Ontario demands $200-million from Ottawa to cover cost of resettling asylum seekers

July 27, 2018

By Global and Mail |

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government says it will send the federal government a $200-million bill to cover the costs of resettling thousands of asylum seekers who illegally cross the Canada-U.S. border.

In the latest escalation of tensions between the province and the federal Liberals, Ontario Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod said she will send a letter to Ottawa itemizing the costs of the border crossers. She said the $11-million Ottawa set aside to help Toronto deal with the added costs is a far cry from the $74-million tab the city will rack up this year in shelter costs for asylum seekers.

“What I’m simply asking is that they pay their bills,” Ms. MacLeod said on Tuesday after an emergency meeting of the House of Commons immigration committee in Ottawa. “I would love a cheque.”

Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the federal government had not received a request for funding as of Tuesday evening. He underlined the government’s interest in continuing to work with Ontario, despite its decision earlier this month to withdraw the province’s support for the resettlement of asylum seekers who cross the border illegally.

“We will be, of course, ready to continue to provide financial and other supports to provinces moving forward, but we would need to work with them to figure out what those costs are and to also make sure that they’re doing their part,” Mr. Hussen said after the committee meeting.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair told the committee that 800 asylum seekers will be moved from college dormitories in Toronto to hotels in the Greater Toronto Area by Aug. 9 to make room for the arrival of students.

“I’m aware that plans have already been made to move those individuals into quite appropriate housing in hotels around the GTA,” Mr. Blair told the committee.

Mr. Hussen later told CBC’s Power and Politics that the hotels are in fact for 540 people, who are expected to be there for two months and then transition to more permanent housing.

Mr. Blair, who visited the main unofficial border crossing at Lacolle, Que., on Monday, told the committee that front-line law enforcement and border services personnel are performing their duties in a professional and “highly effective” manner.

“What I observed was the exact opposite of chaos. It was exceptionally orderly and well-planned,” he said.

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