Canada’s Alternative Budget Urges Feds To Step Up To The Social Housing Plate

A summer crowd waiving Canadian flags watches a Canada Day parade
Canada Day Parade 2015 photo by GoToVan is licensed under CC BY 2.0
"Budgeting as if people mattered" . . . Canada Day, 2015, Vancouver, BC.

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives issued its 2020 alternative budget just as the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.1 This budget aims to shift public spending to improve the quality of social programs for all Canadians and raise the incomes of people below the poverty line.

The alternative budget calls for increases to federal spending on affordable housing, noting that at present the federal government is spending $1 for every $13 that is being invested by others. The proposed federal expenditures would enhance the National Housing Strategy programs. This would mean:

  • more new housing for people with low incomes
  • new housing for people who need support to live successfully in housing
  • more repairs to existing social housing
  • more non-market housing units
  • more funding for allowances to make housing more affordable for people with very low or no income
  • more funding for housing in remote communities and
  • more funding for people of indigenous origin.

The alternative budget would also increase the incomes of people with very low or no income by funding public pharmacare, more child care subsidies, lowering post secondary education costs and raising the level of the guaranteed income supplement, which is paid to seniors.

It also includes income protections for people affected by COVID-19. People affected by the collapse of the petroleum industry would be eligible for training to shift to green employment.

Regardless of income, all households would receive more publicly funded services.

This sounds like a lot. How would this be paid for?

The programs are funded through three measures. Some programs would be cut. One example is the subsidies that go to the oil sector through tax expenditures. Some households would see their taxes rise, specifically those earning more than $450,000/year. The tax increase would be $17,500 for those households. Third, government would borrow more money than currently planned. The amount it would borrow would rise less than 1% of GDP.

For more on this interesting document, see the CANADIAN CENTRE for POLICY ALTERNATIVES/CENTRE CANADIEN de POLITIQUES ALTERNATIVES: New Decade, New Deal —Alternative Federal Budget 2020
The programs for homelessness and housing are described on pages 41 to 43.


  1. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives/Centre Canadien De Politiques Alternatives is a public policy think tank and charity. It first alternative budget was issued in 1995: 2020 marks its 25th consecutive budget. It is described by its authors as  “budgeting as if people mattered”.
    Based in Ottawa, it has branches in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. It reported revenues of $5 million in 2016 from three sources: project funding, (for specific research (46% of total)) and general support from individuals (41%) and organizations (13%). has reported two earlier CCPA/CCPA research projects about housing. Try: Why Canada’s Rental Housing Market Should Be An Issue In The Federal Election and From Vancouver, BC: Housing Unaffordablity From A Human Rights Perspective


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