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Younger Conservative MPs say they’re the only party addressing Millennial issues


There’s been a lot of social media attention in recent days on new polling that shows the Pierre Poilievre-led Conservative Party is now the preferred political choice for young Canadian voters. 

A Mainstreet Research poll from September 22 found that 44 percent of younger voters (ages 18 to 34) favoured the Conservatives. A more recent poll from the Angus Reid Institute similarly finds that nearly half of 18 to 34-year-old males say they would vote Conservative. 

These results possibly signal a significant change in the voting patterns of this younger demographic. They stand in contrast, for instance, with polling numbers from early 2021 when the Conservative Party was in third place among these voters with just 22 percent. 

Although it’s too early to tell whether these political trends are durable, one possible indicator may be the growing generational change within the Conservative parliamentary caucus itself. The past few elections have caused it to undergo something of a youth movement that’s gone mostly underreported.  

A study commissioned in 2016 following the 2015 election analyzed the average age of the different parliamentary parties. It found that the average age of the then-99 Conservative MPs was 52. By contrast, the winning Liberal caucus had an average age of 50, while the NDP MPs were on average 49 years and six months old. 

This reinforced a common perception that the Conservative Party was too old, too white, and too out of touch to reflect the concerns and ambitions of modern Canada. Yet, at least with regards to age, Conservative MP Adam Chambers has said that is no longer the case. 

Today’s Conservative parliamentary caucus is on the whole younger than it was back in 2015. In fact, the average Conservative MP is now younger than his or her Liberal colleague. 

The ages of the current crop of MPs in the House of Commons, elected or re-elected in 2021, are not readily available on demand from a single source. However, available sources show that the average age of current Conservative MPs is about 47 years old, while the average of Liberal MPs remains around 50. 

While 47 may not be the new 30, it is noticeably younger than the set of Conservative MPs elected under Stephen Harper. Some of the most high-profile Conservative MPs elected since then are Millennials or part of Generation Z.

“It’s certainly been great to see folks like Melissa Lantsman (38), Eric Duncan (34), Eric Melillo (24), (and) Jake Stewart (44),” says Raquel Dancho, the 32-year-old Conservative MP for Kildonan-St. Paul. “There’s just so many people who are under 45, that are full of energy, and really focused on the future.” 

Dancho, Lantsman, Duncan, Melillo, and Stewart were elected in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections. They’ve all subsequently served in the shadow cabinets of former leader Erin O’Toole and former interim leader Candice Bergen. 

Dancho herself defeated the 66-year-old Liberal incumbent in Kildonan-St. Paul in the 2019 election. Lantsman succeeded Peter Kent, a 79-year-old former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s government, as the Conservative candidate for Thornhill in the 2021 election. 

While Poilievre has yet to unveil his own shadow cabinet, he has already named Lantsman, Duncan, Stewart, and Chris Warkentin, 43, to his leadership team in the House of Commons. 

The most recent shadow cabinet is noticeably younger than the Trudeau government’s own cabinet. There are 10 Conservative MPs aged 40 or under in the shadow cabinet, compared to just three in the Liberal cabinet. 

Poilievre himself is 43 years old, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is now 50. Trudeau’s decisive victory in the 2015 election has been credited to his party’s ability to attract a substantial youth vote. Dancho says Millennials and other younger voters have since become disenchanted with the Trudeau government, as housing prices, inflation, and crime have increased dramatically. 

“Millennials are certainly more savvy in seeing that their lives are not getting better under Liberal policies,” says Dancho. 

During his successful party leadership campaign, Poilievre heavily emphasized the concerns of younger Canadians including housing affordability challenges across the country. A Deloitte survey from 2019 found Millennials and Gen Z to be disproportionately pessimistic, and a 2022 Leger poll found those same cohorts to be afraid of the future

“We’re really focused on speaking to the cost of living and that, perhaps, is a bit of change from the Conservative Party of the past,” says Dancho. 

Dancho says the inability to afford to buy a home is made more frustrating by the fact that the younger generations are better educated than their parents, even though Canada was less-advanced at the time. 

Poilievre has blamed “gatekeepers” in cities like Vancouver, for protecting wealthy property investors over Canadian families. For solutions, he has pledged to make federal transfers to cities conditional on boosting the housing supply and streamlining construction permits, in addition to supporting higher-density zoning. He has also proposed requiring municipalities to build affordable housing around transit hubs. 

Affordability was one of the top issues animating the 2021 federal election and is poised to loom large in the new parliamentary sitting. 

“I think we are the only party that’s really speaking to and addressing the issues that Millennials, and those younger, are facing,” says Dancho.

More rent control on the horizon? Economists say it is a bad idea


Housing is top of mind in this year’s municipal elections in Ontario and British Columbia. Neither Toronto nor Vancouver has ever been comfortably affordable in recent memory, but now both are jockeying for the top spot in the rankings of North America’s most unaffordable cities. 

These unaffordability challenges have led to a growing number of activists, policy voices, and politicians calling for a new politics of YIMBYism (Yes In My Backyard), that favour upzoning and densifying single-family neighbourhoods. 

Mayoral candidates, John Tory and Gil Peñalosa in Toronto, and Mark Marissen in Vancouver, for instance, have broadly touted these ideas in their respective campaigns. Their main message is to boost housing supply in order to make it affordable. 

Yet there remain some housing advocates who reject these pro-development calls. Instead, they argue in favour of the controversial idea of rent controls in response to concerns about housing affordability.

Rent controls can come in different forms. But, in simple terms, they amount to a government policy that mandates how much private landlords can charge tenants in monthly rental payments. It is a long-standing idea that is practiced in some of North America’s most unaffordable cities. And it is also universally rejected by economists.

“Rent control is a zombie idea that just won’t go away,” says The Hub‘s editor at large, Sean Speer, who has written about housing policy for the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. “Its political appeal is that it’s simple and visible. But its economic challenge is that it fails to reckon with basic ideas about incentives, supply and demand, and the laws of unintended consequences.”

Patrick Condon, a University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture professor and frequent commentator on housing affordability, is a proponent of a form of rent control known as vacancy controls. These controls would cap how much landlords can increase rents when tenants are replaced. 

B.C. currently limits how much an existing tenant’s rent can be annually hiked, but dramatic jumps in rents in between tenancies are common. Advocates in Ontario have recently called on the provincial government to similarly implement vacancy control legislation. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver is listed by multiple rental sites at $2,500 per month, up 16 percent since last year.

“Vacancy control is, under these critical circumstances I would argue, way more necessary than it was even in the 1970s because this situation we find ourselves in is literally unprecedented since the 1920s,” says Condon. 

Condon says vacancy control will help mitigate increases in land value because real estate investment trusts look at the value of land, not the physical structure itself. 

Most economists, however, warn that rent control is a bad idea. Their opposition stems from extensive evidence showing that while rent control keeps existing tenants in their apartments, rental housing construction often slows down. The end result is that it is much more expensive for prospective renters to find an affordable apartment. 

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has called rent control “among the best-understood issues in all of economics, and—among economists, anyway—one of the least controversial.”

In 1995, San Francisco passed a rent control ordinance subjecting multifamily buildings built after June 1979 to the measure. Over 60 percent of San Francisco’s rental units are now rent-controlled, and the city is currently the third most expensive city in the United States. 

Critics point out that monthly rents in San Francisco rose sharply thereafter due to landlords reducing rental units by 15 percent and demolishing existing apartment buildings. 

Waitlists for rent-controlled apartments in other cities can be decades long or distributed in a random lottery system

A 2019 analysis from the Bank of Montreal has said rent control is not a long-term solution. Instead, most economic analysis points to building more rental units as key to easing unaffordability.

A 2021 report by Scotiabank, for instance, found that at 424 housing units per 1,000 in population, Canada has the lowest number of housing units per population of any country in the G-7. Toronto has 360 units per 1,000 residents and Vancouver has 406 units per 1,000 residents, both below the national average. 

The federal government has pledged a 10-year, $20 billion plan to address unaffordability, including $123 million in tax incentives for developers to build and renovate rental housing. 

Even if Condon disagrees with the YIMBY’s solution of more housing supply, he sympathizes with younger Canadians who are struggling with housing affordability challenges. 

“I think what they get really correct is that there’s a huge problem in housing affordability that elevates to the level of crisis, particularly for their generation,” says Condon.