With the average rent now hovering around $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom condo, the MPs for Port Moody–Coquitlam and New Westminster–Burnaby called on the federal government today, Nov. 16, to ease the cost-of-living bills for their constituents.
NDPer’s Bonita Zarrillo and Peter Julian, whose riding will change next spring to include the Coquitlam enclave of Maillardville, told the Tri-City News that measures need to be in the next fall economic statement to help Canadians keep a roof over their heads, put food on their tables and heat their homes.
The fall economic statement — a kind of federal mini-budget — will be delivered on Tuesday, Nov. 21, by Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal MP.
Standing at the corner of Ridgeway Avenue and Marmont Street in Coquitlam’s Austin Heights neighbourhood, Zarrillo pointed toward the “last piece of affordable housing” stock left in the city while construction crews build high-rises a block south, along Austin Avenue.
“As the federal government stepped away from investing in affordable housing decades ago, and so did the Conservatives, we’re left in this position where people are no longer able to live in the community because they can’t afford rents,” Zarrillo said.
“It’s manifesting all across the community.”
Zarrillo, a former Coquitlam city councillor, said she visited Tri-City schools this week and, at one school in her constituency, 120 students were served breakfast because they don’t have enough to eat at home.
“Families are having a hard time affording groceries because rents are taking up 100 per cent of their income,” Zarrillo said.
Julian also blamed past federal governments for the loss of more than one million affordable units in Canada under their watch: 800,000 homes by the Conservatives and 200,000 under the Grits.
“Things need to change,” he said.
“People are struggling to make ends meet… and what we need is a federal government that shows leadership.”
Specifically, he said, the NDP is calling for the following in the fall economic statement:
- significant investments in affordable housing “and not at the rates we’re seeing now. It’s absurd and regular people cannot pay those kinds of prices,” Julian said.
- use of public lands to build public housing “and not selling them off for luxury condos,” Julian said.
- prevention of renovictions
- removal of GST on food items and home heating
- an excess profits tax against grocery chains
- a national heat pump program
- a national school food program
- an acquisition fund to keep rents affordable
- low-interest financing for post-secondary schools to build affordable student housing
The MPs’ calls to action come as food bank usage across Canda is at a record high and as Loblaws, the biggest grocery chain in the country, reported an 11.7 per cent boost in profits in its third quarter.
Both Zarrillo and Julian are running for re-election; the federal vote is expected to take place on or before Oct. 20, 2025.