Housing market initiatives, defence spending key takeaways for Manitobans in 2022 federal budget: experts

Housing featured prominently in the government’s 2022 federal budget, but one expert says the programs in it won’t be enough to address the dearth of affordable housing options in Manitoba.

The 2022 federal budget is 280 pages long, but there are only five references to Manitoba in it, and no specific programs for this province. 

A huge chunk of this year’s budget — $10.1 billion — is directed at housing, including the creation of a tax-free housing savings account and a new “housing accelerator fund” aimed at creating 100,000 new units over the next five years. 

The Liberals are also banning foreigners from buying non-recreational residential property in Canada for two years, and pledged to prevent people from buying a home and flipping it in the same year. 

These are steps in the right direction, but won’t be enough to address the housing affordability crisis in Manitoba, especially for those who are low-income or homeless, said Josh Brandon, a housing advocate with the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

“It will help some people get into the housing market who might not otherwise. The other side of it is that by bringing more households into the housing market, it could end up driving other prices even higher,” he said. 

The budget also contains $1.5 billion for new affordable housing units, on top of existing commitments, and almost $3 billion earmarked for repairs. Combined, those two commitments could create 10,000 new units, and fix up more than 17,000 units in need of repair.

Brandon said he would have liked to see more in this area, given that Canada has been rapidly losing affordable housing units over the past decade. 

“It’s a big hill to climb to get to housing affordability. Let’s hope that this gets us at least one step in the right direction.”

In a statement, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs said they were happy to see investments in housing, particularly the $4 billion allocated to addressing housing shortages in First Nations over the next seven years, but said more is required. 

Two RCAF CF-18 Hornet fighter jets conducted a flyby over Winnipeg. The regional headquarters for NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canada air and maritime defence command, is located in Winnipeg. (Royal Canadian Air Force/Twitter)

Defence spending could benefit Winnipeg

Another big item in this year’s budget is defence spending, with the biggest chunk of new money earmarked for a multi-year modernization of NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canada air and maritime defence command, which has its regional headquarters in Winnipeg. 

That may translate into infrastructure spending in the city, said Andrea Charron, director of the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba. 

“You know, some of the things like the infrastructure troubles we have and being able to absorb the new amounts of data that will come with NORAD’s modernization will be something that certainly we need to look at at the headquarters,” she said. 

“But beyond that, it’s also making sure we can recruit and retain and train new people with new skills, because digital transformation is going to be the foundation of a lot of these new modernization efforts.”

The budget also places a huge emphasis into carbon capture and getting people into electric vehicles, including money aimed at offsetting the cost of buying these vehicles. 

However, Durdana Islam with Manitoba’s Climate Action Team says what’s really needed in Manitoba is the infrastructure for electric cars. 

She said the federal and provincial governments need to make it easier for people to use these vehicles by funding more charging stations. 

“So you’re not making it easy for me to use electric vehicles because there’s no infrastructure, right? And there’s no incentive.”

Premier Heather Stefanson did not comment on the federal budget Wednesday. 

Meanwhile, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said he was disappointed to see no new money for transit.

The Manitoba government will unveil its 2022 budget next Tuesday, April 12.