Protesters demand Martin create affordable housing

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton joined protesters outside Liberal convention to demand more money for affordable housing.

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton joined dozens of protesters in a march to the site of the Liberal leadership convention Friday, demanding that Paul Martin put money into affordable housing.

Demonstrators erected a small wooden house and unveiled a failing report card for the provinces and the federal government on housing.

"Affordable housing programs were eliminated by Paul Martin and we have homelessness in the street as a result. And people have died in our streets," Layton said, adding the budget surplus should be used for affordable housing.

He said he held out little hope that Martin will improve the situation of the homeless, saying his agenda was to help Bay Street during his time as finance minister.

"I think we're going to see more of the same, which is inaction or cuts to programs that Canadians want."

He praised Liberal leadership contender Sheila Copps' speech Friday afternoon, saying "it sounded like it was right out of our policy books."

"On the other hand, she's been part of the same government that's watched our quality of life and rating drop from first in the world to eighth."

Michael Shapcott, co-chair of the National Housing and Homelessness Network, called for an emergency summit and an annual $2 billion for housing.

Liberal MP Steve Mahoney, who as secretary of state for selected Crown corporations is responsible for affordable housing, told the crowd that after Martin becomes prime minister he will convene a meeting with housing ministers throughout the country.

Mahoney was booed when he said he couldn't commit to the $2 billion, but he said he would try to convince Martin that affordable housing should be as important an issue as health care and education.