Friday Jun 02

Spring 2023

NORTHERN LIGHT - New Found Populism Doesn’t Build Affordable Housing

Tory governments in both Ontario and New Brunswick are pushing a communications strategy that makes them out as the housing crisis’ savior. It’s both a highly cynical and a highly effective political strategy.  Boost housing supply! Cut red tape! Let developers create housing and jobs! Any chance the Tories get, they are putting themselves out there as housing champions. That hot issue that ACORN Canada first got on top of in 2004 is now being weaponized by the very people who caused the housing crisis. 

Of course, they aren't solving any real problem - just their political ones.  

The New Brunswick Tory government was claiming as little as a year ago that there was no housing crisis at all. While the issue of crippling rent hikes dominated the news, the Tories claimed that high rents were a sign of economic growth…a good thing! New Brunswick was finally a go-to province for investment!  It was a laughably poor communications strategy. We loved it and won permanent eviction protections and temporary rent controls in large part because of it. 

Fast forward a year, and the Tory government in New Brunswick now is embracing the housing crisis as a problem only they can solve. By getting in front, they are able to dictate that a lack of housing supply and too much red tape are the root cause of the problem. I’m not saying this will be a successful strategy in the end, but it certainly is a better one than they had last year. 

In Ontario, Premier Doug Ford’s public statements on the recent opening of the Greenbelt were all about boosting housing supply and solving the housing crisis.  Parts of the massive area surrounding Greater Toronto that is presently protected from development were now ‘open for business’, as Ford loves to say. Conveniently, some of his developer friends just happened to buy the parcels of land that were cleared for development on the cheap, just prior to Ford's announcement.

On rent control, building social housing, security of tenure, and stopping the destruction of purpose-built rental buildings, Doug Ford and the New Brunswick Tories only speak when spoken to.  When pressed by the media, they will say those are all failed policies that don’t work and then quickly move back to build, build, build! 

They don’t want to talk about the issues that OCAP and ACORN bring to the forefront. Why? Because they want high rents, low wages, and profits for their friends.  The faux populism that the Tories are trying to tap into only really works, if we stop what we are doing, or if we can’t do it on a large enough scale.   We always have the advantage of having truth on our side, but the disadvantage of being up against every corporate interest in the country. 

John Anderson is the Field Director for ACORN Canada and over 18 years has played key roles in building ACORN across the country.