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Smith says she expects Poilievre to work with provinces to give cities housing cash

OTTAWA — Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said Friday she has no problem with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre’s proposal to give municipalities a building bonus to encourage housing construction — so long as he goes through her provincial government. 

Smith gave a speech to conservatives at an annual networking conference in Ottawa, days after tabling a bill that seeks to block Alberta cities from negotiating deals directly with the federal government. 

Speaking to the crowd, she called it the “stay-out-of-my-backyard bill” and said her message to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to stay out of Alberta’s business. 

Formally called the “Provincial Priorities Act,” Smith’s United Conservative Party government said that if passed, it would require entities regulated by the province to seek the government’s permission before changing or entering into a new agreement with Ottawa. 

She said it was prompted by Trudeau’s Liberal government announcing funding deals with individual cities like Calgary and Edmonton under its Housing Accelerator Fund.

After her speech Friday at the Canada Strong and Free Network gathering in Ottawa, Smith suggested the same rule would apply if Conservatives form the next government.

“The policy that we have applies no matter who is in the prime minister’s chair,” Smith said. 

“We expect that they’re going to respect provincial jurisdiction and work with us.”

Smith routinely accuses Trudeau of disrespecting provincial jurisdiction, especially when it comes to advancing policies to fight climate change.

But she said the new housing deals were the final straw. 

Poilievre has proposed his own suite of measures to speed up housing construction, including offering bonuses to municipalities that build more housing — and threatening to withhold money from those that don’t.

He says “government gatekeepers” are to blame for slowing down housing construction, taking particular aim at mayors and city halls with his pitch of “cutting red tape.” 

That’s why Poilievre says his plan to boost the housing supply will be by requiring municipalities to move faster. 

“I would say that as long as he’s working through the provincial government, we’re not going to have any problem with that,” Smith said Friday of his bonus proposal. 

She added that she believes it is “totally inefficient” for a federal government to strike specific deals with different municipalities.

“That is the very definition of red tape,” the premier said. 

Poilievre’s office did not directly respond to Smith’s assertion that she expects a future Conservative government to work through her government to deliver housing cash. 

Instead, Ontario MP Scott Aitchison, who serves as the party’s housing critic in Parliament, said in a statement that Trudeau has failed on housing, accusing him of prioritizing photo ops by making funding announcements under its $4-billion housing accelerator fund. 

“Common-sense Conservatives will reward those who get homes built and punish gatekeepers that block homebuilding,” Aitchison said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 12, 2024. 

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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