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Victoria mayor welcomes climate, housing, homelessness support in federal budget

Marianne Alto wants more transit funding for cities
Victoria mayor Marianne Alto said federal commitments around combating climate change, building affordable housing and more protection from natural disasters will help the city be livable and sustainable. (Jake Romphf/ News Staff)

The head of B.C.’s capital sees positives in the federal budget that was unveiled on March 28, but said Ottawa needs to follow through on its commitments.

Mayor Marianne Alto said the budget will help improve the livability and sustainability of Victoria as she sees federal commitments around combating climate change, building affordable housing and more protection from natural disasters especially notable.

“Cities are on the front lines of fighting climate change. As a coastal and Island community, Victoria is especially vulnerable to climate change and its effects on oceans,” she said in a Thursday statement.

The mayor added she applauds federal funding to protect the Southern Resident killer whales and she’s excited to compete in a challenge that rewards cities with millions in funding for taking innovative climate resiliency actions.

Budget 2023 puts almost $32 million over the next three years into a new low-cost insurance program that aims to protect households that are at a high risk of flooding and lack adequate insurance. Such a program is welcome news for ocean-side communities, Alto said.

“People need to be able to access affordable property insurance so that natural disasters don’t lead to unnecessary financial disasters,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s plan states.

The budget includes bolstering the Urban, Rural and Northern Indigenous Housing Strategy with $4 billion over seven years, starting next year. The program is still being developed with Indigenous partners, according to the budget, after an initial $300 million was committed to it in 2022.

Alto said repeated delays of that strategy have harmed Indigenous housing projects in Victoria and called for its funding to begin flowing to projects this year.

All levels of government need to collaborate on ambitious complex care supports to meet the connected issues of mental health, substance use and homelessness, the mayor said. Alto said the Substance Use and Addictions Program being renewed will help Victoria deploy needed harm reduction, treatment and prevention programs.

Health Canada has received $144 million over five years for that program, which will roll out in 2023 and fund community-based supports like a safer supply, supervised consumption sites and other evidence-based health interventions.

While recent budgets have made key investments in infrastructure and transit, the capital city mayor said municipal assets are still struggling. Alto wants the government to speed up work on a promised $3 billion annual transit fund and double another yearly program that puts about $2.5 billion into helping pay for public transit.

“Investing in sustainable transportation and transit is central to creating livable cities and attaining Canada’s emissions reduction goals,” the mayor said.

READ: Five things to know about Canada’s electricity overhaul as budget spurs clean tech


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Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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