LILLEY: Trudeau’s GST abolition is good, but not enough given the housing crisis

The Prime Minister is playing a small role at a time when we need major action to solve the housing crisis

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Justin Trudeau’s announcement Thursday that a “big part” of what he called his housing plan will involve removing GST from new rental housing. This is all, a return to a 2015 campaign promise that the Liberals never kept.

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It was the second disappointing housing report in as many days.

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On Wednesday, Trudeau and his team announced $74 million from the Federal Housing Accelerator Fund for a project in London. This fund was first announced in the 2021 election and presented in the 2022 budget, with $4 billion earmarked.

The money in London was the first announcement that any money would flow, almost two years after the idea was put forward and 18 months after it was announced in the Budget.

In addition, a program to provide housing and comprehensive support for the homeless was announced. This is a laudable goal and program, and we definitely need this type of housing to be built, but this is not the type of program that will help the middle class and those who work hard to join.

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It is also a good idea to remove GST from purpose-built rental properties. It should be done to stimulate construction, but it is not the kind of policy that will enable middle-class families to achieve the dream of home ownership.

Trudeau needs to start looking for policy action in this area and working with the provinces rather than bypassing them, which is what he is doing now. Instead of working with the provinces, they are making individual contracts with cities across the country – Ontario alone has more than 400 municipalities, not to mention the rest of the country – and that process will take a long time if it has to happen now.

Let’s face it: Trudeau has been committed to making housing more affordable since 2015. In every manifesto and budget, Trudeau and his government have promised to make housing more affordable. Instead, rents have doubled and so have house prices.

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Now that he’s behind in the polls, Trudeau says he’s willing to trade on old ideas that should have already succeeded but didn’t.

“This is about Canadians; “This is about the people I’ve met across the country,” Trudeau said when asked about his newfound zeal for housing proposals in the face of declining poll numbers.

If he wanted to implement real action on housing plans to speed up the construction of houses, he has a lot of solid, actionable suggestions. Instead, he still drives slowly. He could use some of the ideas he heard from the housing experts who addressed the Liberal cabinet in Charlottetown last month, or he could start stealing ideas from Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre.

“As Prime Minister, I will link federal funding to the number of homes actually built and make it as easy as possible for our builders to get shovels in the ground. It’s just common sense,” Poilievre said earlier in the day during his own housing announcement.

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Poilievre’s plan calls for using federal infrastructure money to reward municipalities that build more housing while withholding money from those that block housing construction. He has said he wants to shorten permit approval times and will use federal funding as an incentive for local governments to achieve this.

He also promises to sell surplus land and buildings for residential development to boost construction. None of these ideas are inherently conservative ideas, they are common sense ideas and Trudeau should start stealing them.

It should not take the government trailing the opposition by perhaps as much as 15 points in the polls to take action on one of the country’s most pressing issues. But unfortunately we have arrived here.

Trudeau’s declining popularity among voters under 40 is directly related to so many people’s frustration at not being able to break into the unaffordable housing market. It is questionable whether the meager measures announced in the last few days will change anything.

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