No new lease on life for tenants’ rights group

By Jeff Meerman

A local tenants’ rights group will close unless it receives funding from the region or the city.

“These aren’t the best of times,” says Dan McIntyre, president and sole remaining employee of the Federation of Ottawa-Carleton Tenants’ Associations. “The federation is on very shaky ground.”

Now it will no longer receive $74,000 from the provincial government and the region just rejected its funding request.

The federation had to lay off two full-time workers two years ago and scale down services.

The group helps about 4,000 renters a year take on their landlords and lobby the government for lower rent.

The last hope for the federation is more funding from the City of Ottawa which already provides $28,000 to $30,000 annually.

Even if the federation gets the money, McIntyre says he needs $48,000 to keep it afloat.

City Coun. Elisabeth Arnold says Ottawa has to cut its budget again this year. That means there probably won’t be any more money for the federation.

“Everything is up for grabs,” says Arnold. “It’s one more example of where the Harris government’s policies are hurting the people that are most vulnerable. Once you destroy an organization, it’s difficult to rebuild it in the future.”

Marni Cappe, head of Ottawa-Carleton’s policy branch, says the region will pay for social-housing programs, like low-cost housing and rent supplements, not funded by the province.

However, the region considers the federation an interest group so it can’t get funding from the social-housing budget.

Cappe says the group will have to apply for a separate grant, which it has already done and been rejected.
The province of Ontario is refusing to pay for social programs it once did leaving the municipalities to pick up the tab. As a result, organizations like the Tenants’ Federation are being left out in the cold.

But whatever happens, McIntyre is leaving the federation for good.

The 48-year-old president says he can’t afford to live off his $35,000 salary anymore because he wants to save some money for retirement.

McIntyre says he would have stayed on as president of the federation, but he’s disillusioned by the government cuts that are forcing his organization into extinction.