The News Rundown
- It has finally happened, it is now possible for CBSA and US CBP agents to turn back asylum seekers at any point on the Canada-US border.
- This story first crossed our radar in 2017 on episode 4.
- Initially it wasn’t believed that people were being simply allowed into the country.
- Then RCMP officers were seen helping people cross the border safely and at some points, carrying bags.
- By that summer, on episode 28, Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was being used as a shelter for incoming asylum seekers. This also happens to coincidentally be the episode where Justin Trudeau fell out of a kayak.
- It was expected by summer that about 4,500 people had crossed into Canada illegally, eventually to be called irregular migrants.
- These numbers ballooned to the 10s of thousands.
- What of course kicked this off was Justin Trudeau’s #WelcomeToCanada tweet after Donald Trump became President when people were worried that they might be deported from the US.
- The story waned and moved through the Canadian public starting out obscure and eventually the media grasped the problem that existed since early 2017.
- We went through various phases where at some points the problems were denied and at some points it was deemed racist to criticize the illegal border crossings.
- What let everyone in was a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement, Conservatives such as Calgary Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner have been asking the government to close this loophole since 2017.
- One has to guess why it took so long to get it done, maybe Trudeau didn’t want to be seen working with President Trump but why it took 2+ years of Biden’s administration is still up for question.
- Michelle Rempel Garner said, “Honestly.....it took a moment for me to process the announcement (well, it's preposition, to be precise). I remember standing in the House while Trudeau borderline accused me of some pretty rotten things because I proposed it. I wish he had acted six years ago. To put this in perspective, one of my staff, who has completed a uni degree just texted me and said, ‘It’s honestly wild that you’ve been talking about this since I was in grade 11 - I remember talking about this in my social studies class’”
- We need to question the cost of closing the loophole and the cost of inaction by our government.
- In exchange for closing the loophole we will take 15,000 refugees from central and south america who are fleeing “violence, persecution, and economic devastation.”
- Other questions of responsibility that came up on Biden’s visit to Canada were how to handle the policing situation in Haiti and coordination on securing critical minerals from safe countries to make batteries and other technology.
- On the Haiti file, we will provide $100m in aid to the Haitian National Police despite there being a push by the US for Canada to lead a military mission in Haiti that was deemed to be “challenging” by Chief of the Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre earlier this month.
- Other issues include navigating the Biden administration’s Buy America policies that persist from the Trump administration, including tariffs on softwood lumber.
- There are still issues that need to be handled between the two countries but they at least, for the most part are on the agenda.
- The entire arc the Roxham Road and Safe Third Country Agreement story took is a lesson in media coverage in our country from obscure and non-reported, to reported but with caveats, to government defenders suggesting those who wanted the hole plugged were racist, then denial by the government until the story faded and we were left with monthly reports from the RCMP and CBSA.
- Only time will tell if the new deal is going to be successful in closing the loophole and preventing irregular migrants from arriving in Canada. As of today just after midnight people were still crossing and being taken in with the caveat that they might be sent home. We’ll be watching as time progresses and the new rules take effect.
- This marks the end of one of the biggest long-standing issues between Canada and the US that also traversed our podcast, it is our hope with the announcements this week that it can now be closed.
- Canada is beginning to fully realize the major results from Justin Trudeau's policies. In 2022, Canada welcomed over 1 million immigrants into the country, leading to a population of 39.5m. The record-setting population growth is the result of Trudeau’s plan to add about half a million new permanent residents annually. If sustained, that growth rate would lead to Canada doubling in size in about 26 years, according to Statistics Canada.
- Figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) show the number of foreign nationals in Canada to study or work more than doubled last year. Canada’s immigration department issued 101.5 per cent more temporary resident visas, more than 3.1 million, last year compared to just over 1.5 million in 2021.
- Trudeau says that he wants to permanently increase the number of immigrants that Canada welcomes every year, ostensibly to help ease the pressures of an aging workforce, and to boost economic growth, but he conveniently ignores that importing massive amounts of people into the country who need to access public supports makes it more difficult for everyone else to access those supports too. SInce Trudeau was first elected, we have seen housing, healthcare and inflation rise massively, all problems that rely on either good policy from the public sector, or a private sector that understands the delicate balance that must be struck between company and customer.
- Massive immigration targets have led to rapid population growth in urban centres and has sent rents soaring and forced many people to leave major cities to search for affordable housing elsewhere, which means that even small rural towns are experiencing housing crises as well.
- An analysis from RBC Economics warned that unless the pace of construction of rental housing accelerates, the current shortage of 30,000 units could quadruple to 120,000 by 2026. The report’s authors estimated that 332,000 new units will be needed between now and 2026 to achieve a balance between vacancy rates and rental affordability.
- The rental market is being squeezed by a couple of factors, said authors Robert Hogue and Rachel Battaglia, including a massive wave of immigration and declining housing affordability due to rising mortgage rates. “With Canada’s immigration targets set at record levels and affordability poised to remain stretched, the pressure isn’t likely to let up,” they wrote.
- Last year was a record year for rental housing construction, with 70,000 units completed, the highest rate of completion in almost a decade. Yet Hogue and Battaglia estimate that construction will need to grow at an annual pace of 20 per cent above last year’s rate to avoid a serious shortage. Calgary and Ottawa-Gatineau recorded the biggest increases in rental stock at 7.4%and 5.5%, respectively. The smallest increases were in Toronto (2.1%) and Montreal (1.4%), even though the cities are among the most popular destinations for newcomers.
- The one major factor not being talked about by economists and journalists in regards to Canada's housing and healthcare problems is the massive numbers of people brought into the country under the Trudeau Liberals. The lack of supply narrative has been the dominant explanation for high home prices in Canada over the past five years. Every level of government in Canada cites a lack of supply as the primary cause for high home prices and countless academic and bank economists have made the same argument.
- When considering these two demand and supply factors alone, demand for homes due to changes to Canada’s immigration level and the lack of supply of new homes to meet this demand, we see an interesting phenomenon. One factor, the lack of supply, has been discussed for many years, and year after year, political efforts to mitigate this issue have failed. The other factor, immigration, is one that policymakers have far more control over.
- Policymakers don’t have any direct control over the number of new homes developers launch and complete each year, a number that has always been hard to achieve due to labour shortages and other factors, and is only expected to decline in the years ahead due to higher interest rates and the current economic uncertainty.
- So why has the debate about the high cost of housing focused on a solution that policymakers have no direct control over, building more homes, as opposed to addressing the demand for housing from changes in our immigration level, something policymakers have direct control over?
- Despite the evidence, the solution to our housing crisis promoted by our policymakers and expert economists continues to be rooted in the delusion that housing supply can respond to any sudden surge in the demand for housing if we simply reform zoning policies.
- This does not mean supply-side reforms that encourage more housing and more density are not important, they are. But supply-side policies alone are not the panacea to our housing crisis that some academics and economists make them out to be.
- A popular area of academic research has been to explore the role that local zoning policies have on the supply of new housing and home prices, and the academic conclusions on the surface sound very intuitive. Unfortunately, the academic theories don’t hold up very well in the real world. Many of the cities that economists cite as having relaxed zoning policies have all seen a significant surge in home prices over the past decade because the supply of housing wasn’t able to keep up with the sudden surge in demand from investors.
- A report by the Bank of Montreal found that countries with higher rates of population growth also saw the most rapid increase in home prices, a result that is intuitively obvious, and one we are seeing in Canada. While it’s very easy for our government to double the number of immigrants moving to Canada each year, it’s extremely hard for them to double the number of homes being built to house these new Canadians. When housing completions don’t increase enough to match a country’s immigration goals, the result is what we are experiencing in Canada: a spike in the cost of housing.
- The other likely reason that many economists have argued that a lack of supply is the cause for high home prices is because any suggestion that Canada’s record high immigration levels may in fact be the bigger driver of home prices runs the risk of being called xenophobic. But questioning what is the right level of immigration for our country, and whether the current level is doing more harm than good, isn’t xenophobic at all. It’s a critical policy question that for a long time has been ignored out of fear that one might be called a racist for even raising the question.
- But the times are changing. Over the past month we have seen a significant shift in this discussion. More journalists, economists, and editorials are questioning the goal of our federal government’s immigration strategy and whether their current immigration targets are doing more harm than good. After years of silence regarding the impact our government’s immigration policies are having on healthcare, housing, and wages, more and more experts are starting to ask some very important questions. And not surprisingly, in virtually every column the author clarifies that they are not xenophobic or against immigration, but are noting some of the negative side effects of our country’s aggressive immigration strategy.
- So why are more experts starting to talk about our government’s immigration targets? It’s becoming clearer that the federal Liberal government’s strategy to nearly double the number of immigrants admitted to Canada each year without making the necessary investments to support them is straining our housing markets and health-care system.
- In a keynote address to the Canada Strong and Free Network conference in Ottawa this week former Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Canada is in need of a “Conservative renaissance.”
- Typically these forms of political conferences do not get coverage in the mainstream media but this one shows and reinforces the form of conservatism that exists in Canada today.
- The bedrock of modern Canadian conservatism exists in the Conservative Party of Canada. That party was founded with the idea of bringing together the populists from Western Canada, the Tories of the east, and Quebec nationalists.
- The goal was to create a big tent party where people from these camps could represent their political ideology.
- The difference being that the formerly established Progressive Conservatives got to a point where they had become beholden to the interests of the elites and establishment that they no longer were able to execute policy core to the people of Canada.
- A defence of the term populism: broad interests of the local people vs. the elites of railways, grain companies, and banks in the early 1900s. Left, right, or centre, the population shared common values that the elites ignored.
- The term populism has since been used as a bad word by people in the media and on the left. It has also been used by people on the far right in their conspiracies about world governments or organizations controlling politicians, even those like current Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.
- But the crux of the matter comes down to democracy.
- And a defence of democracy is where Stephen Harper went in his address, this is where the speech should be showcased to a broad swath of Canadians.
- The birth of the Reform party started at the grassroots-town-hall level when there was no online fundraising and this grassroots methodology remains at the core of the modern Conservative Party of Canada. It does not exist within any other political party.
- It also is hard to find in many other countries including peer commonwealth countries like the UK, Australia, or New Zealand. And the American party system is also way more rigid than our system.
- It was at this point that Harper said that had this movement taken place in another country, it likely would not have been successful.
- That is the touchstone of this entire discussion: democracy and the wider political system in this country works.
- There are also parallels to the 1970s: slow economic growth, periodic recessions, inflation.
- These have been prevalent since 2015 but were exacerbated by the pandemic and everyone’s feeling it.
- The rise in separatist movements, breakaway parties, and protest are signs of strain within the country.
- But as the Reform party showed in the late 1980s and early 1990s a complete upending of the system wasn’t needed.
- Last year when Pierre Poilieve was elected leader there were questions about whether or not he represented a dark populist path for the Conservative Party of Canada.
- These questions show precisely why the current Conservative Party of Canada takes the paths they do when it comes to policy.
- A nuanced understanding of conservatism in Canada makes things very clear and in today’s media landscape it’s rare that the depth on these matters is covered and that’s why we’re covering this speech today.
- As Canada struggles to reduce carbon emissions, the country’s most famous house — 24 Sussex Drive — is guzzling energy, even though it is vacant. Nobody lives there and nobody works there, but the house continues to run up sky-high bills for heat, hydro and water — thanks in large part to Pierre Trudeau’s indoor swimming pool and sauna.
- New information from an access to information request shows that in January, the vacant building had more than $8,000 in utilities bills. No one has lived in the official residence of prime ministers since the Harpers left in 2015. Until recently, staff from the Prime Minister’s Office were still using some of the building as office space in the daytime.
- Last winter, the home had monthly hydro bills in the $6,000 to $7,000 range, on top of gas bills of around $2,000. But that changed this fall. The PMO moved everyone out in preparation for major repairs and upgrades scheduled for this spring. By the end of December, no one was living or working in the house. (There are two guards huts, still staffed.)
- However the costs of running No. 24 did not drop far once the staff moved out. The access to information request shows that from Dec. 31 to Jan. 31, taxpayers spent $4,947 on hydro for the old house. (The December hydro bill, before everyone moved out, was $6,710.) They spent another $3,153 on gas in January, and $568 for water, which is billed over two months.
- Tom Adams, a veteran energy analyst, says that the continuing high bills illustrate how achieving Canada’s climate goals may be much harder than people think. “It’s easy to sign a piece of paper” committing the country to progress, he said. But older buildings are hard to modernize, and they last a long time. He suspects there’s a patchwork of heating systems — a gas furnace backed up by electric heaters in rooms where the regular heating system isn’t enough, for instance, or for rooms that are extra chilly, plus pool heating.
- Adams said of the hydro bill: “Five grand! You can’t spend $5,000 for electricity on lighting. One (possible) explanation for these spectacular bills is simply that the NCC forgot to turn down the thermostat. They’re just running the place as though it’s going to be filled with people.”
- Kamran Siddiqui, a mechanical engineering professor at Western University, said the age and inefficiency of the house would increase gas consumption, but should have little effect on hydro usage.
- He said, however, that hydro use would be higher if the electricity is being used for heating — either for supplementary electric heaters in chilly parts of the house, or for heating the pool. Heating water, he said, requires more energy than heating air. The pool and sauna house was built in 1975, paid for by anonymous private donors. But upkeep was left to taxpayers.
- So, who’s using the pool and sauna? The NCC referred the question to the Privy Council Office. The PCO referred it to the Prime Minister’s Office. The PMO did not respond to the question asked last week.
- Meanwhile the NCC says repairs will continue. It says work this spring “will include the abatement of designated substances such as asbestos, as well as the removal of obsolete mechanical, heating and electrical systems.”
- The commission has long said the old home is in such disrepair that eventually it must either be torn down and replaced or renovated from top to bottom. But this spring’s work is so urgent that it “must be completed regardless of any future decision on the residence.” It says there are “matters of great concern such as potential fire hazards, water damage and air quality issues.”
- It's clear that the issue of 24 Sussex Drive has been a continuing financial boondoggle and this government's continuing reluctance to do anything about it has just perpetuated the problem and made costs worse, given the increase in construction materials over the past several years.
- If public buildings are not maintained by the government, it's clear that they are going to fall into disrepair, and that the bill will be put on the taxpayers. If you're not even getting fair value for something, why bother paying?
Quote of the Week
“Five grand! You can’t spend $5,000 for electricity on lighting. One (possible) explanation for these spectacular bills is simply that the NCC forgot to turn down the thermostat. They’re just running the place as though it’s going to be filled with people.” - Energy analyst Tom Adams on the high energy bills for 24 Sussex Drive
Word of the Week
Renaissance - a revival of or renewed interest in something
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Canada’s Renaissance
Teaser: After 6 years, Canada and the US come to agreement on asylum seekers, Canada’s population grows by one million in 2022, and Canada’s conservative movement hopes for a renaissance. Also, bills for 24 Sussex Drive continue to climb.
Recorded Date: March 25, 2023
Release Date: March 26, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes