The News Rundown
- It’s not surprising Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s signature policy on fighting climate change — raising carbon taxes — is encountering increasing blowback from Canadians.
- A Nanos/CTV poll released Sunday found 67% of those surveyed say it’s a poor time to increase carbon taxes — currently at $65 per tonne of greenhouse gas emissions, rising to $170 per tonne in 2030 — while 53% say it’s ineffective in fighting climate change.
- There’s also skepticism that higher gasoline prices due to carbon taxes reduce fuel consumption, with 45% calling the policy ineffective, up from 36% in 2019.
- What the poll’s findings illustrate is how out of touch the Trudeau government is with the concerns of ordinary Canadians, at a time when 52% are $200 or less away from missing their bill payments at the end of the month, according to a recent report by insolvency firm MNP Ltd.
- It also speaks to a report by Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux last year contradicting the Trudeau government’s claim most households paying the federal carbon tax end up better off financially because of its climate action incentive payments.
- Giroux, the independent, non-partisan watchdog on federal spending, reported that when the negative impact of the carbon tax on the economy is factored in, most households end up worse off financially.
- He added nothing Canada does to reduce its emissions — 1.5% of the global total — will have any significant impact on climate change unless major emitters such as China reduce their emissions.
- The poll’s findings do not suggest most Canadians reject the reality of climate change, with 64% believing human-induced climate change is linked to severe weather, but it does show that a growing number of Canadians no longer accept Trudeau’s argument that raising their cost of living through increasing carbon taxes in hard times is an effective way of fighting climate change.
- Following a second carbon tax imposed on July 1, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said it’s not the time to be increasing carbon taxes for taxpayers across the country. While Canada’s climate change plan is aimed at lowering Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, carbon tax hikes are increasing the cost of food for all Canadians. With higher fuel costs, transport costs are also rising and this means food delivery to grocery stores will be more expensive.
- Federal director of Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Franco Terrazzano said that the carbon tax is disproportionately making things more expensive, at a time when most of the developed world is cutting taxes to help their citizens battle inflation.
- While an estimated 75 percent of countries don’t require their citizens to pay a national carbon tax, Canadians are facing two carbon taxes at a time when the cost of living is soaring.
- To the contrary, many countries are cutting gas taxes, including Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, and Germany. South Korea has also cut gas taxes by 30 per cent and the UK has provided its citizens with millions of dollars in gas tax relief.
- At a time of high inflation, it's clear more than ever that Trudeau's tax heavy strategy is punishing Canadians even further, while doing little to actually combat climate change. As most Canadians now agree with that sentiment, it feels like vindication for those who have been against it from the beginning.
- The federal government has unveiled what the suggested transition to net-zero by 2035 could look like and Alberta and Saskatchewan have responded.
- In a nutshell there would be tax credits for renewable projects and the Alberta government has doubled down on an election pledge to target net zero by 2050 instead.
- The federal incentives include tax credits for hydrogen, carbon capture, clean technology, and $3 billion in grants for renewable electricity projects.
- Alberta expresses concerns about the federal approach, viewing it as a potential threat and emphasizing the need for discussions that prioritize affordability and grid reliability.
- Grid reliability was touched on last week with the Alberta government's 6 month pause on new solar and wind projects.
- Looking into the report entitled “Powering Canada Forward” it touts the economic benefits of achieving net zero.
- It mentions job creation in renewables.
- It also shows case studies of communities where renewables are built becoming more prosperous.
- It also of course touts the environmental benefits.
- Federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson has said there will be consultations going forward on how best to achieve net zero by 2035.
- Federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbuealt issued threats in one form or another by saying that those provinces that don’t go along with the plan could lose access to energy tax credits.
- He also has been on the track that renewable energy can keep costs low. But again as we’ve highlighted that ignores a huge part of the picture: when Alberta generates more electricity than it needs, costs go down.
- This was shared publicly on social media in which Premier Danielle Smith responded by showing that during the dead of winter where solar and wind could not keep up and natural gas had to fill the backlog.
- Alberta Minister of Environment and Protected Areas Rebecca Schulz issued a statement this week saying that the funding announced totals about $40b and Alberta estimates it would cost $1.7 trillion to fully transition to net zero by 2035.
- She also said, “alarmingly, reports indicate that Minister Wilkinson and Minister Steven Guilbeault are considering prohibiting access to these funds, should they ever become available to provinces that will not commit to their unrealistic 2035 timeline. This would obviously penalize the provinces with the most need of assistance in transitioning to a carbon neutral grid, including Alberta.”
- There are again two BIG aspects of this story being ignored by the media.
- The first is that the feds net zero strategy largely ignores nuclear. And this is very suspicious because Ontario has nuclear power plants and they’re not on the hook for hitting net-zero as much as Alberta and Saskatchewan are.
- If a net zero strategy is to be pursued, there should be boatloads of funding for nuclear from the feds.
- The second is related directly to this and was summarized in the National Post by columnist Don Braid.
- BC, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec have every reason to fall in line. Those provinces represent 85% of Canada already being net-zero between hydro and nuclear.
- Ontario just has to wait for more money for battery plants like the already pledged Volkswagen battery plant.
- This leaves Alberta and Saskatchewan to pick up the other 15%.
- This again exposes the entire game from the Trudeau administration and his ministers on this file who conveniently were not shuffled around in the massive cabinet shuffle.
- Albertans who look at the rising price of electricity see this and those prices are only going to keep going up and up.
- At the end of the day Albertans best hope is to hope for a change in government by 2035 at the federal level to make sure this plan doesn’t come to fruition where residents of Alberta and Saskatchewan will be put on the hook for more of Trudeau’s nonsense.
- Chrystia Freeland raised eyebrows this week when she touted her government's new policy of the First Home Savings Account, launched in April, and how she says it addresses affordability issues for homebuyers.
- Eyebrows were raised, not only because the savings account does little to address affordability, but may be actually increasing demand, and thus prices, for homes instead.
- The tax-free First Home Savings Account, which launched in April with a $8,000 per year and total contribution limit of $40,000, is currently available at seven financial institutions.
- Questrade Inc. had its account ready for the April 1 launch, while Wealthsimple also recently began offering the option, including to the nearly 20,000 Canadians who were on their wait-list.
- RBC, which launched its program in April, says clients have opened “tens of thousands” of accounts since then, with just over a quarter of them already at the maximum annual amount.
- Freeland said she heard from the young people she spoke with about their housing challenges, and that much more will need to be done across levels of government to tackle the issue. She said that she and the Prime Minister are “laser-focused” on getting more homes built to help address the problem.
- “What they really were saying is this is a crisis, and this is an intergenerational crisis, and I really recognize that. I really believe that it is important for us at the federal level, the provincial level, the municipal level, to put forward all the tools we can to resolve this crisis.”
- Still, critics say that the savings account will further increase demand — and home prices — while doing little to improve affordability.
- There are a daunting number of barriers to increasing the pace of homebuilding, from permitting to inflation, while the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. has forecast that the country needs 3.5 million more homes by 2030 than the country is currently on track to build.
- With the speed of homebuilding not matching population growth, economists at both National Bank and TD Bank warned last week that the high levels of newcomers to Canada threaten to make the housing affordability crisis worse.
- Repeated analyses have shown that the main cause of Canada’s affordability crisis is the lack of construction of new homes (including single- and semi-detached, row housing and apartments). Housing completions reached 219,942 in 2022 but much more is needed just to catch up with existing demand.
- At the same time, the federal government has super-charged immigration. Canada’s population is expected to increase by more than 1.2 million people in 2023, largely through immigration. While immigration is a positive for the country, it needs to be assessed alongside other considerations.
- Common sense tells us that we can’t increase the population by more than one million people in a year — while only increasing housing by roughly 220,000 — without imposing enormous strain on the housing market. This isn’t even a new issue. From 2015 to 2022, Canada’s population increased by 3.3 million while housing completions were half that at 1.6 million.
- Most Canadians agree with this common sense view, and believe that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to raise immigration targets as adversely affecting the cost of housing, signaling a shift in public attitudes in the typically newcomer-friendly country.
- Polling by Nanos shows about two out of three respondents believe increasing the annual target for permanent residents to half a million by 2025 will have a negative impact on the cost of housing. Only one in five believe it will have a positive impact.
- But not only are immigrants putting a strain on housing, but also high levels of international students as well. Record numbers of students coming to Canada is making the already inflated cost of housing worse, said Steve Pomeroy, a policy research consultant and senior research fellow at Carleton University’s centre for urban research.
- The biggest strain on Canada’s housing market, he said, isn’t only the rising rate of permanent residents, with more than 400,000 permanent residents in 2022, and the Liberal government determined to hit 500,000 a year in the next couple of years. Those coming here seeking temporary residence, either temporary foreign workers or international students, are fuelling rental price increases.
- Data released earlier this year by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) show 807,750 international students with valid student visas studying at Canadian post-secondary institutions as of the end of 2022. At 30-per-cent higher than the 617,315 students in 2021, it’s now at the highest level it’s ever been.
- Late last month, news of an international student from India found living under an east Toronto bridge brought attention to the problem, and highlighted concerns from advocates that Canada’s affordability crisis is rendering increasing numbers of foreign students homeless.
- Most international students coming to Canada flock to Ontario, which in 2022 saw over 411,000 foreign students enrolled in the province’s post-secondary institutions. British Columbia ranked second with 164,000 students last year. The two provinces have also seen the highest prices and Toronto and Vancouver remain the most expensive Canadian cities to live in.
- And yet, the new federal ministers in charge of Immigration, Marc Miller, and Housing, Sean Fraser (formerly the immigration minister), have shown they are completely clueless when it comes to the problem of housing.
- Miller says that Canada’s housing crisis “absolutely cannot” be solved without the aid of new immigrants who bring their skills here. Miller was asked if he was considering slashing Canada’s immigration targets, which are currently at historic highs, in response to a recent Bank of Canada report that new immigrants are adding to housing demand. The minister said he was not.
- He said: “The federal government is making housing more affordable and bringing in the skilled workers required to build more homes. Without those skilled workers coming from outside Canada, we absolutely cannot build the homes and meet the demand that exists currently today. People coming to this country are resourceful. When they bring capital, they are able to acquire houses. If people are asking us to slash, what does that mean? Does that mean slashing the skilled workers that we need to actually build those houses? Slash family reunification, which can be devastating for the mental health and well-being of the families that are already here?”
- For his part, Fraser pledged to make housing more affordable without lowering prices. He reiterated the housing-is-an-investment mindset, before dropping suggestions that would reinforce higher prices. Great news for investors. Not fantastic if you pay taxes, or you need affordable housing.
- Fraser said: “Our goal is not to decrease the value of their home. Our goal is to build more units that are at a price that other people, who don’t currently have their needs met, can afford.”
- Details on how he would lower and not lower home prices at the same time were scarce. However, he did mention he would increase supply, incentives, and development speed. It’s a narrative repeated since 2015, and made Canada the affordable market it is today.
- Fraser and Miller's messages also contradict facts. Miller says immigrants will build the houses but it was only last month he announced they will prioritize tech workers for immigrants, not skilled tradesmen. And the government has put so little priority into this that only 251 skilled tradesmen came to Canada as immigrants during the last two years.
- It should be clear more than ever that the Trudeau Liberals absolutely cannot be trusted on the housing file, and indeed blatantly lie about what causes the issue, or will fix the issue.
- We know that in recent years there has been a major slow down in the judicial system, partly caused by major vacancies in the system.
- In late June, human rights lawyer Yavar Hameed filed a lawsuit asking the Federal Court to order the prime minister and justice minister to fill nearly 80 judge vacancies across provincial superior courts. Judicial vacancies have caused significant and growing court delays, which have “harmed” his vulnerable clients.
- Also before this, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote Justin Trudeau urging him to fill the “untenable” superior court vacancies.
- Professor Patrick Taillon of constitutional law at Université Laval said that these long delays are due to the politicization of the appointments and has called on the government to reduce partisanship and be transparent about who is being appointed.
- With this the National Post and the Investigative Journalism Foundation found that of 1,308 appointments, 76.3% of appointed were people who previously made political donations to the Liberal party.
- 22.9% had donated to the Conservatives.
- 17.9% to the NDP and 5% to the Greens.
- Since the Trudeau government came to power the number of Conservative donors dropped significantly.
- These numbers of course raise serious concerns about the politicization of our judicial system in Canada.
- Erin Crandall, associate professor of political science at Acadia University, said, “The concern, I think in 2023, is not so much the quality of the judges that are being appointed. I think there’s a general consensus that those who get appointed to the bench are meritorious, well-qualified and capable of doing the job. The real challenge is the perception of the partisan relationship.”
- In total nearly 1 in 5 of the 1,308 appointments gave money to a political party in the last decade while generally about 1% of Canadians donate to a political party.
- And it’s not just at the federal level.
- 21.4% of the 555 nominees to a provincial superior court were Liberal party donors compared to 6.8% who donated to the Conservatives.
- People may say that 1 in 5 donating to a political party means that 80% have not. But that means that 20% of the judiciary has a political preference at best and at worst is schilling for one side or the other.
- Why is this important? They decide cases in provinces that can have an impact federally such as the carbon tax cases in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. And for the case of Quebec’s Court of Appeal, Bill C-21 that bars Quebec civil servants from wearing visible religious symbols.
- When the Trudeau government came to power, former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould implemented reforms that were aimed at increasing openness, transparency, accountability, and diversity.
- The changes were intended to increase the independence and, to a lesser extent, the transparency of judicial advisory committees, who are tasked with reviewing applications for judicial postings and giving them one of three grades: highly recommended, recommended or unable to recommend.
- Candidates are then sent to the Attorney General who makes the recommendation to cabinet and the Prime Minister. There is no information included relating to political donations.
- In 2019 we also talked about the Globe and Mail’s report that showed the PMO used a party database, called Liberalist, to vet judicial appointments.
- After this was revealed the number of partisan appointments dropped slightly from 77.4 to 74.8%.
- Provincially the number of appointments who donated to a political party remained constant but the number of people who donated to the Liberal party shot up 13% to 77.4%.
- The number of NDP donors has also shot up to 28% while Conservative appointees have dropped 13%, to 20%.
- Going back to Patrick Taillon, he said the high proportion of Liberal donor appointees is not a coincidence and “is the emblematic reflection of a political will to choose, from among competent candidates (of which there are many), candidates who are not associated with the political adversaries and ideologies to which the Liberal Party is opposed.”
- In other words, he says, the government's choice isn’t to appoint Liberals but to avoid appointing Conservative and Bloc Quebecois supporters.
- It has also been suggested the Conservative self-censorship may be at play where they are waiting for a Conservative government to throw their hat in the ring to be appointed.
- Whatever the case may be, it shows that Canada has a justice system that is becoming increasingly polarized and given what the court has ruled on in the last 8 years, we have to ask if this is good for the country and given that this story showed up in just the National Post and no one has bothered to vet or challenge it, that in itself is emblematic of the problem.
Quote of the Week
“If people are asking us to slash, what does that mean? Does that mean slashing the skilled workers that we need to actually build those houses? Slash family reunification, which can be devastating for the mental health and well-being of the families that are already here?” Immigration Minister Marc Miller, responding to questions of reducing immigration to ease housing concerns.
Word of the Week
Politicization - the action of causing an activity or event to become political
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Slash and Donate
Teaser: More Canadians are skeptical of the carbon tax’s effectiveness, Alberta and Ottawa have different timelines on net zero, and federal ministers pay lip service to housing woes. Also, the judicial system is becoming more political.
Recorded Date: August 12, 2023
Release Date: August 13, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes