Liberal government’s disastrous mismanagement of this province’s energy infrastructure. So if this green cash lowers TCHC’s energy bills, that’s a plus.
Tory was gracious in acknowledging the funding gesture from Queen’s Park, as was TCHC. But it might be compared to handing a pair of new jeans to a starving man — appreciated perhaps, but the gift doesn’t address the real problem.
Meanwhile, the cash Milzcyn plans to dole out will come from the Liberal government’s new cap-and-trade carbon tax, which will make everything from gasoline to groceries more expensive for consumers.
But it will do little to lift desperate tenants out of dangerous, sub-standard public housing, which is somewhat ironic given Milczyn is also minister responsible for poverty reduction.
Forced to choose between helping people in dire and chronic need, or virtue signalling about global warming, the Liberals chose the latter.
Wynne has repeatedly suggested the next election campaign will be about “fairness.” Given the Liberals have had 14 years to fix the social housing “downloading” mess they blamed on Mike Harris in opposition, it’s clear this government has no idea what that means.