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New budget addresses homelessness, food security, mental health: Longfield

Longfield said the focus lies on getting through the pandemic before we can begin to recover and rebuild
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MP Lloyd Longfield. GuelphToday file photo

With the federal budget released Monday, MP Lloyd Longfield feels he’s got a solid group of tools under his belt to help the people of Guelph.

While the main focus remains getting through the pandemic, he said his top priorities remain addressing housing, food insecurity and mental health. 

“When I was elected, I gave myself some priority areas to work on that I thought Guelph needed the most help on and I’m now sorting the budget on those areas,” said Longfield.

He said housing remains a large priority which includes long-term care housing, supportive housing and women facing domestic violence, especially during the pandemic. 

He said he feels that Guelph is a lot closer to eliminating homelessness as a result of the budget. 

The federal government extended its rapid housing initiative into next near by budgeting $1.5 billion for the program. The government was overwhelmed with applications for the $1 billion rapid-housing initiative which launched last year to address urgent housing needs.

“All the work has been done. The preliminary work has been done with Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation,” said Longfield. 

The federal budget also includes $140 million to support food projects across Canada. 

Last fall, the feds distributed over $320,000 to organizations across Guelph to improve food security for residents facing social, economic and health impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know those projects. We know who they are and that means that we can continue the good work the organizations in Guelph have been doing to deliver food to seniors, to provide for people that are struggling in different ways,” said Longfield. “That’s another key area for me to be working on and it's in the budget.”

He said a large focus with the new budget is also helping not-for-profit organizations who haven't been able to raise funds while helping the community during the crisis. 

“That’s going to help Guelph through the United Way, through community foundations.”

In terms of childcare, he said organizations like the YMCA of Three Rivers Guelph and Guelph Community Health Centre will directly be on the support line to improve childcare and early childhood development.

The new budget has a five-year goal of investing nearly $30 billion toward supporting not-for-profit child care. The plan aims to cut fees in half for parents with children in regulated childcare by 2022 and has a goal of reaching $10 per day on average by 2026. 

“We have a lot of work to do and now we have the funds for the work we’ve committed to,” said Longfield. 

He also highlighted that many Guelph companies will benefit from the carbon capture and storage technology with the new budget.

Longfield said one of the topics discussed at the health research caucus is the mental health surge that will take place after the pandemic.

Budget 2021 proposes $45 million in the next two years toward developing mental health standards, over $100 million in the next three years for projects with innovative mental health interventions for those disproportionately impacted by COVID, and $50 million for the next three years to support trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder related to the pandemic. 

“I've been doing things around digital mental health and there's $62 million just for this coming year for the Wellness Together Canada portal. I've been working with Harvard University on this as well as the Homewood Research Institute to provide better online mental health services for people,” said Longfield. 

“This is a win for Noah. He’s been pushing for these things,” said Longfield about Guelph mental health advocate Noah Irvine. 

“We had many coffees in the Tim Hortons on Imperial and Highway 24 talking about how Canada can do a better job on mental health and there’s now funding in this budget for mental health standards for Canada.”

He also added that with the budget proposing to extend the wage subsidy, the rent subsidy, and lockdown support moving from June to September 25, businesses will have more support getting through the pandemic. 

He said the focus now lies on getting through the pandemic, and then the focus will be on recovery and rebuilding.