Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday August 29, 2023
Neglecting Affordable Housing: Trudeau Government’s Misplaced Priorities
In recent years, the Trudeau government has positioned itself as a champion of progressive values, focusing on laudable issues such as climate crisis, inclusivity, cannabis legalization, indigenous reconciliation, and more. While these topics deserve attention, it’s imperative to acknowledge that the government’s priorities have been severely misplaced. The most glaring omission from their agenda is the affordable housing crisis that is festering across Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that “housing isn’t a primary federal responsibility” is not only inaccurate, but it also reflects a disregard for the pressing issue at hand. Recent polls indicating that 70 percent of Canadians believe the government is inadequately addressing the housing crisis should serve as a wake-up call. While the term “housing” might not be explicitly mentioned in constitutional documents, the right to “life, liberty, and security of the person” as well as “equal protection” cannot be fulfilled without access to adequate housing.
Canada’s commitment to enforce the right to housing, as established in various international covenants, was enshrined in Canadian law in 2019. Despite this commitment, the federal government has chosen to evade its responsibility, engaging in the very behaviors they accuse other levels of government of. This is exemplified by the government’s handling of refugee claimants in Toronto, a situation marked by ambiguity, turf guarding, buck passing, and finger pointing.
The federal government’s historic involvement in housing has been conveniently forgotten. Following World War II, Canada saw the creation of a million low-cost Victory Houses, an achievement made possible through government land, direct grants, and efficient production methods. From the 1960s to the 1980s, a significant portion of new construction comprised non-market housing, supported by federal land, grants, and financing partnerships with provincial and municipal governments.
However, the decline of non-market housing began in 1992 when the federal government shifted the responsibility for affordable housing to provinces. Federal spending on affordable housing also decreased significantly after this shift. The subsequent reduction in private rental construction further exacerbated the housing crisis, following a cutback on taxation incentives in 1972.
The consequences of these neglectful actions are evident in the alarming statistic that the average Canadian home now costs 8.8 times the average income. In cities like Toronto and Vancouver, these numbers reach staggering levels of 13.2 and 14.4 times, respectively. As for rental housing, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimates a need for nearly six million new homes by 2030, a rate three times higher than current construction levels.
While the Trudeau government boasts of its commitment to tackle the housing crisis, its actions reveal a stark contrast. Cabinet meetings have been convened, experts consulted, and rhetoric repeated, yet tangible solutions remain elusive. The government’s lack of response has left Canadians struggling with intense housing challenges, further exacerbating the already palpable cost of living concerns.
The refusal to consider a national summit on housing is a testament to the government’s misplaced priorities. The urgency for national leadership is undeniable, and the federal government is uniquely positioned to provide this leadership. While addressing issues like climate change and inclusivity is important, they should not come at the expense of solving a crisis that directly impacts the basic well-being of Canadians.
Prime Minister Trudeau’s assertion that Canadians want hope and leadership holds true. However, hope cannot be sustained if pressing concerns such as affordable housing are ignored. As the government grapples with its political standing, it must acknowledge that addressing the housing crisis is not just a political imperative but a moral obligation. Failure to act decisively on this front risks further eroding public trust and will inevitably have lasting consequences for both the government and the Canadian population. (AI) | Editorial cartoon published in the Hamilton Spectator.