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Advocates call for ambitious N.L. budget that will boost housing, health care and firefighter services

Tents are set up in view of Confederation Building, the seat of government in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)
Tents are set up in view of Confederation Building, the seat of government in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Ryan Cooke/CBC - image credit)
Tents are set up in view of Confederation Building, the seat of government in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Tents are set up in view of Confederation Building, the seat of government in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last fall, tents popped up outside Confederation Building and became a symbol of the growing housing crisis in Newfoundland and Labrador. Advocates say housing should feature prominently in Wednesday's budget. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Ahead of the provincial budget that's ready to be tabled on Wednesday, advocates are hoping for big investments into housing, health care and firefighting services.

End Homelessness St. John's executive director Doug Pawson is calling for ambitious targeted investments to build affordable housing units.

"Last year we saw commitments of 850 units to be built. But we know year over year, we need more than 1,500 just in St. John's alone to meet projected targets by 2028," Pawson told CBC News.

There are different tools to getting more houses beyond construction, said Pawson, like introducing rental subsidies for houses on the private market.

Pawson anticipates housing will feature prominently in the budget.

End Homelessness St. John's executive director Doug Pawson anticipates that housing will feature prominently in the budget.
End Homelessness St. John's executive director Doug Pawson anticipates that housing will feature prominently in the budget.

End Homelessness St. John's executive director Doug Pawson anticipates that housing will feature prominently in the budget. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

"We have a new dedicated minister of housing, so it's clearly on the provincial government's agenda, which is deservedly so," Pawson said.

He said the recent decision by the provincial government to spin housing off into its own department with a dedicated minister is a good start to tackling the problem, but he said the minister's mandate needs to be broader than just being responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.

Infrastructure boosts

Municipalities N.L. president Amy Coady, who's also a councillor in Grand Falls-Windsor, is interested in whether the budget will contain support for housing at a time when infrastructure costs are rising.

In order to build additional houses, she says, municipalities need to identify land for development, look at policies and procedures, and figure out how to make it easier for people applying for land to build on.

Municipalities N.L. president Amy Coady is hoping the budget will address housing as well as increases to firefighter services.
Municipalities N.L. president Amy Coady is hoping the budget will address housing as well as increases to firefighter services.

Municipalities N.L. president Amy Coady is hoping the budget will address housing as well as increases to firefighter services. (Nathan Wells/CBC)

"Our communities can't grow if people don't have places to live. So unless we can provide those types of places to live, then our communities will just remain stagnant," said Coady.

Coady will also be looking at the budget for boosts to training for municipal councillors, as well as support for firefighting and emergency services.

She added that municipal firefighters are being called on to attend to more than just local house fires, such as responding to motor vehicle accidents and hazardous waste spills.

Protest ahead of budget

Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees members gathered outside of Confederation Building on Tuesday morning as part of their campaign against private-partnership projects.

Union president Jerry Earle said it was a deliberate choice to stage a protest the day before the budget is due to be delivered.

NAPE president Jerry Earle says holding a protest ahead of the budget was meant to send a message to government on privatization.
NAPE president Jerry Earle says holding a protest ahead of the budget was meant to send a message to government on privatization.

NAPE president Jerry Earle says holding a protest ahead of the budget was meant to send a message to government on privatization. (Darrell Roberts)

"It's to send a message to the Furey team, the minister of finance, minister of [transportation and infrastructure], that we certainly hope we don't see indications in the provincial budget that they continue to contemplate this process," Earle said.

He said the government has been considering private-partnership projects for the past few months.

"So our message is; that is not on for these workers, it is not on for their union and we certainly hope we don't see indications in this budget."

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