by Morinville News Staff
The NDP is calling on the UCP government to immediately ban evictions in the province, saying Albertans need legislated protection from being evicted for inability to pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
NDP Leader Rachel Notley held a press conference Tuesday and was joined by videoconference by a number of Albertans currently facing evictions.
The Opposition is critical of Premier Jason Kenney’s statement during a press conference Monday that there was currently no need for such measures, instead, encouraging landlords to “do the right thing.”
During his 2 p.m. press conference, Kennet said many currently facing evictions were tenants with rent arrears predating the COVID-19 crisis. The Premier also pointed out that landlords needed to be able to safeguard properties from tenants who vandalized property or who were conducting “grow ops”.
“The Premier doesn’t get it,” Notley said. “This isn’t about who is a bad landlord or who is a bad tenant. This is about making sure not a single person is asked to vacate their homes while people are being asked to stay home and self-isolate. Kicking people out into the cold during a global health pandemic is unconscionable.
“You can’t stay home during a public health emergency if you don’t have a home to stay in.”
Among those supporting Notley during her press conference is 25-year-old MacEwan student Hayden Lewis who rents an apartment downtown with his mom. Both Hayden and his mother have been laid off and are awaiting approval of their employment insurance applications. In the meantime, Notley says the upcoming April rent is a challenge for the two Edmontonians.
“If we could work, we would pay our rent but we can’t. It’s not our choice,” Lewis said in a media release Tuesday. “The property management company doesn’t view us as human beings worthy of being protected, we’re just profits to them. An eviction ban would be a good first step toward helping us have the time to get on EI.”
The NDP sees a disadvantage for renters in that Alberta’s major chartered banks are allowing landlords to defer their mortgage payments, but renters must pay their rent.
“Our landlord is getting mortgage relief but we’re getting nothing,” said Hannah Stone a West Edmonton Mall retail worker, laid off when the mall closed. “We have no choice but to move and uproot our whole life. We can’t be in self-isolation for long because we now have to look for a new place or risk being kicked out of our home. It puts us at risk of contracting COVID-19. We don’t have the luxury of being able to stay home now. That’s extremely stressful.”
The Alberta NDP Caucus say they have heard from many Albertans unable to pay April rent and have been told by those renters that eviction proceedings will start at that time.
The NDP is calling for an immediate ban on evictions related to non-payment, something they say British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec have all announced some form or another. They do supportive evictions related to criminal activity.
“Jason Kenney needs to stop grasping for reasons to justify evicting people in a pandemic,” Notley said. “Rent is due in six days. There’s still time for Jason Kenney to do the right thing and work with us to pass a temporary ban on evictions, but he needs to stop blaming renters and start showing leadership.”