Assembly of First Nations says $350B needed for housing, infrastructure

A new report from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) says $349.2 billion is needed to fix housing and other infrastructure after decades of “underfunding, failed fiduciary duties, and unfair distribution of Canada’s wealth as a country.”

The report, prepared with the federal government department of Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), was released Tuesday and signals what the AFN will be looking for in the upcoming federal budget on April 16. “The federal budget request outlined in this historic First Nations-led report is a fully substantiated cost estimate based on years of AFN technical studies, First Nations engagements, and decades of ISC records,” according to the report, Closing the Infrastructure Gap by 2030.

The year 2030 is referenced because the Liberal government pledged to “close the housing gap” by then – something Canada’s auditor general says is highly unlikely. Karen Hogan, in a scathing review released March 19, said ISC and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) – an arms-length agency that funds housing – have made “little progress” repairing and building new housing in First Nations.

Hogan said that ISC and CMHC “have been mandated to work with First Nations to meet their housing needs by 2030. We found that 80% of these needs were still not met with 7 years left before 2030.” First Nations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta have been shortchanged by $274 million, Hogan said, because CMHC used outdated data to determine funding.

Neither ISC, CMHC nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will say whether those nations will receive compensation. The AFN report expands the underfunding theme to include “education, healthcare, connectivity, and other capital buildings and services across First Nations communities.”

Infrastructure includes housing, water systems, road access, climate adaptation, connectivity and accessibility. AFN lists the financial infrastructure needs in each province and territory as: British Columbia, $70.7 billion; Ontario $58.9 billion; Saskatchewan $50.8 billion; Alberta $49.3 billion; Manitoba $48 billion; Quebec $28.1 billion; Northwest Territories $17.8 billion; Atlantic Canada $15 billion and Yukon $10.6 billion.

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