FIRST READING: What if politicians actually like the housing crisis?

Inspired by Canada, U.S. readies its own report on Indian boarding schools

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First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Saturdays), sign up here.

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Conservative frontrunner Pierre Poilievre isn’t known for wowing young urbanites with his diatribes against the carbon tax or vaccine mandates. But he caused plenty of non-Conservative ears to perk up with a recent video shot in Vancouver where he decried the “gatekeepers” driving Canadian real estate prices into the stratosphere.

Poilievre stood in front of a dilapidated home currently listed for $4.8 million that sold for just $265,000 in 2006. Even if the house was demolished and replaced with a sixplex, Poilievre notes that each unit would still be $1 million and thus unattainable for all but the upper echelons of Canadian income earners. For this, Poilievre blames Canadian municipalities restricting densification and increasing the costs of development. “These government gatekeepers protect the wealthy,” he said.

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A CBC story sought to fact-check Poilievre’s claims on housing, and found three experts who said the Conservative hopeful mostly got it right. The Toronto Star tracked down the home and found that it’s price particulars checked out.

What’s most surprising about Poilievre’s “gatekeepers” video is that he’s really the first major federal politician to do something like this. Canada has had one of the world’s most yawning gaps between incomes and real estate prices since at least 2007. The average price of a Canadian home has more than doubled since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was first elected in 2015. And yet multiple federal elections have passed with little more than tokenistic gestures towards “affordable housing.” The housing provisions of Budget 2022, most notably, included a tax-free savings account that limits annual contributions to $8,000 and a one-time $500 cheque to Canadians facing “housing affordability challenges.” It also comes chock full of financial support for “first-time homebuyers” that will primarily result in more money being poured into the market, thus making the problem worse.

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Not a joke. This actually happened.
Not a joke. This actually happened. Photo by Department of Finance

A column published by TVO writes that there’s nothing particularly conservative about what Poilievre is proposing. Actually, it’s usually leftists who rail against “gatekeepers” and “captured economies.” For writer John Michael McGrath, there’s really only two ways that the national debate on housing affordability ends: Either progressives “figure out a compelling alternative” to solving the problem, or a “Prime Minister Poilievre” will do it for them.

Here’s the home, by the way. It’s lost a bit more paint and surged a few million more in value since this photo was taken.
Here’s the home, by the way. It’s lost a bit more paint and surged a few million more in value since this photo was taken. Photo by Google Maps

The National Post’s Chris Selley similarly slams both the NDP and Liberals for essentially sitting on their hands as whole swaths of the citizenry were denied any hope of not dying as renters. “Two generations now have watched Boomers and those with family money get filthy rich not just by sitting on property and doing nothing, but by actively trying to keep the rabble out,” he wrote.

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And a particularly dark take comes courtesy of The Line’s Jen Gerson. Any serious reform to Canadian housing affordability would require governments to take actions which would actually bring down prices. Gerson writes that with so much Canadian capital now tied up in a real estate market that is essentially an overinflated “asset bubble,” nobody is actually going to do this. “Governments don’t want to ‘fix’ the ‘housing problem.’ They want to continue to pump this particular asset class and pray that enough Millennials take up the mortgage burden when the Boomers kick off to keep the whole scam rolling into 2050,” she writes.

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And against all this, a recent investigation by Global News found that one third of Liberal cabinet ministers own investment real estate (which is to say, property they own in addition to their home). This includes finance minister Chrystia Freeland, who owns two rental properties in London, U.K., as well as another one in Kyiv, Ukraine. Also this week, a Statistics Canada survey revealed that up to one third of the homes in major Canadian markets are owned by people who already own a home somewhere else.

Freeland also happened to weigh in on the housing crisis this week. She called it an “intergenerational injustice.”


It’s been an action-packed six months since the last federal election: Some truckers took over Ottawa, a Tory leader was ejected by his caucus and COVID restrictions all across the country were rolled up. So with all that, you would assume that electoral leanings would have changed somewhat. Nope; a new Leger poll finds that vanishingly few Canadians would vote differently if an election was held tomorrow. Voter support for the Liberals was at 31 per cent compared to the 32 per cent they got in the last election. Conservatives were at 29 per cent against the 34 per cent they garnered in September.

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Plus ça change.
Plus ça change. Photo by Leger

Buried way down in Budget 2022’s green energy pledges was about $100 million to study the rollout of “small modular reactors” to power the Canadian electrical grid. This may end up becoming a big deal given that Canada hasn’t opened a new nuclear reactor since 1993. In all that time, even as Canadian governments increasingly talked up the “decarbonization” of domestic energy, nuclear power was conspicuously left out of the mix. Nuclear experts recently contacted by the Calgary Herald said they’re optimistically seeing “baby steps” back towards the nuclear heyday of the 1960s and 1970s, when Canada built many of the major nuclear plants now comprising up to 15 per cent of the electricity mix.

The U.S. is close to releasing a report seen as the American equivalent to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian residential schools. The Indian Boarding School Initiative, announced last year by the U.S. Department of the Interior, is set to released its report this month outlining the scope of U.S.-run Indian boarding schools, which were assimilationist facilities akin to Canadian Indian Residential Schools. U.S. officials have said the study was directly inspired by the discovery of 215 suspected children’s graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School last summer.

This is the art featured on a new Ukrainian postage stamp released this week. It’s a visual tribute to the phrase “Russian warship, go f–k yourself,” which Ukrainian border guards radioed to a Russian vessel in the early days of the invasion after it demanded their surrender.
This is the art featured on a new Ukrainian postage stamp released this week. It’s a visual tribute to the phrase “Russian warship, go f–k yourself,” which Ukrainian border guards radioed to a Russian vessel in the early days of the invasion after it demanded their surrender. Photo by Ukrposhta

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