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For months now, Pierre Poilievre has railed against the role so-called “gatekeepers” play in delaying the construction of much-needed new housing in Canada’s cities. He has a point, given the smothering influence of NIMBYism on local planning decisions and their resistance to new townhomes, condominiums and other forms of built density in supposedly “mature” neighbourhoods. The success of NIMBYs has come at an incredibly high price for younger and new Canadians, who have to contend with rising rents and ludicrously high home prices in our big (and increasingly, not-so-big) cities.

There’s just one wrinkle in Poilievre’s argument: a lot of these “gatekeepers” happen to be his fellow conservatives.

Take Calgary, where the city council’s most conservative members helped vote down a proposal to accept recommendations from its Housing and Affordability Task Force that included pro-affordability measures like removing parking minimums and making R-CG zoning — a standard that allows for rowhouses and duplexes as well as single detached homes — the base residential standard city-wide. Among those who voted no was Dan McLean, a councillor who once described Poilievre as the “best MP in Canada” and employed his brother Patrick as a communications and community liaison.


Greg McLean, the CPC MP for Calgary Centre, did his best to justify council’s decision to engage in some pretty obvious gatekeeping. “I recognize the need for more housing and affordable housing,” he said in a statement. “But there is a right way and a wrong way. The wrong way is blanket rezoning and eliminating parking requirements.”

Two of his colleagues, Conservative MPs Michelle Rempel-Garner and Scott Aitchison, weren’t having it. “Calgary City Council was presented with a series of recommendations to deliver more housing,” Aitchison tweeted. “It would have made it easier to build the homes that people need. But the gatekeepers stood their ground.”

Rempel-Garner was even more explicit in her condemnation of the city’s conservative councillors. “I call upon colleagues on that council who I share constituents with to buck up and be actual leaders and show our communities what courage and leadership look like. Vote for housing and hope, not for NIMBYism.”

This volley of friendly-ish fire appears to have worked. Calgary’s city council reversed its decision the very next day, with only Sean Chu — a councillor who shares constituents with Rempel-Garner — still voting against. But it speaks to the schism within the conservative family on this issue, especially when the interests of suburban homebuilders — traditionally the bedrock of their financial support at the municipal level — conflict with the need for the federal party to make inroads in places like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

Make no mistake: this fight is far from over. Calgary city council will vote in September on the specific recommendations in the report, most notably the upzoning and removal of parking minimums, and you can be sure the same conservative councillors who voted against the report the first time will be the ones mounting resistance to the proposed changes. Even if they’re approved, it’ll still take a year for the new bylaws to be drafted and implemented.

Pierre Poilievre likes to rail against "gatekeepers" and the role they play in Canada's ultra-high housing costs — and he has a point. It's one he should bring up with the conservative politicians who just tried to derail Calgary's pro-housing push.

Council’s decidedly languid pace stands in stark contrast to the speed at which council is moving on its arena deal, one that shovels $853 million in public money to a hockey team owned by billionaires. Coun. Sonya Sharp, who leads the arena negotiation process, has said it will move at “the speed of business.” But she seems more than happy to slow-roll the work done by the city’s expert panel on affordability. “It’s a leap to think we should just accept the expert recommendations with no further debate on what it all means, on whether Calgarians support those recommendations,” Sharp said.

This is another important contrast. For some reason, there won’t be any public consultation on the massive arena-shaped giveaway to some of the city’s wealthiest people. But changes to the zoning and parking bylaws will be exposed to the full weight of public scrutiny, most of which will come from self-interested homeowners looking to protect their neighbourhoods from the apparent scourge of new people. Funny how that works.

This total lack of urgency is at odds with the scale of the problem, one highlighted in a CBC Calgary piece on the city’s white-hot rental market. For many Calgarians, especially those on the economic margins, waiting a few years for improvements isn’t an option. According to a recent Calgary Economic Development report, “379,200 working Calgarians would be stretching their financial resilience to independently access even the most affordable of market housing currently available.”

Time is not a luxury these people have, and the decision to fast-track the arena while simultaneously slow-walking efforts to build more housing speaks volumes about where this council’s priorities really lie.

The good news, if there is any here, is that a municipal election is only two years away. Every single councillor who votes against measures that will improve affordability, increase density and curtail sprawl should be held accountable for that decision.

If Poilievre and the Conservative Party of Canada actually want to get rid of the “gatekeepers” and build more housing in Canada’s cities, they should start with the ones in their own backyard — literally and figuratively. If they don’t, it's proof that they’re really more interested in replacing one set of “gatekeepers” with another.

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Exactly Max....and thanks for reporting on this situation. It is difficult to keep up with all the shenanigans of the politicize important issues like housing, while keeping the good governance we need in order to solve the actual problem, to an absolute minimum.

Public housing is what we likely need.........and perhaps plans to 'rent to own' so that people aren't renovicted onto the street in old age. But expensive playgrounds for the useless rich is likely the road more of us will get to travel.....without ever having the doe rey me to avail ourselves of the expensive venues our tax dollars erected.

Go PP..........bring back our autocracy.

Related to this, the BC provincial government (NDP) has announced as part of their housing plan that "the government will introduce provincial legislation this fall to allow three to four units on a traditional single-family detached lot". So, across the province, no more single-family zoning.

Trudeau just ran away from the Johnston resignation scandal. It cost us $500 million so Trudeau could hide from Canadians for a few days

The newly unveiled Federal Budget is a sorry disappointment. It completely misses the mark on addressing the most pressing housing crisis this country has ever seen. There are no new ideas, and not nearly enough new money announced for housing. The homelessness crisis was not even mentioned. This is simply unacceptable.

For the value of one TMX, a serious dent in the national housing affordability crisis could be made.

Make that two big dents with the participation of provincial funding and municipal donations of land and speedy permit approvals.

Homes for the homeless should have been well underway by now. There is a start in some cities but not nearly enough supportive housing projects with addiction and Healthcare services are provided to date. Vancouver and BC are both to be commended for taking on vociferous NIMBIES who are pulling out all the stops to kill one project on the wealthy West Side, and who were completely silent on several identical projects built or proposed on the more accommodating East Side.

The next priority should for seniors projects with limited communal dining and recreation and possibly 1/3 of the units set aside for affordable and good quality assisted living services as an alternative to expensive legacy private facilities. Extended care should also be included as needed.

Perhaps the largest share would be non-profit rentals located near transit stations. The land cost can be discounted if cities provide the sites as their contribution. This means there will be a substantial discount in the project costs outside of construction, and lower than average rents meant to cover the costs of capital construction, maintenance, depreciation and contributions to a replacement reserve fund. The public agencies could also amortize those costs over longer than average amortization periods, say 40-50 years, to keep the monthly rent affordable.

In all cases it's imperative to keep the private sector out of it, and maintain sole ownership by the public agency. Ditto good quality design and energy efficiency. Using mass timber and flexible floor layout potential to maximize the building's sustainability and utility over its lifespan are important considerations. Locating buildings near high streets major employment and institutional sites and transit will minimize onsite parking needs dramatically.

There's no mystery to supplying affordable, good quality rentals. The mystery lies in why the feds and several provinces have been too chickenshit to build them.

Why the feds and several provinces haven't built them? Cuts into their cronies' profits.
Well, that and an addiction to neoliberal ideology, which says that no matter how much sense a positive government program of actually doing things might seem to make, ACTUALLY it cannot work as well as simply sprinkling the situation with magic "market" fairy dust. And to be fair, any government that does start doing actually useful things is reliably savaged by the media on exactly this basis.

All very reasonable approaches to housing a modern, democratic society, but the reality Max describes so well reflects instead conservative purist Margaret Thatcher's telling pronouncement that there's no such thing as "society." Courtesy of her ever more avid and unreasonable followers, the root word "social," despite being the quintessentially human trait that underpins our very survival as a species has somehow morphed into the full-on bogeyman of "socialism."
This is insanely self-destructive to all of us, on a par with manipulating and denying climate science for decades, and has all come from the political right "at the speed of business." That whole scenario in Calgary with the arena is a metaphor where advocates for the zoning change have to remind people that housing is about having a HOME, with all that entails, particularly basic human dignity. Obviously, developers don't give a shit. They know enough to at least pay lip service (same with climate change) but insist this just isn't the RIGHT way to do it. Right. They should be nailed to the wall on this subterfuge with the same nasty, mean-spirited vigour that THEY just used toward David Johnston, and use against the Liberals CONSTANTLY. Relentlessly. Unprecedentedly.
On Rosemary Barton's last Sunday program she castigated intergovernmental minister LeBlanc when he talked about finding a new person to lead an inquiry on whatever process is decided on foreign interference as being HARD since they would risk being "put in the path of a snowblower" like David Johnston just was, which was as wild an understatement as Johnston gave for his resignation, i.e. the "partisan" climate. For some reason everyone (particularly the media) is always super careful to qualify that this "partisanship" is happening on BOTH SIDES, making it the quintessential example of why "bothsidesism" is so destructive. But Dominic didn't genuflect to that BS enough for Rosemary so SHE became angry, stopping him to accuse HIM/the Liberals of being responsible for how David Johnston was treated! So another example of how cons use our essential fairness and fair-mindedness against us most of all. Until we recognize that and how, in the guise of "common sense," the conservatives are steadily stripping our common DECENCY at the highest levels, we're in trouble.
Speaking of that, this Russell Brown, the Supreme Court judge who just resigned? This is another one of those "unprecedented" things that keep happening but obviously the guy is lying when you watch the young people's account. My point is that he was one of Harper's appointees.
CBC had a noon program on this Calgary housing issue the other day and the host read several e-mails that were positively indignant, outraged even; in true conservative style one even suggested that whichever councillors voted FOR such obviously WRONG nonsense should be singled out in the same way Max more rightly suggests that the ones who OPPOSED it should be. We're in a culture war, which we really should seriously start acknowledging, which means naming our enemy. And repeatedly, like they do. Talk about "algorithms."
ANOTHER example of how these conservatives/horrible people among us get away with their crap is by using OUR fair-minded, liberal and democratic processes such as consulting with the population, but only to stall and/or stop things THEY don't want like this progressive initiative because it will lower their property values. Living in Alberta, I have heard over and over that complaint about the UCP, that something was done with ZERO consultation. They don't give a FIG about people and don't even have to hide it now, can even contact a CBC radio show and express their utter contempt openly. For US ultimately, us decent people.
This is where we are in society.
And what TOOK Erin O'Toole on stepping aside btw, speaking of being put in the path of a snow blower?

Side note: You would think a bunch of supposedly freedom-oriented, Libertarian-leaning people would in principle oppose zoning in general rather than supporting very restrictive zoning. I mean, that would also be stupid, but it underlines that for Conservatives, all these supposed principles are just a smokescreen--their only actual principles are greed and hate.

Yeah, and flood multiple public zones with such unprecedented bullshit that many are kind of awed with your nerve AND entertained by the novelty. Erin O'Toole mentions "performance politics" which he obviously failed at so....enter the true conservative leader for the time.
Brashness and bullying are mistaken for the sharp elbows of a winner or a leader.
It's endemic to a competitive, male-dominated society, and encoded by first past the post.
Some are more impressed than others of course.

What is Gatekeeping? According to Urban Dictionary, gatekeeping is defined as, "when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity".
Is this what PP is doing? I believe so. Everything about Canada is wrong or broken, but I (meaning Poilievre) will fix it by changing what you have access to as I know better.
From the very first time since being elected, he has been a critic. Never heard one positive proposal come out of his mouth. Since becoming leader, anyone who listens to his misinfo and bumpf would think we are hard done by. I believe we live in the best country in the world. It's not perfect but with Argentina inflation at 70%, Turkey having problems and Hungary and Poland changing the legal system as to how they want it. I suspect Poilievre with his I know better than you, pied piper attitude will follow the same path as Kenney Ford and Moe have in their provinces. Tilt the law in favour of big business and against labour, talk about housing while having Big Real Estate invest in buying more rental housing and controlling the supply of new homes thru their land owner ship, and chip away at freedom by passing voting and demonstration laws which backfired in Alberta. Wake up Canadians.