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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities Sean Fraser, left, and mayor of Halifax Mike Savage, makes a housing announcement in Dartmouth, N.S. on April 2.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

The federal government says it is launching a multibillion-dollar fund to pay for infrastructure needed to build housing and will bypass any provinces that object to the requirements to deal directly with municipalities, prompting some provinces, including Quebec and Ontario, to quickly reject the program as an intrusion into their jurisdiction.

The program, announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, would require provinces to agree to a list of conditions to access the money, including eliminating single-family zoning and allowing fourplexes by default. Ontario Premier Doug Ford already ruled out such a policy last month.

Mr. Trudeau has previously faced pushback on other housing-related policies, including the Housing Accelerator Fund, which imposed similar requirements on municipalities and prompted premiers to threaten to use legislation to prevent Ottawa from dealing directly with local governments. The potential standoff over housing money looms as the Prime Minister is also fighting with the majority of premiers over their objections to the consumer carbon tax.

The government said the program could be worth up to $6-billion, with $5-billion available to the provinces and the rest earmarked for municipalities to build infrastructure for water, waste water, storm water and solid waste – all needed for new housing development. But Housing Minister Sean Fraser said the government is prepared to go around any provinces that don’t agree to the fund’s conditions, which also include freezing development charges and adopting changes to the national building code.

“We will be working with partners, and where provincial partners won’t implement the measures that will help solve the housing crisis, we’re going to work directly with the cities that will,” Mr. Fraser told a news conference.

The federal government is giving provinces until Jan. 1, 2025, to secure a deal and April 1, 2025, for the territories.

With the House of Commons on a two-week break, the Prime Minister has been disclosing key pieces of the budget in a series of announcements ahead of its April 16 release.

Hours after the Prime Minister’s announcement, the Quebec government rejected the plan, with the province’s ministers of Canadian relations and housing saying the Trudeau government should tackle the housing problem by addressing issues of federal responsibility such as immigration.

“We could never accept that the federal government interfere in our areas of jurisdiction while urgent issues under its responsibility are not taken care of,” said the statement issued by ministers Jean François Roberge and France-Élaine Duranceau.

“If the federal government wants to help solve the housing problem, it should correct, as of right now, the outsized proportion of asylum seekers directed to Quebec.”

The office of Paul Calandra, Ontario’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister, said municipalities have told the province the No. 1 obstacle to building homes is a lack of housing infrastructure, but a spokeswoman pushed back on imposing blanket zoning rules to access the money.

“We know that local municipalities know their communities best and don’t believe in forcing them to build where it doesn’t make sense,” Justine Teplycky said.

The province’s latest budget pledged an additional $1.8-billion for housing-related infrastructure. Mr. Ford said last month that the province wouldn’t force cities to allow fourplexes everywhere.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said he wasn’t surprised that there were “all kinds of conditions” on the funding.

“It’s unfortunate for them right out front to put a condition where if you don’t agree we will go directly to the municipalities,” he said. “I think that’s kind of unfair statement.”

Sam Sasse, a spokesperson for the Saskatchewan government, said multiplexes that work in cities such as Vancouver and Toronto aren’t a high priority in Saskatchewan. He said the government is worried that Tuesday’s announcement could come at the expense of other infrastructure projects the province needs.

Representatives of other provinces cautiously welcomed the new funding but some said they were surprised not to get any advanced warning.

B.C. Premier David Eby said he’s seen some of the broad details of the federal housing announcement and that it appears to endorse his province’s own plan.

“We think it’s critically important to tie infrastructure funding to a clear commitment to build housing, to respond to the needs of the people of British Columbia,” he told a news conference.

Mr. Eby said it’s been “frustrating and challenging” that provinces haven’t had infrastructure funding from Ottawa.

A spokesman for Alberta’s Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister, said it wasn’t possible to comment because the province did not have any details.

Tom Urbaniak, a professor of political science at Cape Breton University, characterized the announcement as a smart political move.

“Pierre Poilievre has been successful in framing the housing problem as a Justin Trudeau problem, and so Justin Trudeau has now calculated that he has a kind of room to manoeuvre in terms of treading on provincial jurisdiction,” he said.

“And what this also does for the federal government is it allows for a parade of good-news announcements from now until the election campaign starts. Especially this year, because they created that deadline for agreements with the provinces, presumably there will be agreements of some sort with most provinces.”

Meanwhile, Matti Siemiatycki, director of the Infrastructure Institute at the University of Toronto’s School of Cities, wondered whether billions of dollars would be enough to persuade provinces to change their approach.

“Across a country as big as ours, given how many housing units are needed, it doesn’t go as far one would hope that amount of money would,” he said.

With a report from Eric Andrew-Gee in Montreal and The Canadian Press

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that some, not all, provinces reject the housing program announced April 2.

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