Justin Trudeau says his government “should” and “could” act more quickly in addressing Canada’s housing crisis, an issue that will be in the spotlight as MPs return to Ottawa for the fall sitting. but his government maintains that more has been done on the file after “10 years of a Conservative government that did nothing.”
In an almost 40 minute conversation with CBCTrudeau talked about housing prices, immigration and groceries as he faced his worst poll numbers to date.
“Everybody understands that housing takes a long time to actually make a difference,” he told Front Burner host Jayme Poisson in Ottawa. “The question I would ask is, how much more would it have been if we hadn’t put in place a national housing strategy in 2017 with $70 billion worth of investment allowing 2 million people and families to get into new homes?”
Here are some highlights from the interview.
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With Liberals losing support from Gen Z and Millennials
Justin Trudeau: We worked with them eight years ago to reverse a government that did nothing on climate change, that didn’t believe in inclusive economic growth, kept trickle down and gave tax breaks to the richest, and we were able to turn that around significantly. We were in a good position when the pandemic hit. And then the last few years have been really, really hard, especially for young people where there’s a sense now, not just of the challenges of paying for groceries or paying for rent or anything, but the idea of owning home owner The idea of a really strong, exciting future seems more distant now than it did just a few years ago. And the loss of hope and optimism is devastating for people’s morale. Of course, they will go, they will rail against the government and they will say that the world is headed in the wrong direction. And we have to step up and make sure we solve that.
Why he didn’t waive GST for leases made by purpose earlier
Trudeau: We saw it as a tool that we could use and we proposed it in the 2015 election. And then over the next two years, we actually replaced that with a different program, the lease construction financing initiative, which created 40,000 homes because that better met the needs at the time.
Today, we do both. Apartment buildings were still being built seven, eight years ago. Right now, the math doesn’t make sense with interest rates where they are. Even with great demand, developers say building apartments doesn’t make sense. It really changes things in a way that is needed now and in the coming seven years. So we’re confident that this is the kind of solution that will result in not just more rental housing, but more rental housing with three-bedroom and even four-bedroom apartments for families that we know have real shortage
With TD Bank warning that immigration could increase the housing shortage by half a million units in two years
Trudeau: That’s part of what we’re doing as a plan, to make sure we’re addressing the shortages in the construction industry, bringing in the right kinds of skilled trades as well. That too is something that is changing in the coming years. These are not things that can be a coin, unfortunately. The government has been very slow in responding to things, but it is moving. You don’t want a government that goes around everywhere and back and forth. You want a plan that will continue to improve things in ways in the coming years and the coming decade. And that’s understanding bringing in all the different factors, from global shortages to supply chains to inflation and interest rates to purchasing power, these are the kinds of things. that goes into developing a plan like that, including around immigration.
On immigration targets
Trudeau: We see across the country the effects of the labor shortage that we have, whether it’s in our health care system, whether it’s small businesses that can’t stay open seven days a week that want to, we need more many people We also need to make sure we build more housing, not just for them, but for everyone. And they are part of the solution, as well. Yes, we need to make sure we work with provinces and municipalities and private and public sector partners to respond to that, but we can do more.
We will adjust those targets as needed. But we’ll continue to find that immigration is a way to grow the economy and create more housing and create better health care services in a way that really matters for people.
On housing for international students
Trudeau: It is a question of combining factors that come together and many partners and have to respond in different ways. Universities like accepting international students because they pay higher tuition fees than Canadian students. In other words, they failed because many provinces lacked investment in education. They are increasing the influx of international students and this has had an impact on student housing in a way that we are directly pursuing with this new announcement on the abolition of GST for apartment buildings. This would apply to student residences, for example. And we’re working directly with the provinces and the institutions to make sure that if they’re bringing in more international students that they’re creating purpose-built housing, so it doesn’t exacerbate the shortages. But we know that Canada has tremendous potential to have a positive impact on the world, and on our own economy, by bringing in more international students.
The federal government is part of the solution. But, as we know, the provinces make the decisions on student levels. The institutions themselves do that, and making sure we get everything on the table to work well to solve that is part of the complexity of Canada. It’s nice to say, ‘OK, I’ll snap my fingers as Prime Minister, because I’m everybody’s boss, and it’ll be fixed.’ That’s not the way it works. So the continuous effort, the understanding and acceptance of all these different factors, and actually bringing these partners in a constructive way, is the way we choose to do it. Now, others out there, including the leader of the opposition, are saying, ‘No, no, I’m just going to pick fights and force people to do it.’ That doesn’t necessarily solve these problems but it can be very satisfying to say.
You can listen to the rest of the talk here.
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