From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy
By Wendell Cox
The year 2022 marked a concerning increase in “severely unaffordable” housing markets, extending beyond the scope of the six major markets.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s Demographia Housing Affordability in Canada report, released today, cast a spotlight on the pressing issue of housing affordability in Canada. This comprehensive report offers a detailed analysis of middle-income housing affordability during the third quarter of 2022, focusing on 46 housing markets referred to as census metropolitan areas.
The report goes beyond the conventional analysis of property prices, delving into the intricate interplay between house prices and income. Price-to-income ratios, a crucial metric for assessing housing affordability, have gained global recognition. Esteemed institutions, including the World Bank, United Nations, OECD, and IMF, have endorsed this measurement. The Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s housing affordability index adopts a similar approach, utilizing the “median multiple” calculation. This calculation involves dividing the median house price by pre-tax median household income.
The report sheds light on the historical context of housing affordability within Canada’s six major markets – Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa – each with populations surpassing one million. The period from 1970 to the mid-2000s witnessed relative stability in the housing affordability landscape. However, by 2005, Vancouver’s market initiated a significant shift towards unaffordability, a trend that has only intensified since the mid-2000s.
The year 2022 marked a concerning increase in “severely unaffordable” housing markets, extending beyond the scope of the six major markets. The number of severely unaffordable markets surged from 18 in 2019 to 24 among the surveyed 46 markets. In contrast, the count of “affordable” markets dwindled from eight in 2019 to a mere three.
The advent of remote work, or “telecommuting” during the pandemic led to a surge in households seeking more spacious living spaces. This surge in demand outpaced supply, resulting in a “demand shock” that further exacerbated the challenges of housing affordability.
The epicentre of unaffordable housing primarily lies in British Columbia and Ontario. Notably, Vancouver and Toronto emerged as the most severely unaffordable major markets, ranking third and 10th least affordable among 94 markets in Demographia’s International Housing Affordability Report 2022. This phenomenon extended beyond Vancouver, impacting other markets in British Columbia. Similarly, the trend reached markets beyond Toronto, prompting a net interprovincial migration as households pursued more affordable housing options.
Amidst these challenges, four markets – Moose Jaw (SK), Fort McMurray (AB), Saguenay (QC), and Fredericton (NB) – have managed to uphold their affordability. The Canadian housing market faces intensified scrutiny, with analyses highlighting the formidable task of addressing the nation’s housing crisis. This includes restoring affordability and enabling home ownership amidst obstacles such as the scale of the issue and the capacity of the home-building sector.
At the heart of the crisis lies urban containment regulation, which has driven land prices to unsustainable levels, constraining housing supply for middle income households. This scenario arises from the deliberate intent of urban containment policies to inflate land prices. Disparities in land costs across markets play a pivotal role in housing affordability disparities. Government policies, like urban containment, unintentionally contribute to government-induced inequality by inflating land prices. Practical alternatives exist to revitalize housing affordability.
Migration to more affordable housing markets has become a priority for many, as evidenced by an unprecedented population shift away from major metropolitan areas towards regions with more affordable housing options. Ensuring affordability remains in these markets is pivotal. Neglecting this could lead to replicating the ongoing affordability crisis in regions that are currently more affordable, which could limit opportunities for future generations and impact Canada’s attractiveness as an international migration destination.
About the Frontier Centre for Public Policy The Frontier Centre for Public Policy is an independent, non-partisan think tank that conducts research and analysis on a wide range of public policy issues. Committed to promoting economic freedom, individual liberty, and responsible governance, the Centre aims to contribute to informed public debates and shape effective policies that benefit Canadians.
Wendell Cox is a Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He is principal of Demographia.com, author of Demographia World Urban Areas and an author of Demographia International Housing Affordability (19 annual editions) and Demographia World Urban Areas. He earned a BA in Government from California State University, Los Angeles and an MBA from Pepperdine University. He served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris, a national university.
Trudeau gov’t set to introduce another internet regulation bill this week
While the Trudeau government claims its forthcoming ‘Online Harms’ bill is being created to protect kids, Conservative Party of Canada head Pierre Poilievre said that the federal government is just looking for clever ways to enact internet censorship laws.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is introducing its “online harms” legislation this week, spurring fears that this may mean the revival of parts of a lapsed bill from 2021 which looked to target free speech by banning certain legal internet content.
The new bill, by Liberal Justice Minister Arif Virani, was posted on the House of Commons notice paper for February 26, 2024, and will soon be read in Parliament.
The Online Harms Act will modify existing laws, amending the Criminal Code as well as the Canadian Human Rights Act, in what the Trudeau Liberals claim will target certain cases of internet content removal, notably those involving child sexual abuse and pornography.
The new bill will also create an ombudsperson who will be charged with dealing with public complaints regarding online content, as well as put forth a regulatory function that will be charged with monitoring internet platform behaviors.
While the Trudeau government claims the bill is being created to protect kids, Conservative Party of Canada head Pierre Poilievre said that the federal government is looking for clever ways to enact internet censorship laws.
During a February 21 press conference, Poilievre said that Trudeau is looking to, in effect, criminalize speech he does not like.
“What does Justin Trudeau mean when he says the word ‘hate speech?’ He means speech he hates,” said Poilievre.
Virani had many times last year hinted that a new Online Harms Act bill would be forthcoming in 2024.
Of important note is that the new Online Harms Act looks to amend Canada’s Human Rights Act, to put back in place a hate speech provision, specifically, Section 13 of the Act, which the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper had repealed in 2013.
Many fear that the new bill will be similar to the failed June 2021 bill introduced by then-Justice Minister David Lametti. Lametti had introduced Bill 36, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act and to make related amendments to another Act (hate propaganda, hate crimes and hate speech),” which was blasted as a controversial “hate speech” law that would give police the power to “do something” about online “hate.”
It was feared that if passed, it would target bloggers and social media users for speaking their minds.
Bill C-36 included text to amend Canada’s Criminal Code and Human Rights Act to define “hatred” as “the emotion that involves detestation or vilification and that is stronger than dislike or disdain (haine).”
If passed, the bill would have theoretically allow a tribunal to judge anyone who has a complaint of online “hate” leveled against them, even if he has not committed a crime. If found guilty, the person would have been in violation of the new law and could have faced fines of up to $70,000 as well as house arrest.
Two other Trudeau bills dealing with freedom as it relates to the internet have become law, the first being Bill C-11, or the Online Streaming Act, which mandates that Canada’s broadcast regulator the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) oversee regulating online content on platforms such as YouTube and Netflix to ensure that such platforms are promoting content in accordance with a variety of its guidelines.
Trudeau’s other internet censorship law, the Online News Act, was passed by the Senate in June of last year.
The Online News Act mandated that Big Tech companies pay to publish Canadian content on their platforms. As a result, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has blocked all access to news content in Canada.
Critics of Trudeau’s recent laws, such as tech mogul Elon Musk, have said it shows that “Trudeau is trying to crush free speech in Canada.”
Canadians in three provinces will spend roughly the same on debt interest as K-12 education
From the Fraser Institute
From 2008/09 to 2023/24, the federal government is projected to have run deficits every single year, with no interruptions. This has resulted in federal net debt (total debt minus financial assets) increasing by $603.6 billion (inflation-adjusted).
For more than a decade, Canadian governments have increasingly relied on borrowed money to fund their excessive spending habits. However, as debt has continued to pile up so have the costs associated with this debt—namely interest costs. A recent study shows that in some of the largest provinces, governments now spend nearly as much or more on debt interest costs than on K-12 education.
Since the 2008/09 financial crisis, governments across Canada have fallen into the habit of utilizing debt to fund their spending habits. For example, consider the federal government.
From 2008/09 to 2023/24, the federal government is projected to have run deficits every single year, with no interruptions. This has resulted in federal net debt (total debt minus financial assets) increasing by $603.6 billion (inflation-adjusted). Conversely, from 1996/97 to 2007/08, the federal government actually lowered its net debt by $348.1 billion (inflation-adjusted). Clearly, there’s been a shift in the government’s approach towards debt accumulation.
This is not simply a federal problem, as provinces have also seen their debt burdens rise as well. Cumulatively, provincial and federal net debt has increased by $1.0 trillion (inflation-adjusted) from 2007/08 to 2023/24.
Government debt carries costs, primarily in the form of the interest payments, which represent money that doesn’t go towards paying down the actual debt amount, nor does it go towards providing government services or tax relief. And since governments must utilize tax revenues to pay interest, taxpayers are ultimately on the hook for servicing government debt.
But how much do Canadians actually pay in debt interest costs?
Using data from the most recent fiscal updates, a new study compares combined (federal and provincial) debt interest costs for residents in three of the largest provinces (Ontario, Quebec and Alberta) with what those provinces expect to spend on K-12 education in 2023/24. The study utilizes combined debt interest costs because Canadians are ultimately responsible for interest costs incurred by both the federal government and the province in which they live. The following chart summarizes the comparisons from the study.
As is clear from the chart, combined interest costs for residents in these provinces are nearly as much or more than their province expects to spend on K-12 education in 2023/24. Specifically, combined interest costs are $31.5 billion for Ontarians, which is only $3.2 billion less than the province will spend on K-12 education in 2023/24. Combined interest costs for Quebecers ($20.3 billion) will actually exceed the $19.9 billion the province will devote towards K-12 education. And combined interest costs for Albertans are only slightly lower than the $8.9 billion that will be spent on K-12 education.
In other words, taxpayers in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are paying nearly as much or more to service federal and provincial government debt than they are paying to fund K-12 education in their province. This budget season, it’s important to remember the costs associated with growing government debt.
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