Jessica Bell MPP, University–Rosedale

Government of Ontario

Four Lessons from the Federal Election

Published on September 23, 2021

Canada’s 44th election is over. The election cost $660 million, and we got the same results as before, give or take a few seats. The Liberals got the minority they deserved.   

Despite the status quo outcome, the political moment has changed. Here’s what I’m noticing.

Canadians are mostly comfortable with a minority government, they want political parties to work together, and no one wants another federal election anytime soon. Canadians also want politicians to keep their promises. No one in our riding has forgotten Trudeau’s reneging on reforming our first-past-the-post electoral system back in 2015.

This is why the NDP now holds a strong bargaining position to hold the Liberals to account, and push for bold progressive change on the top election issues.

Here’s what Trudeau should do to address one key issue - the housing affordability crisis. Home prices increased by 38% last year alone, and over 40% of Canadian renters pay unaffordable rent. Federal action is vital.

On the demand side, Trudeau’s proposed two-year ban on foreign buyers of residential homes should proceed, and be properly enforced. The Liberal’s plan to impose a one percent annual tax on vacant homes owned by foreigners should extend to all vacant homes, with an exemption for primary residences. Maveric researcher, Jaco Joubet estimates the vacancy rates in Toronto’s biggest condos range from 5.5 to 13%. Joubet determined occupancy by photographing 15 Toronto condos every night for a year to monitor whether the lights were on or off.

To help existing renters, Trudeau should better regulate and fairly tax Real Estate Investment Trusts, or REITs. These corporate financial landlords now own 20% of all purpose-built rental properties, including many buildings on Walmer, Spadina, St George, and Bay. To increase profit, corporate landlords cut maintenance and evict long-term tenants to raise the rent to market rates. This business model makes home life miserable for our apartment-dwelling neighbours, and must be addressed.

To build new affordable supply, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) should be reformed. CBC recently investigated CMHC’s signature affordable home building program – the rental construction financing initiative. CBC found this program is giving billions in loans to developers at extraordinarily favourable terms, like 50 year amortization periods, to build unaffordable rental units - sometimes with asking rents double the neighbourhood average. CMHC’s programs must facilitate the construction of permanently affordable homes, including homes built by non-profit providers and cooperatives.

The election results exposed Canada’s growing political instability. While the People Party of Canada did not win a seat, they got six percent of the vote. At the door, PPC-voting residents told me they were angry about the lockdowns and vaccine mandates because it threatened their civil liberties. I observed anger, apathy, and a deep distrust of government and mainstream media. This divisiveness will not subside with the pandemic. There are no easy answers, but I know listening and understanding are part of the solution.  I know that often a rejection of government can be driven by big social change, like the rise of unregulated social media and its loose relationship with the truth, and growing economic inequality that drives people to blame scapegoats. I also know that the path to political peace and social cohesion will not be achieved by simply dismissing our neighbours as ignorant haters.

Canada’s major federal support programs will end on October 23, including the wage subsidy program, the rent subsidy program for businesses, the caregiver program, and the recovery benefit program, which provides income support for workers not eligible for EI.  

Some of these support programs should end. It’s immoral that the fossil fuel sector got $18B in pandemic support. That said, Canada must continue to provide stable economic support to those in need. That is why I support a guaranteed liveable income, starting with seniors and people with disabilities. People need help, not hardship.

Direct support must be twinned with government intervention to ensure a fair economic recovery.  Jagmeet Singh has made it clear that NDP support in parliament is contingent o the liberals raising taxes on the wealthy to address Canada’s wealth and income inequality divide.  Economic recovery must also include wise investment into sectors that yield positive long-term economic and health outcomes, from affordable childcare to a green transportation system.  That’s what I’m watching for federally, and advocating for provincially.