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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

We should follow New Zealand on housing and free up more land for growth


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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Wendell Cox

Attempts to contain ‘urban sprawl’ have driven land prices sky-high. It’s time to abandon densification strategies.

Not so long ago, house prices tended to be around three times household incomes in most housing markets in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. But over the past half-century, many local and provincial governments have tried to stop the expansion of urban areas (so-called “sprawl”) by means of urban growth boundaries, greenbelts and other containment strategies.

Though pleasing to planners, the results have been disastrous for middle- and lower-income households, sending housing prices through the roof, lowering living standards and even increasing poverty. International research has associated urban containment with escalating the underlying price of land, not only on the urban fringe where the city meets rural areas, but also throughout the contained area.

Canada’s current housing affordability crisis is centred in “census metropolitan areas” that have tried containment. Vancouver, which routinely places second or third least affordable of 94 major metropolitan areas in the annual Demographia International Housing Affordability report, has experienced a tripling of house prices compared to incomes. In the third quarter of last year, the median house price was 12.3 times median household income. In less than two decades, the Toronto CMA has experienced a doubling of its house price/income ratio, to 9.3.

Not surprisingly, both CMAs are seeing huge net departures, principally to less expensive markets nearby, such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, London, Nanaimo, Chilliwack and Kelowna. But these areas are also experiencing vanishing affordability as they too impose Vancouver- and Toronto-like policies.

In recent years, Canadian governments have adopted densification strategies — on the assumption that making cities more crowded will restore housing affordability. But evidence of that is limited. Yonah Freemark of the Urban Institute characterizes the literature as indicating “that upzonings offer mixed success in terms of housing production, reduced costs, and social integration in impacted neighborhoods; outcomes depend on market demand, local context, housing types, and timing.”

Like Canada, New Zealand has seen its house prices grow much faster than household incomes, also mainly because of urban containment policies. Auckland routinely ranks as one of the world’s least affordable markets. But in what may be a watershed moment for housing policy worldwide, New Zealand’s recently elected coalition government is giving up on densification and instead, with its Going for Housing Growth program, is aiming at the heart of the issue by addressing the cost of land.

Under new proposals, local governments will be required to zone enough land for 30 years of projected growth and make it available for immediate development. According to the government, local governments’ deliberate decision to restrain growth on their fringes has “driven up the price of land, which has flowed through to house prices,” and it cites research indicating that “urban growth boundaries add NZ$600,000 (C$500,000) to the cost of land for houses in Auckland’s fringes.”

The new policy will rely on a 2020 act allowing public agencies and private developers to establish “Special Purpose Vehicles” — corporations established for financing housing-related infrastructure, with the costs to be repaid by homeowners over up to 50 years. This removes the infrastructure burden from governments, as has also been done in “municipal utility districts” (MUDs) in Texas and Colorado. MUDs are independent entities empowered to issue bonds and collect fees to finance and manage local infrastructure for new developments.

New Zealand’s government believes guaranteeing plentiful access to land will result in an increased supply “inside and at the edge of our cities … so that land prices are not inflated by artificial planning restrictions.” The same strategy could help here. Unlike most urban planners, most Canadians do not want higher population density. A 2019 survey of younger Canadian households by the Mustel Group and Sotheby’s found that on average across four metropolitan areas (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary) 83 per cent of such families preferred detached houses, though only 56 per cent had actually bought one.

Households that move from the big city to Kitchener-Waterloo, say, or Chilliwack not only want to save money, they also want more house and probably a yard. Detached housing predominates in these affordability sanctuaries, compared to the Vancouver and Toronto CMAs.

Urban planners continue to complain about urban expansion, but that is how organic urban growth occurs. Toronto and Vancouver show that the cost of taming expansion is unacceptably high: inflated house prices, higher rents and, for increasing numbers of people, poverty. It is time to prioritize the well-being of Canadian households, not urban planners.

Wendell Cox, a senior fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, is author of the Centre’s annual Demographia International Housing Affordability report.

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Frontier Centre for Public Policy

The Toppling of the woke authoritarians

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Tom Slater, editor of Spiked.

If you – like me – loathe authoritarian, faux-progressive scolds, it’s actually been a good few years. I know it might not seem like it, with the ‘Queers for Palestine’ contingent currently running riot on American university campuses, but hear me out. Across the Anglosphere, one politician after another, beloved by the media but increasingly disliked by the public, have exited the stage, often jumping before they were pushed.

This week, we bid farewell to the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, whose year-and-a-bit-long premiership in Scotland produced more scandals and disparaging nicknames – Humza Useless, Humza the Hapless, etc – than it did any positive legacy. In the end, he proved himself to be as illiberal as he was inept. His Flagship policy, the Orwellian, broad-sweeping Hate Crime Act, alarmed voters and sparked a tsunami of spurious complaints, many of them about Yousaf himself. We can only hope it will now collapse under the weight of its own absurdity. (One thing’s for sure, voters are furious about it: only one in five Scots wants the Hate Crime Act to stay.)

Then, Humza managed to accidentally collapse his own government. He was apparently surprised to learn that his decision last week to suddenly terminate his party’s coalition agreement with the Scottish Greens –following some internal friction over trans and environmental issues – left the Greens angry and unwilling to prop up his minority government. As his short reign ends, Yousaf has at least managed the incredible feat of being even more unpopular than the leaders of the widely disliked Tories and the crackpot Greens, with an approval rating of -47. Yousaf – who was crowned first minister by SNP members and never gained a mandate from the people – was in negative numbers for all of this tenure.

Only in March, democrats were also toasting the demise of another despised, virtue-signalling leader who owed his position to elite politicking rather than democracy. Namely, Leo Varadkar. He became Irish taoiseach in 2017, after Fine Gael made him party leader. Even then, he had to rely on his support within the parliamentary party – in Fine Gael’s leadership-election process, the politicians are given much more weight than the members – given the membership voted two-to-one for his opponent. When Varadkar led his party to the polls in 2020, Fine Gael actually lost seats. Only by getting into bed with Fianna Fáil, his party’s supposed bitter rival, was Varadkar able to cling on to power.

Like Yousaf, Varadkar was a visionless leader who came to see superficial ‘social justice’ as his route to a legacy. While nominally on the centre-right economically, he was credited by international media with ‘Ireland’s transformation into a secular progressive state’. He clearly warmed to this image of himself, even if the Irish people did not. ‘We have made the country a more equal and more modern place’, he said in his resignation speech (my emphasis), ‘when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community, equality for women and their bodily autonomy’. This notion that Varadkar’s Ireland – like Yousaf’s Scotland – needed to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, that voters and their values desperately needed a politically correct makeover, gave the semblance of substance to his otherwise hollow premiership.

Ireland’s historic 2018 referendum, in which 66 per cent voted to overturn one of the Western world’s strictest abortion bans, was indeed a seismic blow for freedom. But Varadkar can hardly take credit for the decades of grassroots campaigning that got it over the line. His fingerprints were, however, all over the ‘family’ and ‘care’ referendums earlier this year, which produced two historic, humiliating defeats. Varadkar utterly failed to convince the people that this campaign to change the wording of the Irish constitution – to update the meaning of ‘family’ and to remove references to women’s role in the home – was anything other than an exercise in elite moral preening. He even insisted on holding the vote on International Women’s Day, just to heighten the sense of moral blackmail, even though doing so meant radically shortening the time the pro-amendments campaign had to prepare. The ‘family’ and ‘care’ amendments were rejected by 67 and 74 per cent of voters respectively. Varadkar tried to limp on, noting all major parties had backed the amendments. But this ballot-box revolt left his authority in tatters. He resigned two weeks later.

When Varadkar wasn’t talking down to voters, he was trying to censor them. Before he resigned, he had been toiling to pass Ireland’s own insanely draconian hate-speech bill, aimed at expanding restrictions on ‘incitement to hatred’ and adding gender to the list of ‘protected characteristics’, opening the door to criminalizing people for refusing to bow to the trans cult. To Scots, this may sound familiar. Indeed, it was as if Varadkar and Yousaf were competing to be the most censorious. Where Scotland’s Hate Crime Act criminalizes even private conversations in your own home (removing the so-called dwelling defence), Ireland’s proposed legislation would criminalize mere ‘possession’ of offensive material, including memes. From your phone’s camera roll to the family dinner table, no area of life is now safe, it seems, from the state censors. Having sailed through the Dáil in April 2023, the bill is now stuck in the upper house, after an almighty backlash from voters and civil libertarians. (Varadkar’s successor, Simon Harris, says he intends to table amendments to assuage voters’ concerns.)

Say what you will about Leo and Humza, at least they were occasionally – unintentionally – entertaining. Both were famously gaffe-prone. (Who could forget Yousaf’s tumble from his knee scooter, or Varadkar’s Monica Lewinsky joke in DC?) The same cannot be said for Nicola Sturgeon, the former Scottish first minister, Yousaf’s mentor and the walking embodiment of the prickly puritanism and mad identitarianism of our age. She looked upon the masses as reactionary filth – she once smeared her opponents as ‘transphobic… deeply misogynist, often homophobic, possibly some of them racist as well’ – all while ushering in the most reactionary agenda Scotland has seen for decades. Her already hated ‘gender self-ID’ reforms collapsed in 2023, when the public realized they would mean putting rapists in women’s prisons – which, by a grotesque quirk of fate, had become the ‘progressive’ position.

You could be forgiven for forgetting that the SNP was founded to achieve the ‘liberation’ of Scotland from the UK, rather than the ‘liberation’ of perfectly healthy genitals from the bodies of confused young people. It speaks to the grip of woke identity politics over the technocratic, centre-left imagination that Sturgeon was not only sidetracked but, in part, brought down by her dogged, fanatical pursuit of ‘trans rights’.  Then again, social engineering has characterized much of the SNP agenda since it first came to power. Ending the Union has often taken a back seat to reforming Scots, from the SNP’s crackdown on offensive football chants to its profoundly creepy ‘named person’ scheme, which would have assigned a state guardian to every child had it not been held up in the courts on human-rights grounds.

One of the hallmarks of our woke, technocratic ruling class is that they increasingly define themselves against their own citizenry. Leaders today draw their moral authority not from the democratic endorsement of their electorates but from their ability to rise above the throng, to oppose our supposedly backward values. Skim-read the resignation speeches of Sturgeon, Yousaf and Varadkar and you’ll find them all peppered with rueful references to ‘populism’, ‘polarization’ and the supposed ‘toxicity’ of contemporary discourse. Voters are forever the implied villains of the piece, for refusing to just shut up and let the adults get on with governing.

All this speaks to why elites have become so insanely authoritarian in recent years. What we used to call illiberal liberalism, along with greenism and multicultural identity politics, has held a malign sway over our rulers for decades. But all these tendencies have been sent into overdrive over the past eight years. In the wake of Brexit and the rise of a more populist, democratic politics, our leaders have been confronted with the chasm that exists between their values and ours. And having failed to convince, they can only compel, coerce, punish. This self-righteousness has also bred an obnoxious, unabashed narcissism. In her resignation speech, Sturgeon used the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘my’ 153 times. ‘Scotland’ appeared 11 times.

Covid added further fuel to this fear and loathing of the populace.

Politicians, already gripped by the panic about supposedly dim, irresponsible voters being manipulated by disinformation, gave full vent to their most authoritarian tendencies – locking us down and raging against any dissent. Arguably, no one did so as enthusiastically as New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, who was showered with praise by the globalist great and good for subjecting her own citizens to an unhinged ‘Zero Covid’ experiment. Naturally, she also became a campaigner for global censorship during this time, telling the United Nations in 2022 that ‘misinformation’ constituted a modern ‘weapon of war’, and calling on global leaders to confront climate-change deniers and peddlers of ‘hate’. She announced her resignation as prime minister and Labour leader in January 2023, just as she was enjoying her lowest-ever poll ratings while in office, all to the swoons of international media. Labour was wiped out later that year, in the worst election defeat of a sitting NZ government for decades.

Politicians seem to be going out of their way to alienate and infuriate voters, pursuing unpopular policies at the very same time as they demonize and clamp down on debate. On climate, they have embraced a programme of national immiseration, to be borne on the backs of the working classes, who are expected to just accept being colder, poorer and less mobile. On immigration, they have thrown open the doors to migrants and refugees on an unprecedented scale, without seeking public consent and without ensuring proper provision for – or vetting of – those arriving. On culture, they have embraced a new form of racism under the banner of anti-racism, and a misogyny and homophobia posing as ‘trans inclusion’. Meanwhile, voters are beginning to realise that all those calls to censor ‘hate’ and ‘misinformation’ are calls to censor them.

Even in Justin Trudeau’s Canada, a land long held up as ‘immune’ to populism, a backlash is stirring. The Canadian premier embodies woke authoritarianism in its most cartoonish form. When, in 2018, a woman confronted him at a corn roast about Canada’s enormous influx of refugees, he accused her of ‘racism’ to her face. Hell, he once corrected a woman who said ‘mankind’ instead of ‘peoplekind’. Worse still, his outrageous clampdowns on dissent make his contemporaries look subtle by comparison. When truckers rebelled against Covid mandates, he invoked emergency powers to freeze their bank accounts, break up their rallies and forcibly clear the streets. Of course, he’s also now trying to pass his own piece of censorship legislation, Bill C-63 – which, among other alarming provisions, would allow for people to be placed under house arrest if they are deemed likely to commit a hate crime. You know, like ‘precrime’ in Philip K Dick’s The Minority Report. Incidentally, Trudeau’s Liberal Party is currently trailing the Conservatives by a steady 19 points in the polls.

Wokeism. Climate extremism. Kindly authoritarianism. This is now the operating system of Western, ‘centrist’ politics. Take Joe Biden, America’s somnambulant president. At the 2020 election, even anti-woke liberals insisted this scion of the old Democratic establishment – a man so old he can’t even be slurred as a Boomer (he’s actually Silent Generation) – was the man to return America to normality, before the BLM riots and MAGA mania. ‘If you hate wokeness, you should vote for Joe Biden’, declared a piece in the Atlantic, arguing that Trump is to the culture war what kerosene is to a dumpster re, fueling the woke extremes. That take has aged like milk. On his first day in office, Biden signed sweeping Executive Orders on ‘racial equity’ and gender ideology. He later tried to apportion Covid relief on the basis of race. He’s a Net Zero zealot. He has allowed the justice system to be weaponised against his opponents. He invited Dylan Mulvaney to the White House, FFS. Biden’s return to ‘normalcy’ has been so successful millions of Americans are starting to wonder if Donald Trump might actually be the saner choice.

Everywhere, political leaders are pursuing the same batshit, authoritarian policies and everywhere they are colliding with reality – and the electorate.

Yousaf, Varadkar, Sturgeon and Ardern may have stepped down, but they did so in the face of growing public fury. Biden and Trudeau may not get the same privilege. Plus, while technocratic centrists remain in power or the ascendancy in various nations, they are at least being forced to adapt, albeit insincerely, to the new political reality – one in which voters are increasingly unwilling to put up with the punishing green policies, out-of-control transgenderism and woke censorship that have been rammed down their throats for years. And so, Labour’s Keir Starmer has suddenly worked out what a woman is. The SNP is watering down some of its ludicrous. Net Zero targets. Welsh Labour is paring back its more insane anti-car policies. The Irish government is finally, tacitly, admitting that it has let migration and asylum get out of control (albeit by just blaming it on the British).

The new authoritarianism is far from defeated. It is a feature, not a bug, of our technocratic ruling class. Worse than that, it is what gives our leaders meaning. The conviction that they are saving the world from a climate armageddon, that they are the protectors of all those supposedly easily offended minorities, that they must censor and re-educate the masses for our own good, has provided moral purpose to an otherwise simpleminded and disorientated elite. It won’t be easy to dislodge this stuff. But as one political leader after another exits the stage, having shredded their authority with voters, we see that the common sense of the demos remains our greatest defence against the insanity of the elites – if only we can find better ways to channel it. If there is hope, it lies in the masses. Always.

Tom Slater is editor of Spiked.

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Peckford: Hallelujah! Supreme Court of Canada to hear Newfoundland and Labrador charter case

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From the Frontier Centre for Public Policy

By Brian Peckford

This will allow the SCC to address novel questions about the scope of mobility rights in Canada and the extent to which the government can limit Canadians’ rights to move freely around the country.

In what can only be considered a surprise move the SCC has agreed to hear an appeal of a decision of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland. Surprise because the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal refused to hear the appeal of this exact case.

For the Appeal Court it was the all too familiar excuse of the whole thing being too moot for the Court.

But now the SCC has agreed to hear the case. The parties, Kimberly Taylor and The Canadian Civil Liberties Association appealed to the court.

Here is a copy of the Civil Liberties Press Release dated April 26, 2024:

“Arbitrary travel restrictions infringe on the mobility rights of Canadians. CCLA’s challenge of Newfoundland government’s Bill 38 will continue before the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC), so that Canadians have clear, predictable, and stable answers to fundamental questions affecting their basic mobility rights.”

Back in May 2020, CCLA challenged the constitutionality of the Newfoundland government’s Bill 38 before the province’s Supreme Court. This Bill provided for a travel ban between provinces and other restrictive measures in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. CCLA asked the Court to declare Bill 38 in violation of s.6 (mobility rights), as well as other Charter rights. CCLA also argued that the law could not be saved by s.1, which says that limits on rights must be reasonable and demonstrably justified. In September of 2020, the province’s Supreme Court found that the travel ban did violate the s.6 Charter right to mobility, but that such infringement could be justified under s.1. CCLA pursued this case before the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal. In August of 2023, the Court of Appeal refused to settle the merits of the appeal under the motive that it was moot, since the ban had been lifted. This was done despite all the parties urging the Court of Appeal to decide the appeal on the merits.

CCLA is pleased to learn that the SCC just granted its application seeking leave to appeal in this case. This will allow the SCC to address novel questions about the scope of mobility rights in Canada and the extent to which the government can limit Canadians’ rights to move freely around the country. CCLA is grateful for the excellent pro bono work of Paul Pape, Shantona Chaudhury and Mitchell McGowan from Pape Chaudry LLP in this file.”

Like the Association I am pleased that the highest court is going to hear the case. One can only assume that it will not just issue a silly moot decision given that they could have let the Court of Appeal decision of Newfoundland stand and not hear the case.

I hope the highest court considers the following given it is high time for the Constitution of This Country to be fairly applied and interpreted as written.

Courts have not the power to rewrite this sacred document. They are not omnipotent. That is for the people through its elected representatives as expressed in Section 38 of the Constitution Act 1982 in which the Charter is located—the Amending Formula.

The intent of Section 1 Of the Charter was that it could only be applied in a war, insurrection, the state being threatened circumstance. As one of the First Ministers involved and whose signature is on the original Patriation Agreement I submit this point of view was what was operative at the time of the construction of this section. All remaining First Ministers whose names are on that document are no longer with us. Sadly, no court has called me to provide my view.

This intent is clear In Section 4 (2) of the Charter:

 “In time of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection, a House of Commons may be continued by Parliament and a legislative assembly may be continued by the legislature beyond five years if such continuation is not opposed by the votes of more than one-third of the members of the House of Commons or the legislative assembly, as the case may be.”

So, decisions that have been made concerning the Charter should only be made in this context. Numerous court deliberations here and in many western jurisdictions have considered intent in determining the legitimacy of legislation. This is not novel or new.

Hence, a glaring, fundamental mistake has occurred in interpreting our Charter. The blatant omission of considering the opening words of the Charter in any interpretation of legislation by the Courts is an abuse of the Charter, our Constitution. Where is the power provided the courts to engage is such omission? Those words are:

“Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:”

The one reference of which I am aware in the Courts literature to any consideration of the opening words relating to God was by an Alberta Judge in a lower court foolishly indicated that the creators of the words did not identify God as being a Christian God. All the creators, the First Ministers, were Christians —that’s all. What an insult to our history and traditions and the authors?

And this has been allowed to stand?

And what about the rule of law? Little if anything has been done in considering and interpreting this point.

As for Section 1 itself of the Charter. If one can get past the previous points, which is impossible, but let’s speculate: the court in question in Newfoundland, like the courts across the land, have disfigured, misinterpreted the wording of this section —-

Rights and freedoms in Canada

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

What is of crucial importance is ‘demonstrably justify ‘and a free and democratic society ‘—-is it not? Many try and evade confronting these concepts by emphasizing ‘reasonable ‘. But ‘reasonable ‘is qualified, if you will, with ‘as can be demonstrably justified ‘and ‘in a free and democratic society.’ This was deliberate by the creators and authors of this section.

So, as we all know such reasonable demonstration would be a cost benefit analysis, a tool used frequently by Government in considering new policies or programs —and this case especially when sacred rights enshrined in the constitution were to be taken way!!! Yet, there was none!  And what about the Provincial Emergency Management organizations that were already established in all the provinces with immediate expertise. Were they consulted? Not one!

No such attempt was made, and the Governments did not conduct even a cursory cost benefit review and the courts eagerly accepted the one-sided Government narrative.  Yet experts like Lt. Colonel David Redman, who had been involved in Emergency Management and had written extensively on it were never consulted!

And ‘free and democratic society? Was there any meaningful engagement of the Parliament of Canada or the Legislative Assemblies —-not really, ——only to delegate power to unelected bureaucrats and relieve the politicians of direct responsibility. Where were the Parliamentary Committees? The sober consideration of all points of view in an open public session? Of independent science? Does not free and democratic society entail such deliberations?

And to those courts / governments who talk about little time—in this Newfoundland case it was 6 months before The Supreme Court of the Province ruled and 15 months for the Court of Appeal to issue a non-decision! So much for serving the people!

As for the concept of ‘mootness ‘that has been most dramatically used by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal and The Court of Appeal in Newfoundland? This is a construct of the court not the Constitution.

It denies a citizen the right to know whether a government action to which a citizen was subjected violates the Charter.  Should a court idea of mootness, refusing to rule on whether a government action of only months before overruling the people’s right to know if their rights and freedoms were violated? Is this not the role of the Court? To protect the rights and freedoms of the citizens from Government overreach? That was and is the whole point of the Charter.

Whether the Government action is presently operative or not should be irrelevant, especially when millions of citizens were involved and especially when it involved rights and freedoms protected under the Charter, our Constitution. There may be a role for mootness if a frivolous matter is established but by any measure what we are discussing is anything but a frivolous matter, even though The Newfoundland Court of Appeal in calling the whole thing ‘moot ‘had the gall to find the Government’s action of denying rights ‘fleeting.’ Courts have abdicated their solemn responsibilities to the people in the exaggerated use of such Court constructed procedures.

So the highest court can go back to ‘first principles’, and examine intent and the opening words of the Charter and place them in full context in any interpretation of the Charter. If this were done then Section 1 of the Charter would not even be in play. Constructing a hypothetical i.e. considering Section 1 of the Charter during the so called ‘covid emergency’, well, even if we do, the Government and Court reasoning would have failed as demonstrated above.

There is an opportunity through this case as well as the one in which I am involved for our highest court to get it right——to return to the full constitution and re-establish the ‘supremacy of God and the rule of law, ‘the legitimate role of Parliament, to the plain meaning of demonstrably justify, and the importance of intent in interpreting our Charter.

Is the Supreme Court of Canada up to the challenge?

Will our Constitution, our democracy be restored?

The Honourable A. Brian Peckford P.C. is the last living First Minister who helped craft the Canadian Charter of Rights

Watch –  Leaders on the Frontier: Brian Peckford on Saving Canada’s Democracy | Frontier Centre For Public Policy (  January 20, 2022

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