Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday June 7, 2023
Building Houses, Rising Interest Rates, and Homelessness: The Real Concerns for Canadians
While the House of Commons Foreign Interference in Canada’s Electoral System Committee investigation continues to make headlines, it’s important to question whether this issue truly occupies the top of mind for Canadians. The allegations surrounding foreign interference, although significant, pale in comparison to the pressing concerns that directly impact the lives of ordinary Canadians: building houses on green spaces, the Bank of Canada raising interest rates affecting those renting or paying mortgages, and the growing crisis of homelessness in our nation.
Recent polls have shed light on the priorities of Canadians, and the results are clear. A CIBC poll revealed that homeownership remains a driving goal for 71% of non-homeowners surveyed, despite concerns about affordability due to high interest rates and rising house prices. It’s evident that Canadians are worried about the ability to attain the dream of owning a home, and many parents plan to assist their children with down payments to bridge the affordability gap. The Bank of Montreal’s survey further confirmed these concerns, with 68% of Canadians planning to wait for lower interest rates before purchasing a home. The anxiety surrounding housing affordability, coupled with fears of unknown expenses and overall financial situations, are prominent worries for Canadians.
As speculation mounts about the Bank of Canada raising interest rates once again, those with mortgages are rightfully concerned about the potential impact on their financial stability. The central bank’s pause on rate hikes earlier this year was contingent on the economy developing as anticipated and inflation continuing to fall. However, recent data suggests that these conditions may no longer be met. With a robust 3.1% annual pace of economic expansion in the first quarter and an inflation rate that ticked up to 4.4%, the Bank of Canada may feel compelled to step off the sidelines and take action. This looming possibility adds further apprehension for Canadians who are already grappling with the challenges of housing affordability.
While some Canadians worry about homeownership, others face a much more dire situation: homelessness. Tent cities, once limited to troubled corners of Vancouver or Toronto, have now proliferated across the country. Calgary was forced to dismantle a downtown encampment due to escalating violence, while permanent tent cities have sprung up in parks throughout Halifax. Tragic incidents, such as the murder of an RCMP officer during a routine call to a Burnaby homeless encampment, highlight the urgency of addressing this crisis. A recent poll conducted by Leger for Postmedia revealed that a majority of Canadians (58%) believe homelessness is a problem in their community, with 38% reporting increased acts of violence. In British Columbia, where the issue is particularly acute, an astonishing 87% of respondents identified homelessness as a problem.
These poll results paint a bleak picture of public sentiment towards government action on homelessness. Only 7% of respondents think the government is making things better, while 16% believe they are making things worse. The overwhelming perception is that governments are doing nothing at all to address this pressing issue.
In light of these concerns, it is crucial to reevaluate our priorities. While foreign interference in Canada’s electoral system merits attention, we must ensure that it doesn’t overshadow the urgent issues affecting Canadians’ daily lives. Building houses on green spaces threatens our environment and food security, while rising interest rates pose significant challenges to homeownership and financial stability. Most critically, homelessness is a crisis that demands immediate action to provide shelter, support, and dignity for the most vulnerable members of our society.
It is time for governments at all levels to listen to the concerns of Canadians and address the issues that truly matter. We need comprehensive strategies to protect our green spaces, make housing more affordable, and provide adequate resources to combat homelessness. Canadians deserve a government that prioritizes their well-being and works diligently to create a society where everyone has a place to call home. (AI) | Editorial Cartoon also printed in the Toronto Star.