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Economy

Argentine President Javier Milei blasts WEF audience with passionate warning against socialism

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Imagine you’re at a ballgame and the person invited to throw the ceremonial first pitch decided to hurl a beanball.  That’s more less what happened Wednesday at the 54th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum.

Argentinian President Javier Milei managed to steal the spotlight in Davos with his passionate defense of free enterprise capitalism and his warning against the very type of measures attendees came to Davos to discuss.

The theme of this year’s WEF conference was “Rebuilding Trust”. President Milei did his best to shatter trust in the international forum with a 20 minute blast in which he warned “The state is not the solution, the state is the problem itself”.

This is the video of the entire presentation.  Milei begins speaking at the 6:00 mark.

 

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Economy

Canada’s flippant rejection of our generous natural resource inheritance

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From the Macdonald Laurier Institute

By David Polansky

The fanaticism of environmental elitists has made people unwilling to discuss the serious human and economic costs of poorly considered environmental policies.

Strategic energy resources have long been associated with some of the world’s most odious regimes. Above the surfaces that cover rich mineral and fossil fuel deposits one finds religious fanatics, brutal tyrants, and corrupt kleptocracies. And yet with one resource rich nation in particular we find not Wahhabism or gangsterism but Mounties and maple syrup.

Canada is the world’s second-largest country and its lands and territorial waters hold some of the world’s most substantial oil and gas reserves. Looking at its energy policies, one might think it was Belgium. Canada’s resource wealth would seem to be a case of the good guys winning for once. Why then does Canada flee in shame from its geological (and geopolitical) situation?

The answer is that Canada’s elites have long ceased to think in terms of its national interests or fiscal priorities but have adopted a naïve environmental dogmatism. Since it ratified the Paris Agreement in 2015, Canada has embraced an ambitious, top-down, international agenda to achieve “net-zero” emissions and limit global climate change.

But the fact is that, despite its size, In absolute terms, its output has risen marginally over the past half century, even as its population has nearly doubled. And embracing this climate agenda is hardly a perfunctory matter: it will continue to result in declining incomes for the average Canadian as well as a weakened trade balance for Canada as a whole. Canada’s economy is being sacrificed on the altar of elite preferences divorced from the realities of how Canadians actually heat our homes or put food on our tables.

An honest assessment of Canada’s flippant rejection of its generous natural resource inheritance looks more like serial masochism than virtue.

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the global sanctions it triggered, The irony is that with so much of Russia’s supply coming offline, Canada could have had a remarkable opportunity to fill the vacuum with its own production capacity.

Despite being the world’s sixth-largest producer of natural gas, Canada lacks even a single export terminal for LNG. When critics of Canadian LNG production pointed to the unfeasibility of meeting overseas demand, despite the entreaties of the Germans and other Europeans, they were only technically correct. Canada couldn’t easily meet overseas demand because our regulatory regime has held up the construction of as many as 18 proposed LNG projects over the past decade, largely due to climate concerns.

Ironically, Germany—the continent’s greatest industrial power—needed to reactivate discontinued coal plants to meet its energy demands (hardly an ideal outcome from an environmental standpoint).

Much of the shortfall caused by sanctions on Russia was also made up by LNG contributions from Norway—whose leaders have maintained that reducing LNG output would only cede the market to authoritarian regimes with weaker regulatory controls around their energy industries from both environmental and human rights standpoints. Thankfully, Norway’s government moved forward with LNG production and export despite past pressure from environmentalist in the European Union that attempted to curtail its fossil fuel extraction.

Canada could have followed Norway’s level-headed approach and in that could have helped replace Russian oil in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion. The curtailing of Canada’s energy infrastructure is not imposed by a physical limitation in the world, nor was it commanded from the heavens; it was ordered by the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act of 2021, supplemented by ambitious plans promulgated by Ottawa to reshape the institutions and practices of the entire country in pursuit of this quixotic goal. Not just the oil-and-gas sector, but housing, construction, agriculture, etc. must bend before Net Zero.

One can already hear activist outrage that, “to oppose this agenda is to choose temporary profits over the preservation of human life and the planet that supports it.” This rhetoric has proven effective in advancing environmental policies but it is also a false dichotomy, as it treats the dilemma as one of “good vs. greed” rather than one of complex competing goods.

A society that has signed on to this sort of imposed austerity is one with less money for infrastructure, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and defense. A lack of investment in these sectors also brings serious and immediate human costs. And further, the real issue is not the value of environmental stewardship or of taking steps to moderate consumption—both of which are worthy goals in and of themselves—but of blindly adhering to preselected targets at all costs. These apparently unassailable commitments have deprived Canada of the kind of flexible management of strategic interests that prudent political leadership requires.

Indeed, the unrealism of these climate ideals has produced systemic dissembling across the country’s major institutions, given the pressure to comply regardless of the efficacy of their practices. In other words, the fanaticism of environmental elitists has made people unwilling to debate the issues at hand or to even discuss the serious human and economic costs of poorly considered environmental policies.

The Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) model has had the effect of placing certain questions effectively beyond the reach of politics. But questions of policy—as environmental and energy questions surely are—are by their nature political; they have inevitable tradeoffs that should be a matter of debate with an eye to our collective interests.

Instead, we have an intolerant environmental elitism that obstructs the open and honest public deliberation that is the hallmark of democratic politics. A more truthful and practical approach wouldn’t necessarily promote any one policy, but it would allow for public discussion that recognizes the genuine toll that environmental policy takes on Canada’s domestic well-being and our standing in the world.

David Polansky is a Toronto-based writer and political theorist. Read him at strangefrequencies.co or find him on X @polanskydj.

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Economy

Housing policy should focus on closing the demand-supply gap, not inducing demand or stifling supply

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From the Fraser Institute

FEDERAL REFORMS TO IMPROVE HOUSING AFFORDABILITY

BY JOSEF FILIPOWICZ AND STEVE LAFLEUR

Canada’s declining housing affordability reflects a large, worsening imbalance between housing demand and housing supply.

Few policy areas are gaining as much attention in Canada as housing. This is unsurprising, given that Canada has the largest gap between homes prices and incomes among G7 nations (OECD, 2023) and rents continue to rise in most cities (Statistics Canada, 2023a). As eroding housing affordability has expanded to more parts of Canada, demands for policy solutions have grown beyond local jurisdictions, pressuring federal decisionmakers to act.

First, this essay offers a diagnosis of the issue—a large, growing imbalance between housing demand and supply. Second, it discusses federal policies affecting housing demand, urging better coordination and restraint amid tight supply conditions. Third, it discusses the federal government’s less-direct—though still important—options to improve housing supply.

Guiding principles: do no more harm, and close the demand-supply gap

Canada’s declining housing affordability reflects a large, worsening imbalance between housing demand and housing supply. This is evident when comparing trends in population growth and housing completions. Figure 1 charts these two metrics between 1972 and 2022. In recent years, Canada’s population growth has accelerated, while the number of homes completed has declined relative to the 1970s. 1

Policy efforts should focus on closing the demand-supply gap. The federal government should first ensure that it is not exacerbating the problem, either by stoking demand or by stifling supply, and second by both reviewing all existing policies through a supply-demand lens while implementing tailored policies aimed at closing the demand-supply gap.

Demand-side considerations for federal housing policy

Though all levels of government influence both housing demand and supply, the federal government’s policy levers pertain more directly to demand. They do so in two important ways.

First, federal policy influences population growth. As Canada’s birth rate has declined, population growth has been driven primarily by immigration (including both permanent and temporary residents) (Statistics Canada, 2023c). Though provinces may influence immigration decisions, the federal government establishes annual targets (where applicable) and admission criteria (Filipowicz and Lafleur, 2023).

Second, the federal government influences households’ ability to pay for housing. Policies for home buyers including the First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit and the First Home Savings Account, which, combined with the Home Buyers’ Plan, enable the accumulation of tax-free savings for a down payment. Federal policies for homeowners include the exemption from capital gains taxation on the sale of primary residences, loan insurance through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and residential mortgage underwriting through the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions. Combined, these policies influence the relative attractiveness of housing as an investment.

Without adequate supply, these policies result in higher prices, rather than greater affordability. The federal government should review all existing or proposed policies directly or indirectly impacting housing demand. Further, it should adopt the following two policy approaches:

• Stronger consideration of housing supply dynamics when determining short, medium and long-term immigration targets or visa issuance. For example, supply metrics (e.g. housing starts, completions, and rental vacancy rates) should help inform multi-year plans or criteria for permanent and non-permanent resident admissions.

• Refraining from introducing new demand-inducing subsidies, such as tax credits or subsidies to homebuyers and homeowners, while comprehensively reviewing the impact of existing subsidies.

Supply-side considerations for federal housing policy

Housing supply in Canada is influenced primarily by provincial and local governments. Decisions concerning land-use and growth planning—including for lands owned by the federal government—largely rest with these levels of government, meaning housing construction projects cannot be realized without first aligning with, and receiving approval from, local authorities. Federal policies aiming to grow the housing supply must account for this.

Federal influence on housing supply can be divided into four policy types. First are fiscal transfers. Every year the federal government transfers billions of dollars to municipalities to fund infrastructure. In some cases, funding is permanent and based on federal-provincial agreements.3 In other cases, funding is negotiated for specific projects.4

Second, the federal government also funds the development of non-market housing. Programs such as the National Co-Investment Fund and Rapid Housing Initiative offer low-interest or forgivable loans, and direct funding, respectively, to organizations building or acquiring non-market housing.

Third, federal tax policies and programs influence the financial feasibility of homebuilding. For example, federal sales and capital gains taxes apply differently to different housing types, such as condominiums, rental buildings and accessory dwelling units (e.g. basement or laneway suites).5
Further, federal programs such as the Rental Construction Financing Initiative and multi-unit mortgage loan insurance products influence project feasibility by providing rental builders with low-interest loans or reduced premiums.

Fourth, the federal government’s primary responsibility for immigration gives it significant influence over the mix of skills prioritized in application screening, affecting the construction sector’s ability to recruit workers. Indeed, the share of immigrants working in the construction sector was lower than that among Canada’s overall population in 2020 (BuildForce Canada, 2020), reflecting the longstanding selection preferences of federal immigration policy until more recent changes.6

The federal government should coordinate with local and provincial governments as it develops policies, avoiding the creation of additional barriers and duplication. Specifically, the following three approaches should inform federal efforts to improve housing supply:

• Tying all federal infrastructure funding to housing supply metrics such as housing stock growth, starts or completions, ensuring limited funds are directed to those regions facing the strongest growth pressures in a transparent fashion, while reducing administrative costs and jurisdictional overlap.

• Reviewing and reforming the tax treatment of all housing development, helping improve the feasibility of large- and small-scale projects Canada-wide.

• Further prioritizing skills related to homebuilding in immigration policies and eligibility criteria.

Conclusion

Faced with a widening gap between housing demand and supply, this essay focuses on the federal government’s influence on housing markets, offering five areas of policy action.

The most direct federal levers pertain to housing demand. Housing constraints should be weighed more heavily when setting immigration policy, including temporary immigration, and new demand-inducing policies such as homebuyer tax credits should be avoided, while existing policies should be reviewed.

Given the federal government’s less direct influence on housing supply, intergovernmental coordination is recommended. Limited transfer funding should follow local housing supply metrics, while the tax treatment of housing development could also be reformed, enabling a larger number of projects to be financially feasible.  Lastly, immigration policies should emphasize skills required to build more housing.

Notes
1 For more on the gap between population growth and housing completions, see Filipowicz (2023).
2 For a full list of incentives and rebates for homebuyers, see <https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/consumers/home-buying/government-of-canada-programs-to-support-homebuyers>, as of February 5, 2023.
3 For example, the Canada Community-Building Fund (formerly the Gas Tax Fund) delivers approximately $2 billion annually to local governments.
It is governed by a series of federal-provincial agreements.
4 For example, the federal government has committed one-third of the capital funding required by the Surrey Langley SkyTrain. Similar agreements
are common for major transit infrastructure.
5 The federal government recently announced the removal of the goods and services tax on purpose-built rental housing, helping the feasibility
of this housing class. For more on the influence of federal taxation on rental housing, see Canadian Home Builders’ Association (2016).
6 Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada changed screening processes in mid-2023, favouring trade occupations, among others. The full effects of these changes will become apparent with time.
Sources for Figure 1
Statistics Canada, 2023a, table: 17-10-0009-01; Statistics Canada, 2023b, table: 34-10-0126-01.
References
BuildForce Canada (2020). Immigration Trends in the Canadian Construction Sector. <https://www.buildforce.ca/system/files/documents/Immigration_trends_Canadian_construction_sector.pdf> as of September 13, 2023.
Canadian Home Builders’ Association (2016). Encouraging Construction and Retention of Purpose-Built Rental Housing in Canada: Analysis of Federal Tax Policy Options. <https://www.evergreen.ca/downloads/pdfs/HousingActionLab/HAL_EncouragingConstructionAndRetention_FINAL.pdf> as of September 13, 2023.
Filipowicz (2023). Canada’s Growing Housing Gap: Comparing Population Growth and Housing Completions in Canada, 1972–2022.
Fraser Institute. <https://www.fraserinstitute.org/sites/default/files/canadas-growing-housing-gap-1972-2022.pdf>, as of February
5, 2024.
Filipowicz, Josef and Steve Lafleur (2023a). Getting Our Houses in Order: How a Lack of Intergovernmental Policy Coordination
Undermines Housing Affordability in Canada. Macdonald-Laurier Institute. <https://macdonaldlaurier.ca/getting-our-houses-in-order-how-a-lack-of-intergovernmental-policy-coordination-undermines-housing-affordability-in-canada/>, as of February 5, 2024.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (2023). Express Entry Rounds of Invitations: Category-based Selection. <https://www.
canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/express-entry/submit-profile/rounds-invitations/category-based-selection.html>, as of September 15, 2023.
International Monetary Fund (2023). Report for the 2023 Article IV Consultation. [or Country Report: Canada]. <https://www.imf.
org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2023/07/27/Canada-2023-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-and-Staff-Report-537072> as of
September 13, 2023.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]. 2023. Housing Prices (indicator). DOI: 10.1787/63008438.
OECD. <https://data.oecd.org/price/housing-prices.htm>, as of February 5, 2023.
Statistics Canada (2023a). Table 34-10-0133-01. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, average rents for areas with a population of 10,000 and over. <https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/cv.action?pid=3410013301>, as of February 5, 2023.
Statistics Canada (2023b). Table 34-10-0127-01. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, vacancy rates, apartment structures of six units and over, privately initiated in census metropolitan areas. <https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3410012701>, as of February 5, 2024.
Statistics Canada (2023c). Table 17-10-0008-01. Estimates of the components of demographic growth, annual. <https://www150.
statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1710000801>, as of March 2, 2023.
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