Ottawa EMC: Residents rally for housing strategy

July 15th, 2010 by Katie Stewart - OttawaEMC

EMC News- Ottawa residents rallied with ACORN last week to bring awareness and gain support of Bill C-304, which calls for a national housing strategy.

If passed, the bill would require the federal government to bring all levels of government together to enact a plan to increase safe and affordable housing across Canada.

"We need to build affordable housing in Canada. We're the only G8 country without a national housing strategy," said Ottawa ACORN member Sheila Searles, who is also an active tenant leader in her building on Russell Rd. that is owned by Ottawa Community Housing Corporation.

Even though Canada is one of the richest countries in the world, in Ottawa alone, there are over 10,000 people on a waiting list for affordable housing. People can wait close to eight years for a unit to become available and in Ontario, the wait lists have increased by 9.6% in the last year.

"Housing is fundamental. Without stable housing, your education and job are jeopardized, It's essential," said Shannon Lee Mannion, community leader for affordable housing in Centretown. "Affordable housing helps stabilize people. It's a life raft."

Currently, the bill has gained the support from the Liberal, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois parties. When the bill passed its second reading in Parliament in September 2009, all MP's from these parties voted in support of Bill C-304. However, the Conservative government has yet to come on board and support the bill. Only one MP from the party voted in favour of the bill. There are 137 Conservative members of Parliament.

"They don't care because they don't have to care," said Ms. Mannion.

The demonstration of about 30 people on July 8 took place on Carling Avenue in front of the office of Conservative MP John Baird in an attempt to gain support of the bill. Mr. Baird voted against Bill C-304.

"We want John Baird and the Conservative government to give at least some consideration to this bill. This is important. It's a national crisis," said Ms. Mannion.

Andrea Thomas who is a tenant leader on her block in the east end said that the Conservatives who voted against the bill should try living in affordable housing to see how it feels for people who depend it.

"We need more housing and we need to gain the support from the Conservative government," said Ms. Thomas.

When the ACORN group approached Mr. Baird's office to present him with an information sheet, they were refused entry and were eventually ignored.

Mr. Baird's office would not provide a comment to The EMC.

"It you pay tax dollars, you deserve to talk to your MP. It's appalling," said Kat Fortin, supporter of Bill C-304.

Tahir Nazari, who voted for Mr. Baird in the last election, said he would not be voting for him again.

"We should get a response. I am living in Ottawa housing and we are facing problems. No one is helping," he said.

Presently, Ontarians are still waiting for a provincial strategy for affordable housing.

kstewart@theemc.ca