Trudeau ignored 'secretive' memo, blaming 'mass immigration' for Canada's housing crisis

Secretary of the Cabinet, Janice Charette, says 'homebuilding has been insufficient [compared] to housing demand in recent years.' Experts contend that immigration hikes and a shrinking homebuilding pace will worsen the housing gap.

Trudeau ignored 'secretive' memo, blaming 'mass immigration' for Canada's housing crisis
THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin and THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received ample in-house warnings that 'mass immigration' would wreak havoc on housing, but he failed to see the forest for the trees.

According to documents obtained by The Counter Signal, Trudeau received a secretive memo from the Secretary of the Cabinet, Janice Charette, claiming his record-breaking immigration quotas caused a housing affordability crisis.

Dated June 24, 2022, a classified memorandum addressed to the prime minister placed the blame squarely on his shoulders for Canada's unaffordable housing — just one month into her tenure.

"The purpose of this note is to provide you with an analytic summary of the report's findings," reads Report by Canada Housing and Mortgage Corporation: Canada's Housing Supply Shortage. It attributed the housing supply shortage to the affordability crisis.

Charette said "broad agreement" exists that "homebuilding has been insufficient [compared] to housing demand in recent years." Experts contend that immigration hikes and a shrinking homebuilding pace will worsen the housing gap.

Regardless, the prime minister released his immigration targets through 2025 months later. He is on track to bring in 465,000 permanent residents this year, 485,000 in 2024, and half a million by 2025.

In 2022, Canada accepted 431,645 new permanent residents after setting a record with 401,000 newcomers the year before. 

Housing and Infrastructure Minister Sean Fraser, who recently served as immigration minister, refuted the claim that fewer immigrants would solve the crisis.

"But I would urge caution to anyone who believes the answer to our housing challenges is to close the door on newcomers," he said last month, adding that building more homes is the answer.

According to the document, Canada needs 665,000 new homes annually to reduce the housing gap as immigration increases yearly — more than triple the 2021 output of 223,000 new housing units. 

That is "significantly more ambitious" than the 3.5 million units the federal government budgeted for last year, it reads.

Fraser suggested that newcomers would also alleviate the 6.5% labour shortage reported last year, especially in construction. Housing developers claim the lack of workers is "one of the chief obstacles" to building more houses.

"CHMC projects that the housing stock will grow by approximately 2.3 million between 2021 and 2030, and, when it incorporates economic factors alongside demographic factors, it projects that an additional 3.5 million additional housing units are needed beyond current projections to restore affordability," reads the memo.

On July 31, Trudeau claimed that "housing isn't a primary federal responsibility while pivoting to blame provincial governments for not "stepping up" to address housing.

"They need to be stepping up, particularly on affordable housing," he said. "That is something that the federal government is taking very seriously, but we need all of us to be working together, and that's what we're here to continue to do."

Since Trudeau assumed office in 2015, the average housing cost is 8.8 times the median household income. In Toronto, it's 13.2 times, and in Vancouver, 14.4. 

Two-thirds of the housing supply gap is in B.C. and Ontario — the two most expensive provinces for real estate nationwide.

During the July 31 press conference, Trudeau chastised Hamilton's mayor and the Ontario Tories for not doing enough. However, he walked back his remarks soon after, offering help to municipal and provincial governments. 

"It is something we can and must help with," said the prime minister.

In August, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre grilled Trudeau for the deflection. "To some extent, people do look toward the federal government mainly because it's the level of government with the greatest fiscal powers," he said.

Poilievre contends that regional governments lack the revenue capacity to address housing affordability on their own, reminding the prime minister of his pledge eight years ago to lower housing prices.

Instead, they have more than doubled since the Liberal Party first formed the government. 

"The average mortgage payment has gone from $1,400, the day Trudeau promised to make housing affordable, to $3,500. That's two and a half times higher," said the Tory leader — the fastest uptick in mortgage costs in Canadian history, he claimed.

Poilievre also noted higher interest rates expected in 2024 and 2025 will only add to the hurt felt by Canadians.

The Canadian Real Estate Association estimates the average housing price is over $700,000.

"No wonder he wants to wash his hands of his horrendous and unprecedented record," said Poilievre.

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