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PQ government won’t wait for Ottawa to fix Nunavik’s housing crisis, candidate says

Parti Québécois scrambles to win back support in final stretch of Quebec election campaign


Ungava MNA Luc Ferland pledges to build housing in Nunavik - with or without the support of Ottawa. (FILE PHOTO)

Ungava MNA Luc Ferland pledges to build housing in Nunavik – with or without the support of Ottawa. (FILE PHOTO)

As the Parti Québécois continues to slide in the polls leading up to the April 7 Quebec election, Ungava MNA Luc Ferland has renewed his party’s commitment to relieve Nunavik’s housing crisis, by pledging to“accelerate” the construction of new homes in the region.

While Quebec’s PQ government has in recent months joined forces with Makivik Corp. to call on the federal government to pay for a catch-up program to build enough housing for all Nunavimmiut, now the PQ MNA says Quebec can’t afford to wait for Ottawa.

“It’s inacceptable that the federal government isn’t playing its part, but at the same time, we can’t leave the population to continue to live in these conditions,” Ferland said. “We know there’s a shortage of 900 homes.”

Ferland did not commit to a number, but said a PQ government, given a clear, four-year mandate, would fund a catch-up program and accelerate the construction of homes in the region.

Ferland said he was responding to series of news stories published this past week in Quebec’s French-language newspaper Le Devoir, one of which contained interviews with some Nunavimmiut families of 10 or more living in two and three-bedroom homes.

Earlier this year, the government pegged the cost of building all that housing at $185 million — a heavy load for Quebec, whose debt was $175.5 billion last year, according to a recent report by the Fraser Institute.

Makivik has said that, by failing to live up to its obligations under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and pay for the construction of housing over a six-year period in the 1990s, the federal government spurred a housing crisis that has today left 68 per cent of Nunavik’s population living in overcrowded housing.

For its part, the Quebec government has spent more than $79 million to build 300 units in Nunavik by 2016 — announced as part of the previous Liberal government’s Plan Nord.

But Ferland said that in addition to building more housing in the region, Quebec must also ensure that housing is accessible to families in Nunavik.

Negotiations are currently underway between Quebec and Inuit leaders to determine a new “more equitable” rent scale in Nunavik.

In December, the Kativik Regional Government and Makivik asked Quebec’s social housing body, the Société d’habitation de Québec, to cancel the eight per cent rent hikes set for 2014-15 until a review of the region’s rent scale can be carried out, taking into account Nunavik’s cost of living.

Social housing tenants in Nunavik have been paying an eight per cent rent increase every year since 2010.

“It’s obvious that a family of 10 shouldn’t be living in a two-bedroom home,” Ferland said. “This (revised scale) would allow people to pay according to their ability.”

Social housing rent is already based on income to some extent, but Nunavimmiut have recently made calls on the region’s housing agency to lower rents.

But the initial hope of working out a revised rent scale before April 1, when the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau is required to inform tenants of rent hikes, was dashed as Quebec entered an election campaign earlier this month.

And each week of the campaign seems to move the PQ farther away from its anticipated majority government, as the Quebec Liberal’s move into position to form a government.

A Légér marketing poll published in the Journal de Montréal March 25 showed the Liberals with 40 per cent support, followed by the PQ with 33 per cent, the Coalition Avenir Québec with 15 per cent and Québec Solidaire with nine per cent.

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