Credit where it’s due: Pierre Poilievre has talked a good game about housing ever since he was elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Sure, he keeps fibbing about being the Harper government’s housing minister (no such role existed) and continues to pretend the problem magically started when the Trudeau Liberals were elected, but he’s effectively drawn attention to an issue that’s been overlooked for too long. The huge surge in Conservative support among millennial voters, who now outnumber baby boomers, helps explain why his party is so far ahead in recent polls.

Housing-hungry millennials might want to look a little more closely at what he’s actually saying about the issue, though. Yes, Poilievre has been very good at feeling their pain and harnessing it to his own political ambitions. But if anyone’s expecting him to heal it as prime minister, his recent behaviour suggests they’re setting themselves up for some pretty major disappointment.

He has, for example, decided to make an enemy out of NDP Premier David Eby, who he recently suggested has “probably the worst housing record of any politician on Earth.” Eby, of course, has been premier of British Columbia for just over a year now. In that time, he’s transformed the housing market in his province, implementing a raft of hugely ambitious and aggressive reforms that target everything from short-term rentals and restrictive local zoning bylaws to design-oriented regulations that can unlock more supply. Leo Spalteholz, a pro-supply housing activist in B.C., described the changes as “transformational.”

Poilievre is apparently counting on Canadians to ignore that progress or the context in which it’s taken place. “Look at the prices,” he said in a video that was clipped and shared by Canada Proud. “Vancouver is now the third most expensive housing market in the world, comparing median income to median house prices. Check it on for yourself.”

Well, I did. Despite the dead link Poilievre tried to direct people to — it’s — the data doesn’t tell the story he might like to pretend. Back in 2015, for example, Demographia’s annual study of housing affordability revealed that Vancouver was the second most expensive city in the world on those same criteria. Maybe, just maybe, it’s about something other than Justin Trudeau and Eby.

Curiously, while Poilievre is happy to blame Eby for the high housing prices that long predate his entry into provincial politics, he’s conspicuously silent about Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s track record. Prices and rents there have soared since his Progressive Conservatives took power in 2018, and most of his government’s legislative efforts on this file have revolved around trying to enrich Ford-friendly developers and exacerbate the province’s existing problems with sprawl. The Ontario PCs have repeatedly ignored the recommendations of their own Housing Affordability Task Force and in some cases, actively opposed them.

As a result, while housing starts were up 11 per cent in Eby’s B.C. in 2023, they dropped 36 per cent in Ford’s Ontario. As The Hub’s Steve Lafleur noted, federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser has been leading the charge for better housing policies in Ontario. “He’s getting municipal governments to make tough reforms the premier hasn’t thus far been willing to impose. Indeed, many of these reforms are straight out of the Housing Affordability Task Force report. The premier doesn’t have to drive the bus, but he really shouldn’t stand in front of it.”

In case there was any doubt about whether Poilievre’s focus on housing was driven by politics rather than policy, he dispelled it this past Wednesday in the House of Commons. When the prime minister invoked housing expert Mike Moffatt’s criticism of the Conservative housing policy (one Moffatt described as “incredibly weak tea”), Poilievre responded by calling him a “failed Liberal academic.”

This was a weird flex, not least because Moffatt is widely respected on this file by Conservatives and Liberals alike. There’s also the fact that his advocacy has helped elevate the issue to one of national significance — with attendant national political consequences. As Globe and Mail columnist Andrew Coyne noted, “Moffatt has done more than any single individual to make housing a five-alarm issue. Who has that most benefited, politically? Poilievre. He should be proposing him for the Order of Canada.”

Pierre Poilievre has talked a good game about housing over the last two years. But his recent attacks on B.C. Premier David Eby and housing expert Mike Moffatt show that it's really all about good politics for him, not good policies.

Poilievre’s reflexive petulance should be a warning sign to those of us who want to see real progress on the housing file. He clearly doesn’t care who he has to drag through the parliamentary mud in order to score a point on his opponents, even if they’re people who might otherwise agree with him on the actual matters of substance at hand. That’s why he’s attacking Eby, the premier doing the most on housing, and giving Ford a pass despite him doing the least.

To Poilievre, everything is politics: first, always, and forever. That may help him win the next election, and even win it handily. But it also means he has no real interest in addressing the problems he’s identifying, much less working with academics and experts to come up with real solutions. So, yes, millennials, he feels your pain on the housing file — and he’s more than happy to exploit it. If you’re looking for someone who will actually take the steps required to assuage it, though, you’d best look somewhere else.

Keep reading

Good points, terrible headline. As one of those millennials who (apparently) has my head in the clouds, I am fully aware of PP's empty rhetoric and abysmal record on housing. I don't claim all of my contemporaries may be, but I forgive them that for the simple reason that, frankly, the situation is also abysmal, and with little to no recourse in sight. I am angry, and I can easily find sympathy with someone who would vote for PP out of spite for Team Trudeau's 8+ years of abject failure on this file. PP knows there's anger and he's making a smart move by playing to it. He wouldn't solve the issue if elected of course, but how is it fair to lay the blame for his electoral chances at millennials rather than him, or Trudeau, or really any PM of this housing dystopia since Mulroney started us down the godforsaken path of neoliberalism?

So, respectfully, either change the headline to be less condescending, or perhaps focus more on some of that solutions journalism. Really, anything rather than continuing to perpetuate the played-out trope of implicit millennial-bashing. Enough.

You should be less defensive and try reading the links with the article instead of castigating the author, which amounts to shooting the messenger.
And who to blame, PP's go-to for everything? Politicians have been as trapped in the same neoliberal/capitalist system we all are.
The article arises from and tries to address the worry that any rational person currently has about the polls inexplicably showing conservatives way ahead (?!) and even Trump edging ahead of Biden!
These are just polls of course, but they seem to be more irresponsibly frequent, i.e. actively trying to fan the flames for the sake of it (all for eyeballs, clicks and "likes" FFS, you can't deny that absurdity is exclusive to your generation) SO SOMEONE has to try and counteract the ultimately terrifying impact of reducing humanity's continued survival to the oblivious whims of wildly preoccupied people who, given a choice, or a vote, settle disastrously on backing the perceived winner in the horse race.

I reject your implication that I did not read the article's links, and I reject your assertion that I'm shooting the messenger. I also ask: did I, in my post, raise any points contradicting the information contained within said links? No, I did not. Nor did I contest any of the article's points, in fact, I specifically said that the points were good.

My issue is with the framing of this article, because as a Millennial, I am sick to death of the finger pointing and the double standard that gets unfairly applied to my generation when it comes to the subject of political ills. If the article is meant to point out PP's lies and hypocrisy on housing, then why not title the article as such? Why frame it as an issue for the Millennials, and if we're going with that framing, then why not address it with due regard for the incredibly depressing state of Millennial homeownership (or even renting) prospects and re-amplify the call for housing solutions? Because of the polls and their "irresponsible frequency"? Then call that out instead. Quit bashing the Millennials, we aren't categorically stupid: many of us simply have no good options.

I guarantee you if the article was titled something along the lines of "Earth to Gen X, Poilievre is one of yours" or "Earth to Boomers, your legacy will be one of housing feudalism" then you would see similar complaints from those cohorts.

I agree that it's important to try and counteract the lies and corrosive nature of conservatism, but if that's so important, then why are you taking issue with me and not the material circumstances that are leading so many Millennials towards conservatism? We don't need to be told how bad things are, thanks very much, we are well-experienced in that regard. I will never vote conservative, but I again sympathize with my peers who might do so out of a desire to see the perpetuators of this horrid status quo punished, even if it doesn't improve their own livelihoods.

Either give solutions to the problem at hand or frame the piece as yet another expose of Poilievre's mendacious tendencies. Leave the Millennials out of it unless there's something constructive, we're too busy trying to pay rent.

I empathize, truly, but the focus on your generation DOES line up with you outnumbering us boomers (okay boomers....) and is therefore implicit in these stupid/counterintuitive poll results.

As a Boomer, we've had our fair share of bashing too.

Earth to millennials: Since climate change will trump EVERY previous generational influence known to man, AND since you and yours are first up in the crosshairs, AND since you now have growing political influence (i.e. are "influencers" like no other), shouldn't that truly existential reality be not only GRASPED by whichever political party you vote for, but also be the framework for their governance?
And speaking of major generational influences, for the first time since World War II the possibility of a third one is actually starting to loom, despite being as horrifying and unprecedented in your experience as climate change is, and despite all your earnest protests. For example, the fact that you imagine your gathering in large numbers (social media "at work," there you go, YOUR generation's wheelhouse) to stop a meeting between Trudeau and Meloni will somehow punish HIM into doing the right thing, i.e. call for a ceasefire in Gaza? Because you are so naive as to think that HE can stop Netanyahu who is after all trying to destroy a group FAR WORSE than HIS extreme religious government, (themselves highly unpopular for trying to weaken the judiciary), this being Hamas, ultimate religious fanatics as Islamic jihadists who have been the governing body of Palestine for several years now, but have spent their time building tunnels for waging war beneath their own civilian population, despite that making their own people (a majority being women and children) human shields. But all are auxiliary to their aim---destroying Israel and/or martyring themselves. (This explains why Islam is often called a death cult.)
My point is that under such complicated circumstances, might experienced world players/statesmen like Biden and Trudeau also be the best choice? Imagine Skippy in that context while you imagine nukes aimed at the U.S.

As I wrote earlier to another newsletter, this and every Canadian issue has been in the making for 40 years when our political parties and most in the world adopted a n**liberal view of destroying government and its role in our society and economy. Are things better with the privatization movement of lower business taxes, anti union laws, and we all take care of only ourselves! Nope! And promises of an easy way out are basically a dream, a hoax and it will be a tough slog! The private sector has one goal and one only, profit. Without regulation and clear goals and policy by government we will not solve anything.

It in a nutshell.

There is a simple solution to the housing crisis: Build more affordable rental housing.

The non-profit, break even housing model has not been tried much at all here. A new partnership with cities could result in cities donating some of the land in their own land banks, or purchasing a clutch of parcels every year for housing built by the feds.

If a federal government is prepared to build it alone, it will break the dependency on provincial funding. Though it will be important to invite them to participate, the feds should be prepared to go it alone.

The break even model pertains only to the cost of construction, not the cost of the land which will be covered by the city. Therefore, rents will be set at the break even, non-profit level which would naturally be lower than the private market. No subsidies, and a steady revenue return on the investment will counter any Conservative claim it's a giveaway or "unaffordable."

Subsidized rental housing could be a separate category, one that also needs a lot larger injection of funding. Ditto assisted housing and housing for the homeless which need to be accompanied by on-site social services.

Construction costs could be kept reasonably low with larger multi-project contracts where the unit costs are traditionally lower. Mass timber design allows quicker completion times (pre-fabricated columns and panels to precision tolerances under controlled indoor conditions, bolted together on site with minimal exposure to the weather) and reduces emissions. All sites should be on frequent transit routes and in walkable neighbourhoods with all the necessities of life nearby.

BC premier David Eby is certainly on the right track but his housing policies will need nuance and a fine grain execution at the neighbourhood level, and a lot more provincially mandated public transit networks hopefully with meaningful federal partnerships

Agreed entirely.

There must be a reason the government abandoned this, likely to "balance the budget," the usual mantra of the party that runs up the most deficits, in keeping with their whole up is down, black is white style.
But going to cities over the top of too many conservative provincial governments is a political masterstroke.
However, to remove this last functional level of government, Smith opined on her radio show on the weekend that it was time to bring political parties to municipal politics despite 70% of us apparently NOT wanting that (like the CPP and separation and removing the RCMP; who in hell VOTED for these idiots anyway.) Spring legislation is forthcoming nonetheless because she/they WON though, and are the common sense people, the real people, the silent majority. Right.

Agreed Alex! And in a perfect world, accompanied by legislation (with real teeth) that would limit the real estate investor’s pernicious role in driving up the cost of housing by limiting the number of housing units an individual could own to two, including vacation homes. Such legislation would lower the price of housing over time which would allow more people to purchase a home. But alas, it’s not something I see happening anytime soon. Not until the current situation gets much worse.

If millennials, and others, are concerned about the availability and cost of housing, they need to lobby for both nonprofit housing (and co-op housing) as well as limits on investors ownership in the housing market. Both of these solutions are automatically rejected, of course, by Pierre Poilievre and the CPC. The sooner people see through this absurd posturing by PP and the CPC, the sooner we can get to implementing real solutions to the housing crisis.

Yes, millennials are bearing the brunt of this crisis, but they’re not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Blaming the current government alone for creating this crisis is way off base and placing one’s hopes on PP and the CPC to reverse the current situation is absolute folly. People of all ages need to understand that the CPC under PP is only going to give us more of the neoliberal austerity measures that the Harper government (shudder!) gave us in the ten years they were in office. However, the detrimental effects and consequences don’t end there either. Look for more anti-union legislation, less environmental regulation and protection, a gutting of climate change legislation (because the CPC doesn’t believe that climate change is real), a possible reduction in or outright removal of social programs such as the Child Benefit, the budding Pharmacare program, the Daycare program, and much, much more. The CPC is only interested in enriching corporations and the filthy rich. The sooner millennials and the rest of us accept this reality, the sooner we can all start improving our society for the benefit of all, not just the wealthy and corporations.

Agree completely. The frustration of millennials is understandable but their political response, ie. support of Pierre Poilievre, is irrational, irresponsible and in the end will be destructive. Millennials, as a group, appear to be blind to the fact that Pierre Poilievre does not care one iota about the average Canadian even though at every opportunity he pretends to. The CPC, as presently constituted ,will curtail all programs meant to address climate change which is by far the most important issue facing our country. Case in point at the anti-environment policies of Conservative premiers Danielle Smith, Scott Moe, Doug Ford and Blaine Higgs. American style medicine will be ushered in along with major tax cuts for large corporations (especially oil and gas) even though trickle down economics have never worked. If millennials think they have it bad right now, just wait, it will be much worse with Pierre Poilievre.

I'd like to broaden this a bit from Pierre Poilievre, or even Pierre Poilievre and Doug Ford. It is not possible for Conservatives to do a good job for ordinary people on housing. Well, unless the rioting gets so bad that they fear for their lives . . .

The point is, Conservative ideology resists doing the kinds of things that need to be done, due to both its real and its presented nature. So, the real nature of conservatism is that oligarchs should have more and the rest of us should have less and we should be more "old fashioned", which is to say respectful and not resentful, about our underling status. Obviously, making housing cheaper so oligarchs can make less money from it is not on that agenda.

The presented nature of conservatism is that when markets are freed of constraints (but NOT of economic rents, as classical economists meant when they talked about "free" markets), then "entrepreneurs", in making gobs of money, will grow the economic pie--eventually for everyone, you know, someday. And the problem with that is that, first, it isn't true in general: Government intervention in the economy to create infrastructure, do industrial policy, provide education and even redistribute income all make the economy both faster growing and less crisis-prone. Yes, less-unequal societies have better economic outcomes.

And, second, it's even less true for property-related issues; while entrepreneurs can, usually at the expense of the environment, make more stuff, they cannot make more land. Real estate is a finite resource; the only thing free markets can do is enable people and corporations to bid up the price. This is obviously NOT going to make housing affordable, duh. You want affordable homes, you gotta interfere with markets, fairly decisively. And to be precise, that interference has to be against the interests of rich people. Conservatives are fundamentally against doing that; they will resist doing anything useful about housing with every ounce of energy they can spare from shilling for oil companies. Doesn't matter if it's PP or whoever, that's how it will be.

(Liberals would like to do something useful about housing, but some of their best friends (and donors) are rich and they wouldn't want to upset them. But they might do a little bit, because they do want to be nice as long as it doesn't upset any applecarts. The NDP would like to do useful things about housing, and they will to the extent they feel they can without the media calling them Communists very loudly)

There are still some writers and/or influential people trying to cling to conservatism as a valid idea that's simply in abeyance at the moment. So they await its return and reinstatement, mainly because it's an overarching sensibility in their personal "identity formation," very much based on male hegemony.
The excuses are many and varied of course as to why this abeyance has happened, but the facts remain: it's the political RIGHT wing that has lost its mind, not the left, despite what now appear as nostalgic efforts at bothsidesism and commandeering the word "wokeism" as a loaded pejorative despite its initial positive meaning of sensitivity to social injustice. And given an inch, this rogue male movement jeers openly, lavishly, and relentlessly thanks to social media, and is now openly trying to destroy democracy, the rule of law, the international rules-based world order, intellectualism, public education and maybe most importantly but also most insidiously, feminism. Because we've all witnessed its decades long culmination in the reversal of Roe v. Wade; it was one of the first things the right-wing-captured Supreme Court did, and with the recent Alabama ruling for example, its march continues apace until not only abortion, but probably birth control, period, is marginalized in basic insurance coverage as per "originalist" or purist Catholic doctrine.
There's a large group of people, mainly men of course, they're still very much in charge of much after all, as is the patriarchy of religion world-wide, who are comparable to the Confederacy in the States in that they have not only NOT reconciled to the outcome of the Civil War/societal evolution, they are actively trying to reverse it, akin to reversing time itself.
The current iteration has added the traditionalist/dystopic qualifier though, as to why they're doing this; it now includes the juvenile, casually destructive element of "just for the hell of it."
How else do you explain the convoy and Jan. 6th, AND the surprisingly irrational response to both at the highest levels of our society as arguably just another manifestation of the denialism that has become rampant? I mean how and why on earth is "Canada Proud" and its ilk still even a thing?
Clearly, cults with all their certainty and tribalism have become acceptable like we've never seen and threaten civilization as we have known it. Speaking of being in abeyance though, they've been lurking there all along in the various religions of the world.
I heard the Israeli historian Yuval Harari this morning on CBC, in the context of the current war in Gaza, describing our endemic, ever more disastrous trait--- to not only believe but also believe IN "stories" despite them being fairy tales and myths. But despite a very astute and accurate analysis, he still never said the word "religion," only the word "sacred," as in a sacred rock common to both religions involved. A rock.
My point is that because current conservatism is interchangeable with Trump cultism, there's no safe harbour anymore, you're either fighting it tooth and nail at every turn, or you're part of the existential threat before us.
So as examples of people trying to straddle the line, I think "The Hub" has outed itself, as has "The Line," various Globe and Mail writers like Andrew Coyne and David Frum, and the list goes on and on because few want to be perceived as "melodramatic," even in the face of potentially deadly climate change. Look at one of the cornerstones of the con contempt for Trudeau, that he was first, a teacher (hahaha, how pathetic and effeminate is THAT), and even worse, a DRAMA teacher. It's just not "manly," or "leader-like."

Thank you so much for having this discussion. The boomers are getting old and dying off. The millennials are the largest population in Canada now. So who is pushing up the polling for the Federal Conservatives? I have been working against Climate Change since 2015, This is the main problem facing the World. The National Observer, the Tyee, the Narwhal, Rabble are all good on-line papers that tell the truth. All the paper journalists are right wing = misguided males.

Thanks for writing!