From the MacDonald Laurier Institute
By Josef Filipowicz and Steve Lafleur
On balance, the federal government shows little interest in tying the demand side of Canada’s housing equation to the supply side
Housing policy is typically thought of as a local government issue. After all, municipalities largely control the number and types of dwellings ultimately allowed to be built across Canada. They also, generally speaking, have the most control over the supply side of the housing market of any order of government – and supply hasn’t been doing too well for decades now.
If there’s one area of housing policy where municipalities can be excused, it’s in their (in)ability to project housing demand. The blame for that lies with the federal government. Let us explain.
Housing demand – that is, the number and types of dwellings desired in Canada – is the result of factors like incomes, credit, and, probably most importantly, population growth. Municipalities, in their defence, control none of these.
Incomes are determined by market factors (and, to an extent, by federal and provincial taxation), while the strongest credit levers lie with the Bank of Canada or other national entities. Population growth, for its part, is no longer primarily driven by births and deaths. Canada-wide, it is almost exclusively determined by federal immigration policy. To wit, Statistics Canada reported that roughly 98% of the growth in the Canadian population from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023, came from net international migration, with 2% coming from the difference between births and deaths.
In other words, local governments have the strongest levers affecting the supply of housing, while the federal government has the strongest levers affecting the demand for housing.
But, as we discussed in a recent report for the Macdonald Laurier Institute, the three levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) don’t coordinate all that much when it comes to housing. The decisions guiding population growth, such as medium-term immigration targets, immigration eligibility criteria, and temporary residency policies, don’t take critical factors like the number of homes available across Canada into account. In fact, at the time of our report’s publication, in March 2023, none of the federal-provincial agreements that guide immigration planning even mentioned the word “housing.” Adjacent terms, such as access to settlement “services,” “activities,” or “requirements” are mentioned, implying a possible link, but none explicitly mention the need for a quantitatively or qualitatively adequate housing supply.
Meanwhile, the processes local governments use to guide future growth, including infrastructure needs (e.g., sewers, roads, water, schools) and zoning bylaws, don’t reflect the magnitude of housing demand. For example, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which guides how cities in Canada’s largest urban area (anchored by Toronto) should grow over the long term, was first drawn up in 2006 and wasn’t updated until 2019/2020. This means that any changes to population projections occurring after the plan’s enactment were not taken into account when planning for the many homes needed to accommodate a growing population.
So why is this a problem?
Canada’s population growth has reached historic levels. 2022 was the first year where Canada grew by more than one million people, and 2023 appears to be on track for similarly high growth. This level of growth was not anticipated in the population projections that inform local growth plans. In fact, the Ontario government’s own set of 10-year growth targets on larger cities, imposed in 2022 in an attempt to short circuit lagging local projections, are already largely obsolete. Why? Because the federal decisions determining growth can change from year to year – and in recent years the feds have consistently augmented the number of permanent and temporary migrants coming to Canada. Put another way, the population estimate goalposts appear to move further out every year, preventing local governments devising adequate plans on how to reach them.
The picture here is bleak, as any efforts to adequately house a growing Canadian public quickly become obsolete. Local governments undertaking years of preparation and public consultation to enact their growth plans might even find themselves in a situation where their projections are outdated before the ink even dries. This must be deflating, as it undermines the entire process by which Canadian communities do their best to grow at a steady pace while balancing the interests of many stakeholders.
Is there any good news?
The short answer is ‘yes.’ The federal government appears to have acknowledged the mounting chorus of commentary criticizing its lack of consideration of basic elements such as housing needs and capacity when setting medium-term immigration targets. The latest targets, announced on November 1, 2023, hold the annual number of permanent residents steady at 500,000 per year starting in 2026, while also committing to “take action over the next year to recalibrate the number of temporary resident admissions to ensure this aspect of our immigration system also remains sustainable.”
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada – the ministry responsible for setting targets and eligibility – also released a report outlining some planned changes to immigration policy. Notably, the report includes a section dedicated to the development of “a comprehensive and coordinated growth plan,” including a commitment to “Seek to integrate housing and health care planning, along with other important services, into planning Canada’s immigration levels.” Somewhat more specifically, it commits the Ottawa to “explor[ing] options to develop a more integrated plan to coordinate housing, health care and infrastructure between federal government departments, and in close collaboration with provinces, territories and municipalities.”
But that’s about it. No specifics on local housing capacity, or on predictable numbers of non-permanent residents, both of which are necessary to ensure balanced growth. Unfortunately for local governments trying to adequately plan for growth, it looks like they’ll have to wait and see as the federal government determines whether and how it might make Canada’s rate of population growth more predictable.
So what can be done?
The federal government appears reluctant to meaningfully diverge from its traditional approach to immigration policy in the near term. However, a greater willingness to engage with other levels of government is a positive development. Local and provincial governments are well placed to determine their capacity to plan for and build housing, as well as other necessary infrastructure to support growth. Further, they already have a role in drafting the agreements that guide medium-term immigration plans. They should make the most of this opportunity by ensuring that all departments and ministries directly involved with the delivery of infrastructure and housing play a direct, leading role in drafting input guiding immigration policy. Specifically, their input should include hard estimates of communities’ capacity to increase housing and infrastructure development, helping frame future immigration targets, criteria, and strategies.
On balance, the federal government is still showing little interest in tying the demand side of Canada’s housing equation to the supply side. Nevertheless, its recent changes to immigration policy offer a sliver of hope to local governments struggling to anticipate future growth needs. Provinces and municipalities should make the most of this opportunity, helping bring both sides of the housing equation a little closer to one another.
Josef Filipowicz is an independent policy specialist focusing on urban land-use issues including housing affordability, taxation and municipal finance.
Steve Lafleur is a public policy analyst who researches and writes for Canadian think tanks.
Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis condemns MAiD in Parliament as targeting nation’s most vulnerable
‘I call upon with government to reverse its course and instead provide help and hope for Canadians suffering with mental health conditions’
Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis condemned the Trudeau government’s treatment of Canada’s most vulnerable, revealing that 36 Canadians are euthanized every day.
On November 28, Dr. Leslyn Lewis, Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Haldimand-Norfolk, Ontario, addressed Parliament on the dangers of Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD), the euphemistic name for Canada’s euthanasia regime.
“The poor, homeless, the abused, veterans, seniors, youth, adults suffering with disabilities, those suffering with depressions, and mental health conditions,” Lewis said. “These are among the most vulnerable in our society that are falling through the cracks of Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying regime.”
The most vulnerable are falling through the cracks of Canada's Medical Assistance in Dying regime.
Every day 36 Canadians die by MAiD, the HIGHEST NUMBER in the world. Canadians suffering with mental illness need help and hope, not euthanasia. This gov't must reverse course. pic.twitter.com/tT8x5PBpxq
— Dr. Leslyn Lewis (@LeslynLewis) November 28, 2023
“They are the ones who will be at risk when the MAiD laws in Canada are expanded in March 2024,” the pro-life MP added. “Last year, death by euthanasia increased by 30 percent from the year before. Every day in Canada, 36 people use MAiD to end their lives, which is the highest in the world.”
“I call upon with government to reverse its course and instead provide help and hope for Canadians suffering with mental health conditions,” Lewis appealed.
On March 9, 2024, MAiD is set to expand to include those suffering solely from mental illness. This is a result of the 2021 passage of Bill C-7, which also allowed the chronically ill – not just the terminally ill – to qualify for so-called doctor-assisted death.
The mental illness expansion was originally set to take effect in March of this year. However, after massive pushback from pro-life groups, conservative politicians and others, the Liberals under Trudeau delayed the introduction of the full effect of Bill C-7 until 2024 via Bill C-39.
The expansion comes despite warnings from top Canadian psychiatrists that the country is “not ready” for the coming expansion of euthanasia to those who are mentally ill, saying expanding the procedure is not something “society should be doing” as it could lead to deaths under a “false pretense.”
Similarly, Angelina Ireland, the head of one of Canada’s few pro-life hospice societies, recently warned that euthanasia has become a national “horror” show.
“Unfortunately, there is no reprieve in sight as think Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) becomes a national horror and the ‘professionals’ sharpen up their needles,” Ireland told LifeSiteNews.
“We have reached the point where we must all protect each other from MAiD,” she noted.
Euthanasia deaths have gone through the roof in Canada since it became legal in 2016.
According to Health Canada, in 2022, 13,241 Canadians died by MAiD lethal injection, which is 4.1 percent of all deaths in the country for that year, and a 31.2 percent increase from 2021.
The number of Canadians killed by lethal injection since 2016 now stands at 44,958.
MNP steps in to help youth “Move Your Mood” at the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence
Ribbon Cut at the Newly Named MNP Move Your Mood Studio in the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence
The ribbon has been officially cut, and a new name announced for the MNP Move Your Mood Studio inside the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence.
The MNP Move Your Mood Studio held its naming ceremony and ribbon cutting on Tuesday, November 21st. Move Your Mood, an Alberta Health Services program, occupies a portion of Floor 2 inside the new Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence on the main campus of Red Deer Polytechnic.
The new MNP Move Your Mood Studio has a large space for classes and physical activity, complete with a climbing wall, physical activity gaming wall, and kitchen.
A significant contribution was made on behalf of the partner group from MNP’s Central Alberta region. This contribution reflects their commitment to investing in the communities that they are a part of.
“On behalf of the Central Alberta partner group and our entire team across the region, we are elated to celebrate the MNP Move Your Mood Studio,” says Patrick Wigmore, Regional Managing Partner for MNP in Central Alberta. “At MNP we truly believe that making a positive difference in the communities where we live, work, and play is a fundamental part of who we are. Our partners throughout the region believe that pooling our efforts together to create a greater impact for organizations like Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre and in turn, Move Your Mood, will leave a lasting legacy of positive impacts in Central Alberta. The decision to support the CACAC was unanimous.”
Move Your Mood is a research-based program that promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyle practices to improve the mental and physical well-being of participants. The MYM program provides opportunities for participants to experience how to move their bodies, fuel their bodies, practice mindfulness, and build positive coping strategies.
“We would like to thank MNP for their generous donation to the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence and helping make this dream come true for children and youth in our community. We are grateful and honoured to share the name of the MNP Move Your Mood Studio and look forward to the opportunities this space will provide our entire community in the future. The space will be up and running in the New Year.” – Denise Fredeen, Health Promotion Facilitator at Move Your Mood.
The MNP Move Your Mood Studio will be a shared space for all children and youth accessing services at the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence. The Studio will be a place where children and youth can learn positive coping strategies to improve their mental and physical wellness through interactive opportunities. There will be opportunities for them to play, practice mindfulness, be physically active, learn how to make healthy snacks and take part in creative activities.
The space will provide professionals in the building an opportunity to create positive connections and teach children and youth skills they can continue to be active and healthy for life. The space will also provide opportunities for prevention work with students in the community and a space for future training of RDP students and MYM Coaches.
To learn more about the MNP Move Your Mood Studio and its programming, please email
[email protected] or visit www.moveyourmood.ca.
About MNP: National in scope and local in focus, MNP is one of Canada’s leading professional services firms — proudly serving individuals, businesses, and organizations since 1958. Through the development of strong relationships, we provide client-focused accounting, consulting, tax, and digital services. Our clients benefit from personalized strategies with a local perspective to fuel success wherever business takes them. For more information, visit www.mnp.ca
About CACAC: The Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre is a not-for-profit organization rooted in the protection and recovery of today’s most innocent and vulnerable – our children. The Centre is comprised of a collective that is driven by the courage to support children, youth, and their families affected by abuse, enabling them to build enduring strength and overcome adversity. We work in a collaborative partnership with the Alberta Children and Family Services, Alberta Health Services, Alberta Justice, Alberta Education, Red Deer Polytechnic, the Central Alberta Sexual Assault Support Centre and the RCMP. Together we harness our collective courage to provide children with
supported recovery. For more information on CACAC and the Sheldon Kennedy Centre of Excellence, please visit: centralalbertacac.ca
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