In a world of 60-second TikToks and quick sound bites, getting anyone to tune into a 15-minute-long video is an impressive feat, but in just a few days, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has managed to get over 4 million people to watch one on everyone's (least) favourite topic: the housing crisis.
The video, entitled "Housing hell: How we got here and how we get out," was posted to Poilievre's X (formerly Twitter) account on Saturday, December 2. As of Thursday morning, it had amassed 4.2 million views. For context, most videos posted by Poilievre tend to garner fewer than 100,000 views, with many having less than 50,000. A video posted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the same day, also addressing the housing crisis, garnered just 260,100 views.
Although Poilievre's video lacks some critical nuance and, at times, sourcing, it's clear he's struck a chord with Canadians who are frustrated by high housing prices as the dream of homeownership slips further away for many.
As to be expected, Poilievre uses the video to throw some punches at Trudeau, directly blaming him for the country's ongoing housing crisis, which has seen prices for both rentals and home sales shoot sky high.
"Housings costs weren’t like this before Trudeau, and they won’t be like this after he's gone," Poilievre promises in the video.
Housing hell: How we got here and how we get out. pic.twitter.com/vVLsXMVM35
— Pierre Poilievre (@PierrePoilievre) December 2, 2023
Poilievre takes aim at the federal government's high deficit and increase in spending in recent years — though notably forgetting to mention the COVID-19 pandemic and its relief measures that necessitated higher spending — saying they have "poured fuel on the inflationary fire."
The video highlights how much home prices have risen under Trudeau, with Poilievre alleging that mortgage costs have gone up more under Trudeau than they have in all the years before him, combined. What the video fails to mention is that there was already an affordable housing crisis brewing years before Trudeau took office, fuelled by the decisions of former governments to cut social housing. In fact, according to data from the Canadian Real Estate Association, prior to the pandemic, home prices increased at a slower rate under Trudeau than they did under Harper.
Poilievre has been a vocal critic of the Bank of Canada, having previously vowed to fire Governor Tiff Macklem if elected as prime minister, and he continued that barrage in the video. He went after the central bank for buying government bonds with what he says is newly created money that is causing the financial system to 'overflow with cash' and contribute to inflation. The bank, however, has defended these purchases, and stated that the bonds were purchased as a means to help unlock the economy and were bought with settlement balances, a type of central bank reserve, and not new cash.
Although much of the video's content can be argued about, it includes some widely agreed upon facts: that Canada is facing a worsening homelessness crisis, that housing starts cannot keep up with demand, and that, compared to other countries, Canada's housing affordability is shocking.
As Poilievre notes, Canada has the fewest homes per capita in the G7 despite having the most land to build on. In fact, the number of homes per capita has been dropping in Canada. In the video, Poilievre notes that last year Canada built fewer homes (219,942) than in 1972 (232,227). However, most years in Canada since 1972 have seen fewer homes built. In 1993, just 161,794 homes finished construction, and in 2014, that number was 181,428, according to Statistics Canada records.
Still, the ability to actually get the necessary number of homes built is a clear issue that's been discussed at length, with the conclusion time and time again being that housing starts would need to make superhuman jumps to keep up. Poilievre outlined his four-point housing plan in the video to bolster construction, largely taking aim at municipalities.
He vowed to require big cities to complete 15% more homebuilding per year as a condition of getting federal infrastructure money. Those that exceed that target will receive bonuses. For Ontarians, this will sound very similar to the plan Premier Doug Ford implemented recently, doling out housing targets to municipalities with funding based on their compliance.
Ontario cities, however, have lamented their funding being tied to completions, as that's not something within their control. They point to the hundreds, or in some cases thousands, of housing units that they have approved but have not been built by developers. Instead, they say their targets should be approvals based. As more and more developers cancel, stall, or sell off projects due to financial difficulties, relying on completions becomes precarious.
Poilievre's third point calls for every federally funded transit station to permit high-density apartments around it. He says that the federal transit grants would be withheld until the apartments are built and occupied. Lastly, he says he will sell off 15% of all federal buildings as well as thousands of acres of surplus federal land suitable for housing development.
Whether you agree with him or not, it's clear that Poilievre is speaking to the concerns and frustrations of the average Canadian — something that's reflected in his recent gains in the polls. With concerns about housing affordability continuing to grow as more and more mortgages come up for renewal, all eyes will be on Poilievre to see what else he has planned.
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