Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he “could” and “should” have moved faster to make affordable housing a priority for his government, an idea that comes as his government faces the worst polling seen since came to power.
As Parliament resumes for the fall session, Trudeau spoke to CBC’s Front Burner podcast about his record so far on housing affordability, the political issue that could define the next election.
“I will say it hasn’t been enough,” he told host Jayme Poisson. “We should have, we could have moved faster. Absolutely. There is always more to do.”
The housing market crisis has been a persistent point of vulnerability for the Liberals over the summer. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has blamed the Trudeau government for a number of problems facing Canadians after the pandemic, including skyrocketing rents and housing shortages.
WATCH: Prime Minister says government could have acted ‘faster’ on housing shortage
While Canada’s national housing agency says progress is being made in building enough housing to close the affordability gap, a recent report from the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation says nearly 3.5 million homes will need to be built. new units by the end of the decade.
Trudeau repeatedly said in the interview that he believes Canadians would feel even more pressured under a Conservative government.
“If we hadn’t gotten the federal government back into the housing business, then everything would be a lot worse now,” he said, alluding to the government’s National Housing Strategy.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Oh, housing is terrible right now.’ And it is. Would it have been worse if we hadn’t lifted a million people out of poverty during the first years of government? Would it have been worse if we hadn’t “We wouldn’t have created a million jobs? Would it have been worse if we hadn’t created a million jobs? Didn’t you move forward with $10 a day child care?”
Trudeau said he would love to “wave a federal magic wand” to get more homes and purpose-built rental units built in municipalities.
“That’s not the way this country works,” he said.
WATCH: Trudeau says government can ‘bend this curve’ on housing
Trudeau last week announced new measures aimed at countering rising housing prices and defending himself against accusations that his government has failed to take action.
The measures include removing GST from the construction of new rental apartments to stimulate new developments.
The federal government also requires municipalities to repeal or modify exclusionary zoning policies in order to access the government’s Housing Accelerator Fund.
Minister for Housing, Infrastructure and Communities, Sean Fraser, sent letters to councils: including one for the mayor of Calgary – threatening to withhold funds if they don’t change their zoning policies.
When asked why his government is taking these measures eight years into his term, Trudeau said now is the time to push municipalities to act.
“Even in Calgary, which ultimately did it, it was a very controversial discussion in the city council chambers,” he said. Calgary City Council voted Saturday to approve a new housing strategy that will introduce a blanket rezoning of residential districts to allow more types of housing.
“Getting them to the right place has been a lot of work.”
The Conservatives have also proposed new measures on housing. They say they intend to introduce legislation as soon as possible that would also eliminate GST on some rental buildings.
Poilievre’s proposed “Build Homes, Not Bureaucracy Act” would also withhold federal funds from cities that don’t build more housing and impose a “NIMBY penalty” for egregious cases. NIMBY means “not in my backyard,” a term used to describe local residents who oppose new development in their neighborhoods.
Speaking to Poisson, Trudeau seemed interested in contesting an election over his housing plan.
“The question people will be asking politically in the coming years is: what government or potential government has the solutions to this really big problem? And that’s what people are going to look at, not what’s the perfect way to do it.” “. he said.
“Who has the best plan? Who has the track record? Who has the ability to bend this curve?”
Poilievre is also eager to campaign on Trudeau’s record.
“After eight years of Justin Trudeau, everything costs more,” Poilievre said Sunday during a news conference.
“Work doesn’t pay, housing costs have doubled, rent has doubled, the mortgage payment and down payment needed for a house have doubled.”
His conservatives are trampling the liberals in most polls and feel reinvigorated after a political convention in September.
Trudeau dismissed questions about the polls, arguing that his party was lower in the polls two months before winning the majority in 2015 than it is now.
“First of all, how many of our young people actually respond to surveys?” he said.
“People are angry and worried. Of course. But it’s not enough to reflect that real anger on them and show up in the polls. People want us to solve those challenges.”
Trudeau said that when he and Poilievre face off in the next election campaign, Canadians will be faced with two different visions of Canada’s future.
“I think one of the challenges with [previous Conservative leaders] Andrew Scheer and Erin O’Toole is that I don’t think people had a clear idea of what was at stake in terms of the kind of country we were building. “They did a very good job of appearing pretty harmless or inoffensive,” Trudeau said.
“I think Mr. Poilievre has been very, very clear that he sees a radically different future for the country than the one we have been building around climate, around inclusive economic growth, around reconciliation, around policies based in evidence, around the defense of the fundamental rights of people. rights.”
To hear Jayme Poisson’s full interview Tuesday morning, follow CBC’s daily news podcast, Front Burner, wherever you get your podcasts.