Peterborough-Kawartha MP Michelle Ferreri told city council on Monday that a lack of housing is the top concern in Peterborough right now — and that it’s the same in cities across Canada.
“This continues to be the biggest issue in our community — and our country,” Ferreri told council.
Ferreri — who was invited to speak to council — said she took that concern to federal Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen.
She said she asked Hussen how she can ensure that Peterborough is considered for a $20-million grant to cover construction costs on a planned seven-storey apartment building on vacant city owned land at 681 Monaghan Rd.
“He stressed to get the application in as soon as possible — but asked that I follow up with him once it is submitted and processed,” Ferreri said.
City council recently directed staff to apply for a grant from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative; the deadline to apply is March 15.
Ferreri said she also arranged lately for Mayor Jeff Leal and Peterborough County Warden Bonnie Clark to meet Marcel Lebrun, the founder of 12 Neighbours, a tiny home community in Fredericton, N.B.
“It is my recommendation that the city allow Marcel to have a presentation to council so you guys can hear directly from him,” Ferreri said.
Local grassroots organization Peterborough Action for Tiny Homes (PATH) has 15 sleeping cabins and is seeking a property for them.
In early December city council had directed city staff to work with PATH to develop a new tiny home plan this winter — including a potential property for the homes.
Meanwhile Ferreri said the cost of living is another pressing concern locally.
“A $100,000 dual annual income just doesn’t seem to be cutting it anymore, for a lot of people,” Ferreri told council. “Inflation is really hurting people. There’s a lot of suffering.”
The opposition Conservatives’ response is to push to “get rid of” the carbon tax, Ferreri said, and to also drop a 6.5 per cent excise tax on alcohol and beer, which she said “will deeply impact” the Canadian tourism industry as it struggles to recover from the lack of travel early in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When the floor was open to questions, only Coun. Keith Riel had anything to ask.
He wondered whether the opposition Conservatives are pushing the government to repeal Bill C-75, which does away with preliminary hearings for less-serious crimes.
It was meant to render the courts more effective and reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous and marginalized people in jail, but Riel referred to it as the “catch-and-release” program for criminals.
Ferreri said the Conservatives are “desperately” seeking reform to the bail system.
“This is in accordance with all 13 provincial and territorial premiers’ request, as well as police chiefs,” Ferreri said. “Repeat, dangerous offenders are a serious risk to public safety. So we are seeking amendments to ensure that those most dangerous offenders stay behind bars.”
Riel also asked whether the Conservatives are pushing the Liberal government to do more to alleviate mental health and addiction concerns in Canada.
Ferreri said this is the most important issue to her — the one that got her into politics.
“We’ve seen a drastic decline in mental health — especially in the last eight, 10, 12 years,” she said. “And the opioid overdose is an epidemic.”
Ferreri said the Liberals promised a $4.5-billion transfer in mental health care funding to provinces, in the last federal election — money that she said has yet to come.
“I spoke directly with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions (Carolyn Bennett) multiple times about this,” Ferreri said.
“The reality is we don’t have systems, we don’t have access to treatment for access to recovery,” she said. “People are waiting (for services)…. And unfortunately, during that time, they’re dying.”
Lack of housing top local concern, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Michelle Ferreri says | ThePeterboroughExaminer.com