$600,000 for homelessness sparks municipal council debate over spending contingency funds days after budget approval
Gatineau, like many major cities, has been experiencing a housing and homelessness crisis over the past three years. During a special municipal council meeting on December 11, the council approved an expenditure of 616 495$ to support the homeless population. This led to a debate within the council. The concerns voiced focused on the source of the investment, which is being taken from the contingency fund.
The funds will be used for the organization of a homelessness summit in 2024 to mobilize the community around structuring solutions, hiring additional resources in security, social development, and community relations, and in the operational needs associated with various communities of unhoused individuals in Gatineau, most notably “tent city”.
The first to voice their concern was Buckingham councillor Edmond Leclerc. “When I look at the nature of the elements, like a summit on homelessness, I don’t believe this is an unexpected expense. These investments are essential, pertinent, and necessary but not unexpected,” he said. “I can’t understand why this investment is being taken from the city’s contingency fund, especially since we approved the budget less than a week ago.”
Gatineau approved its 2024 budget on December 5.
Leclerc’s concerns were echoed by colleague Steven Moran, Hull-Wright councillor, who asked “Why were these investments planned for in the budget we just approved?”
The city administration explained that the contingency fund is being used because the investment is not a recurring sum.
“We just voted on a budget and we’re already going into the contingency fund. That is where my discomfort lies. The source of the funds. The homelessness situation is not unexpected. We have been living this for a while,” said Steven Boivin. “I want to invest funds into fighting homelessness, but I can’t figure out why, days after approving the budget that we said was the best budget, we are now spending 38% of the contingency budget.”
Simon Rousseau, director general, was firm that this expenditure does not put the city’s finances at risk. France Bélisle reiterated that using the contingency fund is justifiable, since the non-recurring sum will be used to meet needs that have arisen over the past few weeks.
“There are going to be unexpected expenditures in 2024, we are going to need the contingency fund and we are going into the new year having already used 38% of it,” said Leclerc.