BLUESKY BRIEF - August 26th

We are twelve days into the #elxn44 campaign and making housing affordable to Canadians has become a big election issue. According to University of British Columbia professor Paul Kershaw, the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and the Greens have stepped up their focus when it comes to offering Canadians options to assist in making housing across the country more affordable. You can watch his full interview on the topic on CBC’s Power & Politics. And here is what we know about their plans:

Liberal Party of Canada A Home for Everyone plan

Conservative Party of Canada pg 54 of their Recovery Plan

NDP pg 10 of the party’s 2021 commitments

Green Party of Canada Homelessness and housing affordability plan

From the desk of Geoff Turner, Vice President

Early campaign polling showed that nearly 80% of voters say they would be more likely to support a political party that was actively campaigning on promises to address housing affordability and access for first-time homebuyers. In fact, 15% of Canadians are directly worried about making their next rent or mortgage payment. That equals approximately 4.5 million people making it one of the most important issues for them in our human hierarchy of needs, not just in politics.

Each party has distinctly different approaches to making a difference for Canadians feeling pinched, or outright left behind. Buzzkill economists will tell you that reducing closing costs, lower mortgage insurance premiums or subsidized down-payments, without drastic increases to housing supply, will only add to the frenzy and price inflation. And any political operative will tell you those are table stakes for voters feeling priced out of the market, and to hell with the eggheads. However, as with most things federal, the path to actual bricks and mortar runs through provincial jurisdiction – whether that’s social housing construction (Liberal, NDP) or tying transit or other funding to incent land-use planning changes that encourage new, market-price housing supply (Conservatives). These are the governing details, like with the economists, that may glaze the eyes of voters.

What pops out, especially if you’re under 40 and feel steamrolled by the real estate hunger games, are the game-changers that are most in the face of those trying to break into the market. The Liberals’ plan to ban blind bidding and predatory speculator behaviour, a legal right to a home inspection, and requiring more transparency and cracking down on conflicts of interest by self-dealing real estate agents or mortgage brokers, is easily understood by those who don’t feel in control of the housing game currently being played.

From the desk of Neil Brodie, Vice President

Affordability is becoming an issue in this election that all 3 major parties are fighting to be heard on. It’s not surprising seeing inflation over 3% for the past several months. Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have been shocked to see the price of real estate climb since the beginning of the year. It’s not just confined to Toronto or Vancouver, the Maritimes, cottages and residential housing in small population centers have seen prices attain record highs.

We are not building enough homes to keep up with Canada’s growing population. This is a big part of why homes are getting harder and harder for Canadians to afford. Mr. O’Toole is campaigning on a plan to build one million new homes, ease mortgage rules, control foreign ownership of housing stock and work with other levels of government to increase the supply of rental properties. The Liberal Party is offering much of the same promises and will continue a program where the government buys your house with you. However, after six years and commitments of over $70 billion, there is still no end to unaffordable housing in Canada.

Before the election, the Liberals floated some trial balloons of taxing the capital gain of your house but that hasn’t been discussed during the campaign. It is worth remembering that the carbon tax was not discussed during the 2015 campaign but less than a year later there was a national carbon tax.

From the desk of Cameron Holmstrom, Consultant

It’s rare to see all three major parties come out with a substantive policy that responds to one specific issue in the same campaign. Normally someone will try to duck or pivot to something else instead of fighting it out in the policy arena. Yet in this campaign, none of the major parties are trying to avoid the issue of housing.

They have all come to the table with proposals, which speaks to just how important this issue is to the electorate. What’s a more basic need than having a place to call home? The cost of housing has been rising for years and took another sharp jump during this pandemic. With few homes being built and even fewer rental units available, the cost has soared far beyond the suggested 30% of household income that should go towards paying for housing in too many places.

This has mostly been a big-city phenomenon for years. But with COVID untethering some peoples’ jobs from their physical offices, many people have flooded out of those cities to buy homes in other parts of the country. That has driven up prices in places that never had to worry about bidding wars or high prices, bringing to many small and rural communities the same concerns that the big cities have seen for years. That change means that more Canadians are talking about how they can’t afford to buy a home, find a place to rent or afford to live in their communities. All three major parties could not credibly ignore those cries from coast to coast to coast. While all parties offer interesting pieces to address this existential problem, none have put together the full package. It will fall to Canadians to sort that out, but it’s an issue that many people are voting on in this election.

After speaking with a family in Surrey, BC, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made added to his other housing announcement and highlighted that, if re-elected, his government will

  • Raise the corporate income tax rate paid by Canada’s largest and most profitable banks and insurance companies by 3 percentage points on all earnings over $1 billion; and

  • Establish the Canada Recovery Dividend so these institutions contribute more over the next four years of Canada’s recovery.

For Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, he introduced his party’s Canada Mental Health Action Plan to help Canadian’s struggling with mental health. Highlights of this plan are

  • Encourage employers to add mental health coverage to the employee benefit plans or boost their coverage by offering a tax credit for 25 per cent of the cost of additional mental health coverage for the first three years.

  • Make the single largest investment in Canadian history for mental health supports for Indigenous people by providing $1 billion over five years to boost funding for Indigenous mental health and drug treatment programs, including providing culturally appropriate supports.

Speaking from Windsor, Ontario, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh announced that, if elected, his party commits to cutting cell phone and internet bills which, he says, will save the average family $1000. In this announcement, his party will require companies to offer a basic plan for wireless and broadband, abolish data caps and create a Telecom Consumers’ Bill of Rights.

Green Party leader Annamie Paul discussed Canada’s pandemic preparedness and suggested that her party would ensure a robust capacity for pharmaceutical manufacturing, an adequate and useful stockpile of PPE, re-evaluate the health care needs in our country and protect the country’s food supply.

PROMISE REACTION interesting observation from the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Vieria

PLATFORM PLEASE? The Toronto Star’s Alex Ballingall writes that the Green Party is not going to present a platform and see that not being a problem because there is Google.

Here is where you can expect the leaders to be today (all times are in Eastern):

Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada is in Quebec City for a 9 am announcement on seniors.

Erin O’Toole, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada has returned to Ottawa, where he will make an announcement and hold a media availability at noon. He will hold a virtual telephone town hall with Nova Scotia residents in the evening.

Jagmeet Singh, Leader of the NDP will make an announcement on housing in Sinclair Park in Winnipeg at 1030 am. He will then make an announcement. In the evening, he will hold a meet and greet at the Kenora airport.

Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party of Canada is campaigning in the Toronto riding she is running in,

Yves Blanchet, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois will speak at 930 am on the forestry industry at the Old Port of Chicoutimi. He will then at 230 pm hold a press conference on Quebec’s labour shortage at Parc Ball in Saguenay.

Vice President Geoff Turner was part of the Political Fix panel on CityNews Ottawa and gave his thoughts on the campaign so far, the shift in polling numbers and what bellwether riding he is keeping an eye on.

It was a similar discussion for Principal Susan Smith when she appeared on CBC News Network with Suhana Meharchand.

And Consultant Cameron Holmstrom was in The Hill Times talking about the parties’ social media presence in the campaign.

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