Remarks at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Annual Conference
We’ve got a lot to discuss today, and first and foremost, I must begin with the horrific discovery of First Nations children buried at the former residential school in Kamloops.
Our country failed them.
It failed their communities and their families.
That is the truth and it is a truth we must all face.
We know that the school in Kamloops was not an isolated incident.
We know that the work continues to discover what happened to children lost in the residential school system.
And we know that the harm done by these schools continues generations later, and that Indigenous peoples still face discrimination and systemic racism.
Over the weekend, cities and towns from coast to coast to coast half-masted their flags. Thank you. It is vital that as a country we all acknowledge this appalling and shameful policy of residential schools.
In the weeks and months to come, there will be much, much more work ahead.
Yesterday, I met with my Cabinet to discuss our next steps on concrete action to support survivors, families, and Indigenous peoples.
This is work we must all be part of.
Because as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action remind us, any efforts to repair the terrible wrongs done by residential schools can only happen if every order of government takes action alongside Indigenous peoples. This is all of Canada’s responsibility as we walk together on the path of reconciliation.
Hundreds of children were buried in an unmarked grave. That happened here, in our country.
They had their futures stolen.
Their families and their communities never saw them again.
Canada failed them.
And as a country, we must now always choose to do better.
Every time that together we face challenges or tragedies, we must always stay focused on our common goal: building a better, more just country for everyone.
That will take hard conversations.
Above all, it will mean we have to face hard truths.
That is our only way forward.
I’ve been coming to the FCM’s annual conference every year for almost a decade, now.
In that time, we’ve done a lot together. But as I look back at this past year, I don’t think there’s ever been a moment where we’ve worked more – or better – as partners.
From day one, we knew it would take a true Team Canada effort to beat this pandemic.
And yes, there were lots of calls and check-ins with many of you on local hotspots and emergency efforts.
But I’m also talking about a Team Canada approach that goes deeper. An approach where we all come together around a common goal, and each do our part to get there.
Just take the vaccine rollout.
We worked hard early in the pandemic to position our government well to negotiate vaccine contracts, handle the international shipments, and coordinate supplies.
The provinces and territories are delivering these vaccines to the frontlines.
And you, as municipalities, are getting people out to vaccine clinics, including with public awareness campaigns that ensure no one is left behind.
For all of your outstanding work, thank you.
And it just goes to show what we can achieve with a real team approach.
Over half of Canadians have gotten at least their first vaccine dose.
In many places, cases are down and local businesses are able to start reopening.
Now, I’m not saying our work is done. In fact, quite the opposite.
Cities like Winnipeg are still being hit hard by COVID-19. And right across the country, the impacts of this pandemic continue to be felt on the frontlines, in the budgets of municipalities, and by communities wondering when mainstreets will be back to normal.
That’s why we doubled the Canada Community Building Fund – formerly known as the Gas Tax Transfer – and created the Safe Restart Agreement so you can support your communities.
And it’s why we invested to help many municipalities balance your budgets and give hardworking Canadians tax breaks.
Standing together has brought us this far.
It’s saved lives and kept small businesses afloat.
So once this pandemic is over, and hopefully it will be soon, what reason could we have to not continue to use this Team Canada effort?
This is our moment to continue working together to make life better for people across the country.
Already, even despite the pandemic, we are moving the dial on critical projects. I think of broadband, of wastewater, or of what we’re doing to make sure people are safe. In fact, I know that Minister Monsef is meeting with you this week to talk about how we tackle online hate to stop it from transforming into violence against women and girls.
In the last few months, we’ve taken major steps on projects like transit to support cities and towns. This spring, we announced billions of dollars for permanent public transit funding – including targeted funding specifically for rural communities and regional transit.
Whether by getting people connected or creating jobs, these investments will make a real difference.
And I know that together, we can – and we will – do even more.
That brings me to something else that matters for all of us and for all Canadians – housing.
In too many places, owning a home is too far out of reach.
After all, how’s a young family somewhere like Vancouver supposed to put away enough money when regular houses cost upward of a million dollars? And in Canada’s largest city, it now takes almost 280 months for an average family to save for a down payment.
Look, owning a home is a big investment, so it makes sense to rent or stay with family while working towards a down payment.
But 23 years to save for a house?
That’s just not reasonable.
Young people aren’t facing a housing problem, they’re facing a housing crisis.
We’ve got a generation of Canadians who are starting their lives – and maybe hoping to start a family – without the same opportunity as their parents or grandparents to get a first home, and build equity and their future.
Things need to change, and that’s what our government is focused on.
Now, you know better than anyone that there’s no silver bullet for the housing crisis. That’s why, over the last 5 years, we’ve come at this from every angle.
We created the National Housing Strategy, which has meant more than a million people now have an affordable place to live.
We launched the new Rapid Housing Initiative – something I know many of you advocated for – to make sure Canadians have a safe place to stay during and beyond this pandemic.
At the same time, we’ve made it easier for young people to get into the housing market with the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive.
And just this spring, we announced a tax on vacant or underused homes held by foreign owners. After all, a home is a place to live, not a place to park foreign wealth.
Of course, the housing crisis isn’t just about owning a home. For some people, even renting isn’t an option.
In a country like Canada, and during a year like the one we’ve had, no one should be spending a night on the streets.
And I know that you are on the same page.
Hosing is a fundamental right. We recognized that in the National Housing Strategy Act.
And with investments in the National Housing Strategy and added support for programs like addiction treatment, we have committed to ending chronic homelessness in Canada. Of course, we will do this with you as partners.
My friends, the bar is high, but it is within reach. Because let’s remember what this means for people.
For the senior who now has a roof over her head.
For the kids with the safe home they deserve.
For the parents building a good life.
For them, and for all Canadians, we must keep pushing forward.
The levers needed to take on the housing crisis exist at all orders of government – from zoning and approvals, to consumer protection, to mortgage rules.
We have to take this on together. So I want you to know that, as always, our government is here to be your partner.
Through the FCM, you’ve asked for a more formal, recurring dialogue on housing affordability.
Well here’s my commitment to you today: the federal government will be at that table. We’re bringing our resources and our tools to the discussion.
In fact, just yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Freeland met with big city mayors to discuss how we make housing more affordable for the middle class. This is just the first of many discussions that she and Minister Hussen will be having with you and with municipal leaders from across the country.
Together, as municipalities and the federal government, we can do a lot. But let’s remember that a true Team Canada approach needs everyone onside.
That’s why we will also be reaching out to our provincial and territorial partners on finding solutions to the housing crisis.
We all have a part to play in making homes more affordable for Canadians.
In the last year, we have seen the kind of results we can get by working together. So let’s harness that momentum as we rebuild better, stronger, healthier communities for everyone to call home.
Whether to help people buy a home, keep our air clean, or rebuild thriving mainstreets, our work continues, for today and for tomorrow.
As in any partnership, there will be times when may not agree and times when we see things differently. That’s normal. That’s healthy. But together, we will find common ground and solutions that work for every city, municipality, and region.
What we have been able to accomplish over the past years and what we will continue to accomplish because we all have the same goal – is rebuilding a stronger country for everyone.
Together, I know we will make that happen.
Thank you, my friends.