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Category: Canada Page 1 of 6

Canadian Housing Market Craziness

So, the CBC is the the national broadcaster in Canada, similar to the BBC in Europe. They’re pretty stodgy, they run good radio programs and they are wary of the government, as you’d expect.

They just wrote a really good article in problems in the housing market.

The two graphs that really matter are:

But here’s what I find interesting. Quotes like this:

“What started happening in B.C. and spread throughout the country is that we weren’t just satisfied with paying off our mortgage to build equity. We’re like: ‘You know what? I want this home price to double, triple, quadruple.'”

When existing homeowners want prices to rise faster than earnings in the local economy “is the moment you want a wealth windfall for those who are owners now that will come, by definition mathematically, at the expense of affordability for those who follow,” Kershaw said.

“That’s the trouble we’ve gotten ourselves into. And if we cannot have that conversation, we will never solve the crisis of housing affordability.”

If housing is an investment; a way to get rich, then by definition it’s going to get expensive faster than most people’s income. This is common sense. It’s acknowledged in Japan, for example, but in North America we’re addicted to our free riches, and since most people are locked out of the other sources of unearned wealth, real-estate prices are politically off-limits, they’re supposed to go up faster than inflation and wages forever, and the government colludes to make it happen, including by guaranteeing mortgages and stepping in 2008 to limit the price crash.

Homeowners and home investors, after all, vote and donate to political parties.

Anyway, CBC is stodgy and politically wary, for it to allow an article saying that home owners aren’t saints and perhaps housing prices shouldn’t be allowed to float into the stratosphere is very interesting.

The technical solutions to fixing rent and housing prices are well known: if Japan, with way less land, fewer resources and far more people can keep housing affordable, obviously Canada can do it.

But we can’t do it political parties want housing prices to keep rising and rising because it make an important chunk of voters happy.

And lack of housing (aka. homelessness) and increased food prices are going to lead to political unrest if something isn’t done.

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Why Canada Is Having A Diplomatic Crisis With India

A Sikh activist was killed in Canada. The Canadian government claims he was killed by India. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has made this accusation himself, and the dispute saw an exchange of diplomatic expulsions.

This is the sort of thing that governments tend to wink on, unless they don’t like the other side, so why is Canada making such a big fuss?

Simple enough, Canada has a huge number of Sikh immigrants. They started coming in the 70s, and they’re politically powerful. They’ve done well in Canada (and are well thought of, over all.)

Canada has no significant trade ties to India. Imports and exports as of 2020, were about 20 billion Canadian. That’s peanuts.

So we have no interests that matter with India, and we have a large minority which feels oppressed in India (because they are, especially under Modi.) Sikhs have a long-simmering desire for their own state, as well, and a tradition of violence, so it’s not surprising the Indian government worries about them. Back in 1985 an Air India jet was blown up in the air by Sikh terrorists.

So, fundamentally, what Canada thinks of India doesn’t matter much to India and what India thinks of Canada doesn’t matter much to Canada, but both nations have powerful domestic political reasons to be willing to row.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter.

This is the same reason that Canada has been so pro-Ukraine. Canada has a huge Ukrainian community, and Russia competes with us: we sell the same things, and we have competing claims in the Arctic.

Again, it’s a domestic issue and what Russia thinks of Canada really doesn’t matter much, nor vice-versa.

(Our dispute with China is far more stupid.)

The Americans are very keen to use India as a counter-weight against China, as is the West in general, which is why Canada hasn’t received much support, but that doesn’t really matter: India isn’t going to make its decision on cooperation with the US based on how much it likes Canada and unlike Turkey pressuring Sweden and Finland on Turkish “terrorists” or they won’t let them into NATO, there’s nothing Canada really needs from India.

All of which is to say, for both India’s Modi and Canada’s Trudeau a fight over Sikhs is a winner domestically, with no serious international consequences, so why not?

Edit: India has stopped visas for Canadians. Canada has two million citizens of Indian descent and sends over 750K tourists to India a year. This is an attempt to put domestic pressure on the Canadian government.

It’s also worth noting that India has a record of killing overseas Sikh activists, though usually in south-east Asian countries. So the allegation isn’t that far fetched.

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Canadian Housing And Immigration Policy

So, Canada has done two interesting things in the last couple years to deal with the effects of Covid. The first is let in a lot more immigrants:

Canada added more than 431,000 new permanent residents last year, the largest annual increase in its history, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seeks to ease the country’s labor shortages.

The new admissions met the 2022 target set by Trudeau’s government and exceeded the prior year’s record of about 401,000 newcomers, according to a release from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada on Tuesday.

The Canadian government has consistently raised its annual immigration goals in recent years, with the latest plan targeting 465,000 new permanent residents this year and half a million in 2025. The policies have also propelled population growth to a fresh record and may be contributing to a decline in the country’s median age.

Immigration accounts for nearly all of Canada’s labor-force growth and about 75% of the nation’s population growth.

When you realize that the Canadian population is only about 39 million you’ll understand how radically large this number of immigrants is.

This is an attempt to keep wages and inflation down. Without immigrants, wages would rise quickly, and that can’t be allowed, since Canada, like most developed countries, considers wage inflation almost the only type of inflation which matters.

Almost. To my surprise, Trudeau has decided to do something about housing inflation (something I’ve been calling for for many years):

A two-year ban on some foreigners buying homes in Canada has come into effect.

The ban aims to help ease one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the world.

As of this summer, the average home price in Canada is C$777,200 ($568,000; £473,700) – more than 11 times the median household income after taxes….

…As of 1 January, the ban prohibits people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents from buying residential properties, and imposes a C$10,000 fine on those who breach it.

This won’t be enough to cool the housing market much, though the last year has seen a slight decrease in prices. Still, Canada remains one of the most expensive markets in the world: more than New Zealand or the USA.

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(Correction: In addition to a fine, the government can order the house sold, but it’s not automatic and should be)/ In addition a ban of all AirBnB rentals not of the own person’s home (or perhaps one vacation property) and the seizure of all non vacation/summer housing left empty of residents for more than 3 months for any reason other than ongoing renovations would actually cut prices and rents significantly.

The Canadian government needs a lot more people to keep wages down, but if immigrants can’t find housing in cities with jobs (and they can’t, the markets are insanely pricey and few rental units are available at prices immigrants can afford), then the immigration push might well stall out.

Thus the attempt to cool the housing market. This is more intelligent policy than I’m used to from Western governments, but it’s still in service of expanding inequality, virtually the only priority of most developed world nations.

Nonetheless, a golf clap for Prime Minister Trudeau. He’s stupid and venal, but not a complete idiot.


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Rooming House Policy Positions of Candidates For Toronto Riding University-Rosedale

I live in University-Rosedale, in something which might be considered a rooming house, though my unit is self-contained (one room plus a small bathroom with a shower, the main room has a cooking area.) I’ve lived in rooming houses on and off throughout my life.

I’m putting the candidates policies up mostly so it can be found by people in my riding, which means it’ll be of little interest to most of my readers. I promised no editorializing when soliciting these positions and I’m going to leave comments closed. An open thread comment would be appropriate if you have something you want to say.

In alphabetical order:

Robin Buxton Potts

My position is that we need to pass the original proposed city wide legalization by-law as a matter of priority in the new term.

I am deeply invested in ensuring the new enforcement and compliance strategy is implemented. We know that despite being “in licensed or illegal) people operate and living in rooming/ boarding houses across the city, often in very unsafe conditions.

Giving our property standards enforcement officers more resources and more ability to enter units and homes to inspect the safety of these homes is critical for the well being of all residents. Not doing so puts lives at risk.

Approving this harmonized, City wide policy, and the enhanced enforcement abilities and resources is one of the fastest things the city can do to increase affordability, and protect residents – many of whom are our most vulnerable, including new Canadians, students, Black, Indigenous and queer communities.


Norm Di Pasquale

The fact Council still has not approved a policy legalizing and regulating rooming houses is problematic, and extremely dangerous.

In our current housing environment, affordability being the chief concern of many, and wages not keeping up with the cost of living, there are residents who are living in these spaces and it is incumbent on Council to ensure they are extended the same rights and protections as other people who rent in Toronto.

We need to immediately approve licensing and regulations for these spaces across the entirety of the City, and then work to ensure quality and affordability is kept front and centre as we strive to support residents through the housing crisis.


Diane Saxe

I support City-licensed and well-regulated rooming houses / boarding houses as a quick way to create deeply affordable accommodation close to transit, jobs and services, especially for those living alone. Such houses have been part of the historical fabric of Toronto for at least a hundred years. With an unhoused population close to 10,000, Toronto needs more of them.

Earlier this year, City Council unwisely turned down a motion to legalize and regulate rooming houses across Toronto. As a result, we have both an unnecessary shortage of such housing and a serious problem with illegal SROs.

With the rising cost of living, and especially of housing, I have heard from some university students that they are living in shelters and other temporary housing because of a lack of affordable housing near campus. This shortage could be reduced with more rooming houses. I recently visited one on St. George that was well-maintained, housed sixteen students and was a good neighbour to the surrounding homes. We need more like that. They are a valuable part of the “missing middle” housing that should be permitted in all residential areas.

On the other hand, unregulated, poorly run and illegal rooming houses can put both their residents and their neighbours at risk. Some constituents have experienced long-standing difficult impacts as a result of violent and disruptive behaviour at such houses, and feel that the City is ignoring their legitimate rights and concerns.

It is the City’s responsibility to set appropriate rules and to enforce them, for the comfort and safety of all those affected. In addition, the licensing guidelines enforced by the City Licensing Commissioner should be amended to make adverse impacts on neighbours material when granting or renewing a  rooming house licence.


Ontario’s Mass Murdering “Top Doctor”

I don’t consider this hyperbole:

Remember that ever since school openings, school infection rates have spiked before general community rates. Schools, as anyone who is a parent or was a child should know, are cesspools of infection even in good times. Kids get sick, pass it along, their families then get sick and in turn pass it along to co-workers and so on.

And letting people who are still infectious go to work is obviously insane. Note that 10 days was the original guideline, then it was dropped to 5, which was absolutely not enough. As for masks, they only partially protect other people, unless you have a respirator or properly fitted n95 and never take it off for the duration of the school or work day. If you’re with other people for hours in a surgical or cloth mask, forget it, you’re exposing them and almost no one wears a properly fitted N95 mask and also never takes it off or breaks the seal.

BA.5 is arguably the most infectious disease we know about, beating measles. It’s certainly in the top 5. If it doesn’t kill someone, it has a good chance of doing permanent damage, and that damage can add up to Long Covid, and be disabling. Every time you get Covid, more damage can be done, until symptoms appear that don’t go away after the infection. People who have had Covid are at more risk for heart disease, diabetes and brain conditions.

Now, some data from the US on Covid:

  • Around 16 million working-age Americans (those aged 18 to 65) have long Covid today. 
  • Of those, 2 to 4 million are out of work due to long Covid. 
  • The annual cost of those lost wages alone is around $170 billion a year (and potentially as high as $230 billion). 

The pandemic isn’t over. Covid keeps mutating into more infectious forms. Our society cannot survive this going on for years and years. Lost wages is the least of it, the economic impact and human cost go far beyond that.


The Emergency Act in Canada

I suppose I should note that I consider the use of the act unjustified.

The truth is that Canada already had all the necessary powers to deal with the protesters. All that was required were simple police actions: The protesters have been breaking a variety of laws, so the police just needed to do their jobs.

If the police have gone so rogue they won’t do their jobs, then that’s the real problem — and it needs to be stated as such. In that case, what we need to hear is: “We’re using the Act and we’re also going to fix the police.”

Yet, in the end, the Ottawa police did clear the streets of Ottawa. Despite their claims, in no way did they need to invoke the Emergency Act for this.

So why did they use it?

I have a variety of guesses, but I don’t actually know, and it worries me.


Is Trudeau an Authoritarian for Using POGG Powers Against the Truckers?

Well? Yes and no. Trudeau has always been an authoritarian. He’s been willing to use harsh force against the left — especially anyone interfering with the petroleum industry and other resource extraction industries.

But Trudeau did nothing about the “truckers” until they blocked trade between the US and Canada.

He did not use authoritarian measures (seizing bank accounts and shutting down insurance, in the case of the “truckers”) when the blockaders were making Ottawa citizens’ (but not its politicians) lives miserable, because Trudeau doesn’t care about them or that.

In every order, there are sacred objects, and there are the ruling class’s core interests. It is when you move against them that you are taken out.

Covid, as I have discussed at length in the past, has been good to the ruling class. It has at least doubled the wealth of the world’s billionaires and vastly increased the wealth of the top .1 percent. To them, Covid is good, not bad. This is a fundamental truth that most people refuse to understand, because they can’t, psychologically, face the fact that their leaders kill them whenever it’s to their leaders benefit (and often enough when it isn’t).

The general class of powers Trudeau used to take out the “truckers” come under the Canadian constitution’s POGG (Peace, Order, and Good Government) clause. Using the powers of that clause, Trudeau could have easily created a law to allow him to take federal control of Covid policy. In Canada, there are ten provinces, and the Maritime provinces did a good job against Covid, while everyone else did a bad job. So it was clear, even without international comparisons, that a lot of people were dying and getting sick who could have been saved under a decent national policy (and many more will later be disabled or die due to Long Covid or t-cell depletion and so on.)

The “truckers” are, and were, in a minority; most people in Canada support mandates, masks, and so on, but major provinces are removing restrictions, just like in the US. (“We’ve half-assed this, and now we’re not even going to try.”)

If Trudeau had wanted to, he could have used the authoritarian powers outlines in the Constitution to save thousands of lives. Maybe even 20K or so, perhaps more, if he was the competent sort who could actually run a Zero-Covid policy properly (he’s not, but we can imagine a Prime Minister who was).

He didn’t. He never even contemplated it. But the second the “truckers” impacted trade with the US? BOOM. (This is also because the US, who is Canada’s overlord, made it clear they were upset.)

Trade with the US matters. Covid deaths are not a problem, but rather, are a good thing when they are making the rich, richer. Ottawa residents’ discomfort during weeks of occupation is basically irrelevant.

Trudeau’s authoritarian, all right — if you go after what matters to Canada’s rich, who are his supporters. Otherwise, no. Die all you want, that’s not his problem. (Certain Canadian resource elites support the Covid protestors, but not the manufacturing elite, as a rule.)


On the Canadian Trucker Occupations

I’m not 100 percent against occupations. They are often effective ways of protesting. In particular when truckers, miners, and other blue collar workers, who have access to big machinery and who are used to hard work get involved, they tend to be very effective protesters. You see this most often in France, where truckers routinely shut down roads.

Protests are about causing inconvenience to someone, about getting in their face. A protest which doesn’t do so, isn’t effective. There was a time when they were, but that time is now generations ago, because our modern elites don’t care about protests that don’t scare or hurt them.

The truckers have a right to protest, but it’s not a protest I am in political sympathy with, as I don’t have a problem with vaccine mandates. It should also be noted that the majority of Canadians support vaccine mandates. Of course, just because a majority agree with you doesn’t mean you’re right. A majority of Americans opposed Martin Luther King, after all.

What is interesting about the trucker occupation is how cooperative the police have been, especially in Ottawa, where the Chief let them into the core, let them set up supply camps and logistics. The truckers deliberately disabled some vehicles to make it harder to re-open the streets and remove them. In Toronto, the police did keep the truckers away from a few key areas: some hospitals (one of which, actually, I’ll spend time at on Monday), and the capital, but they did let them occupy a fair chunk of important downtown real-estate.

Vancouver’s is the most interesting case, because while the police didn’t do much, by the time the convoy rolled into Vancouver civilians had seen what was up, and counter protesters blocked the convoys over and over again as best they could.

The convoys then, are non-city people coming to the city to protest, and they aren’t generally welcomed by those who live in these urban cores, most of whom don’t agree with the truckers and are the ones inconvenienced.

As noted, the police really haven’t done much, though that’s beginning to change in Ottawa. Few arrests, no impounding vehicles, etc…, outside of Quebec, where the province has simply sent in the vehicle inspectors (truckers hate vehicle inspectors) and made a point of photographing all the plates. I’m familiar with how left-wing protests are treated in Canada, and I am confident in saying that if this was some First Nations or anti-poverty protesters, they’d have been broken up already with however much violence the cops felt like using (probably a lot) and thrown in prison, with their vehicles already impounded.

Certainly, Canadian police have done so for protests that caused a lot less inconvenience than occupying the capital city and the largest city in Canada’s core.

So, fairly obviously, the police are in a fair bit of sympathy with the truckers, and that includes the leadership. The Chief of Ottawa police has been, in fact, co-operative.

The final thing to note here is that the money from this appears to have largely come from the United States, not from Canada, and so does the ideology. Canadian traditions are a lot less about, “can’t tell me to not make my fellow citizens sick,” than the USA. Canada is the “Peace, Order, and Good Government” country. In general, the right-wing in Canada has been very badly affected by US-based ideology, going from being Red Tories to folks who think Trump was pretty good, actually.

Americans still have an idealized idea of what Canada is like. The truth is that we have a much smaller population than the US, and a much smaller economy, and all our trends are moving in the same direction as the US: more and more neoliberalism, more and more right-wing “populism.”

Inequality has grown worse for generations, and this has left us vulnerable to right-wing agitation in ways we really weren’t in the past — because the social contract has been broken in the same general ways as in the US and most of the West. The difference is solely that we started from a better place, but in the province of Alberta, for example, the government is doing their best to move towards privatized medicine and gutting Medicare, in very much the same way as Britain has.

With the center solidly neoliberal, even as they pretend to be liberals, and with the left primarily concerned with identity politics, the hard-core of the left’s old power used to be people like truckers and miners and farmers, and they have slipped over to the right, even though their material interests largely aren’t served there. But the right panders to them culturally, while the center thinks they’re uneducated louts and the left despises them as socially backwards.

And so we have the trucker protests. Truckers have power because they have heavy machinery, and they’re using it. Many of them are sincere and think they are doing the right thing, for the right reasons. Most Canadians don’t agree, but the police are sympathetic, the Premier of Ontario’s daughter is with the protesters in Ottawa (because he’s a right-winger rather similar to Trump), and, after all, neoliberal politicians like Trudeau really want to reopen and aren’t entirely opposed to the truckers’ demands, though they are wedded to vaccines.

Societies are subject to revolution when an elite faction wants it, the enforcer class is unwilling to defend the status quo, and there is a significant popular faction who want change. All three are generally necessary.

If I were among Canada’s current rulers, I’d be worried, not by the left, but by the right. The left doesn’t have an elite faction supporting it or the complicity of at least some police. The right, even if most Canadians don’t agree, does.

Update: The Ottawa police have begun to choke off supplies. Hearing right-wingers squeal about how police seizing gasoline and food is illegal and wrong is very precious, since I don’t remember any of them complaining about it when police seized the property of homeless people who were causing a lot less trouble.



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