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Steve Lafleur: Welcome to Canada—sorry there’s nowhere to live


Canada is among the most open societies on earth. In recent years we’ve been a beacon of calm amidst a global populist storm. Canadians are proud of the open, tolerant society that we’ve inherited. We welcome people from around the world with open arms. But our capacity to absorb people is increasingly constrained by our housing markets. If Canada wants to keep being the kind of country we think it is, we need housing abundance. 

This really hit me as I arrived in my old hometown of Winnipeg for an extended visit. One of the first things you see when you’re leaving the airport is a sign welcoming Ukrainian refugees. Manitoba is one of the most Ukrainian places outside of Ukraine, so it’s not surprising that the province has welcomed more Ukrainian refugees than any other province on a per capita basis. 

You don’t have to walk around downtown Winnipeg very long to find Ukrainians. I’ve heard people speaking Ukrainian regularly since I arrived. I’ve had a few conversations with newcomers here and there, mostly about the weather (it’s been unusually cold even by Winnipeg standards). I’d love to hear their stories, but I’m sure most would rather avoid weightier topics. They all seem grateful to be here, despite the circumstances. It’s been an incredibly moving experience. A very Canadian experience. 

The experience is often quite different in Canada’s biggest cities, where we struggle to accommodate many newcomers—refugees in particular. Canadians have long welcomed high levels of immigration. But the housing markets in the Greater Toronto Area and Lower Mainland haven’t kept up with demand. Canada has both some of the highest immigration levels and the lowest number of housing units per capita in the G-7. That combination is not sustainable. No one should be surprised to hear that many Ukrainian refugees are struggling to find housing in the GTA. 

To be fair, Winnipeg isn’t doing anything special when it comes to housing. Housing demand here is nowhere near as strong as it is in Toronto or Vancouver. But it highlights the fact that having a more balanced housing market makes it easier to absorb newcomers. 

There is a lot of housing being built in the GTA and Lower Mainland. It just isn’t enough to keep up with demand. This isn’t a failure of the market: it’s a failure of government. 

The core issue facing the GTA and Lower Mainland is that governments restrict both density and sprawl. The combination of anti-sprawl policies and onerous zoning means that it’s hard to build both upward and outwards. 

It’s hard to see the problem from ground level. When you’re wandering around Downtown Toronto (or even Vancouver) it looks like there is development everywhere. You have to zoom out to an aerial view to really see the problem: much of the development is restricted to a few pockets zoned for density. 

Roughly two-thirds of residential land in Toronto was zoned only for single-detached houses (it’s a similar story in Vancouver). So we need to cram the majority of new housing into a small percentage of the land mass. Most of the growth in the region over the past half-century has been oceans of detached houses surrounding a few pockets of very high density. We even have a name for it: tall and sprawl

There are two immediate consequences to this development pattern. First, we haven’t been able to build nearly as many housing units as we would be able to if we had more market-driven housing policies. Second, we’ve been restricted to building the highest-cost types of housing: condo towers and detached homes. We essentially stopped building the kind of working-class housing that we have in now trendy neighbourhoods in the West and East ends of Toronto. Townhouses and walk-up apartments are the exceptions rather than the rule in most of the GTA and Lower Mainland. 

Of course, there has been some notable progress made on housing policy in Toronto and (to a lesser extent) Vancouver over the past few years. There is still much to be done on the policy front, though, and there is a lot more uncertainty with John Tory’s departure. There’s no guarantee we’ll get a remotely pro-housing mayor. It’s just as possible that we’ll take a step backward rather than building off of recent policy wins. 

Getting housing policy right isn’t the end of the story. We also need to be able to physically build more housing. By some estimates, we need to double housing starts in Ontario, for instance. That would take a herculean effort. We need the labour, training, materials, and investment dollars to make it happen. That doesn’t happen overnight. And the longer it takes to get the policy framework right, the longer it will take for businesses and potential workers to adapt. The longer that takes, the worse things will get.

If Canada’s housing situation continues to deteriorate, it will test our ability to integrate newcomers. That might undermine our pro-immigration political consensus. It’s much easier to be accommodating when you can afford a decent place to live. 

Canada can continue to be a beacon of hope for the world’s dispossessed if we’re willing to accommodate them. But we’re not being fair to anyone if we welcome them into the country and they have nowhere to live. It’s hardly compassionate to say: Welcome to Canada—sorry, we have no vacancy.

Opinion: Should we have the freedom to choose death?: Debating MAiD in Canada


Canada’s legalization of assisted death in 2016 has set off one of the most contentious debates in Canadian society. With the federal government pushing to expand the eligibility of those with access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to those suffering from mental illnesses or even potentially minors, that debate has only intensified. Today, we are pleased to present two young leaders from the Canada Strong and Free Network’s Conservative Values Tomorrow mentorship program who are taking on this topic for The Hub in a debate-style format.

Noah Jarvis argues we should be focusing our efforts on treating and comforting the vulnerable instead of killing them, while Jonah Davids believes that if we truly are committed to protecting individual freedoms, this necessitates allowing people to access MAiD even if it makes us uncomfortable.

We should help treat the vulnerable, not kill them

By Noah Jarvis

In Canada, we are supposed to appreciate the value of every individual’s life and help those unable to see the value in their own lives to see said value. We set up suicide hotlines to help people who are on the brink of killing themselves. We tell the tragic stories of people, like Amanda Todd, who have killed themselves so that we can confront the sad reality of suicide and what leads to it. However, the expansion of medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada represents a sharp departure from cherishing each individual’s life. Instead, it normalizes suicide as a socially valid option. 

Canadians suffering from mental illness and/or physical disabilities will soon be able to apply for and receive MAiD, a departure from the previous requirement that the patient had to be suffering from a condition that makes their death reasonably foreseeable.

The lives of Canadians battling disabilities and mental illnesses are no less valuable than those with able bodies and sound minds. Yet, instead of helping these people live fulfilling lives despite their ailments, we are euthanizing them. 

Suicidal ideation is an error in thinking that often comes from an ill mind with a warped perception of reality. For people that are in constant pain as a result of terminal cancer, it may, in fact, be within that person’s self-interest to end their suffering. But for people suffering from a condition like depression, where one of the symptoms is suicidal ideation, a person’s ability to act within their self-interest is compromised.

If we wish to preserve a free society in which citizens are provided with maximum freedom, we must restrict behaviours with harmful community effects. While the argument for expanding MAiD is often framed as solely an individual decision where the harm is restricted to the person dying, this offers an incomplete picture. Suicides have community effects that are damaging to the social fabric. Anyone who knows a person who commits suicide, from close family, friends, or co-workers, can face a great deal of emotional pain as a result of the suicide. Suicide-exposed persons are far more likely to have diagnosable depression, anxiety, and PTSD and are more likely to have suicidal thoughts of their own in comparison to those who aren’t exposed to suicide. Even if one doesn’t personally know the person who committed suicide, members of the community will still reflect upon and be affected by the death. 

Finally, in a country like Canada, where access to health-care services is plagued by chronic under-supply, we would be wise to ensure that our system does not incentivize killing off the mentally ill and disabled. Instances of Canadian veterans being offered MAiD are a troubling sign that we are already headed in this direction.

As a society, we are morally obligated to look out for and help the vulnerable. Canadians should find it appalling that the government would be facilitating the suicide of people suffering from treatable conditions, creating a hierarchy in the value of human life. MAiD for the mentally ill and the disabled is not a sign of a free society. It is a sign of a disordered one. 

Jonah Davids’ rebuttal: 

In arguing against the expansion of MAiD, Noah says that we should value every individual’s life equally, avoid normalizing suicidal choices, take care of the vulnerable among us, and restrict behaviour with harmful community effects, even if this requires limiting personal freedoms. He and other conservatives seem unable to recognize that this is the same logic used to justify COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates. In both cases, government officials decide which medical choices we can and can’t make in the name of health, safety, and the common good. I say we let people decide for themselves.

Noah concedes that it may be within the self-interest of terminally ill patients to seek MAiD because they are in constant pain which cannot be treated. But he ignores the fact that many people with disabilities and mental illnesses have conditions that cause them constant psychological pain for which treatments are ineffective. Once this is granted, it becomes unreasonable to restrict MAiD to only those with terminal conditions. Perhaps the government should do more to help these people live rich and fulfilling lives, but that’s a separate issue from whether they should be able to access MAiD if they want to.

MAiD expansion will not create a hierarchy of human life in which the sick, disabled, and mentally ill are second-class citizens. The Netherlands and Belgium have euthanasia access for people with mental illnesses and disabilities, and both are egalitarian liberal democracies that safeguard their citizens’ rights and freedoms better than most countries. Not expanding MAiD, however, will propagate a hierarchy of autonomy in which the disabled and mentally ill are at the bottom. The introduction and expansion of MAiD complement, rather than undermine, Canada’s commitment to freedom, autonomy, and dignity for all individuals.

Freedom matters most

By Jonah Davids

One of the most important foundational principles that unites Canadian conservatives is our love of freedom. We fight for freedom of speech, the freedom to spend our money as we see fit, and the freedom to make our own medical decisions. We advocate for the freedom of others to hold beliefs or take actions that we disagree with, as long as they respect our right to do the same. This is the essence of what it means to be a conservative.

Some of my conservative friends have not gotten vaccinated for COVID. While I personally made a different decision, I wholeheartedly support their right to make such a choice. I want to live in a society in which individuals are free to make their own medical decisions, not one in which the government coerces people into doing what they think is best. People won’t make the best choices for themselves every time, but they should still be free to choose.

As a conservative who strongly believes in freedom, including medical freedom, I am disappointed by the opposition many on the Right have expressed toward MAiD. MAiD allows those with serious and incurable illnesses, diseases, or disabilities to end their lives. As a policy, it upholds individual liberty, prevents unnecessary suffering, and has the potential to save millions of dollars in health-care costs that would otherwise go toward providing care that people would rather not have.

Much of the conservative opposition to MAiD is fueled by partisanship, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore critics’ concerns. Those who oppose MAiD are worried that people who could lead fulfilling lives are ending theirs prematurely; that mentally ill individuals and minors may be unable to consent to the procedure; that some may be choosing assisted death over poverty and homelessness; that MAiD is being offered too readily by government workers to suffering individuals. Above all, they are worried that MAiD is a slippery slope, and that the eventual response to any serious suffering will be, “Have you thought about MAiD?”

These concerns are understandable, but the available data we have from Canada and other countries with similar policies show these fears are largely unfounded. Canada’s own statistics show that very few young people have accessed MAiD since its introduction: in 2021, the average age of those who received assisted death was 76, and only 1 percent of those who received it were between the ages of 18 to 45. In the Netherlands and Belgium, which have had euthanasia policies since 2002, the number of minors who receive assisted death each year is in the low single digits. The Canadian government’s own expert panel has written that mental disorders are “highly unlikely” to be deemed incurable before a person reaches the age of 18 or 19, which means that minors in all likeliness won’t be able to access MAiD solely for mental illness.

While it is unlikely that MAiD in Canada will lead to a dystopian nightmare, there will be cases that make many of us deeply uncomfortable. Should the government allow a 23-year-old suffering from blindness, depression, and diabetes to die by MAiD? What about a 54-year-old with crippling back pain who is facing homelessness? How will Canadians react to seeing a 40-year-old with debilitating bipolar disorder end his life via the procedure, or a 15-year-old with end-stage cancer? Such cases will be debated in the media and extrapolated to condemn what is by and large a system to help older Canadians suffering from terminal illnesses end their lives in a dignified manner. And yet, it is undeniable that there will be some individuals who make decisions we disagree with, object to, and may even be appalled by. What should we do?

The answer is that we should let them. We as conservatives believe in freedom. Freedom isn’t just the freedom to make easy, popular, and obviously good decisions, it’s also the freedom to make difficult, unpopular, and potentially tragic decisions as well, so long as the individuals making them are the ones to suffer the consequences.

Many conservatives fought to defend the freedom and autonomy of the unvaccinated and their right to make a medical decision many vehemently disagreed with. They ought to support the extension of those same rights and freedoms to those with incurable suffering who wish to end their lives, even if they don’t always agree with their reasons for doing so.

As conservatives, I hope we can rise above partisanship, set aside our own feelings about the medical decisions of others, and come together to support MAiD, a policy that promotes individual liberty and medical freedom.

Noah Jarvis’ rebuttal:

It is true that freedom is an important principle that has shaped the development of the Canada we know and love today. Conservatives ought to not only respect but also champion freedom. But we must ask the question: the freedom to what?

Certainly, we aren’t free to harm others and society at large. Suicide has serious societal ramifications, as I previously explained. And we certainly don’t have the positive right to government-provided assisted suicide services. That is not a right or freedom found in the Charter of Rights and Freedom, nor is it a moral imperative. 

Edmund Burke once said: “The State ought to confine itself to what regards the State, or the creatures of the State…in a word, to everything that is truly and properly public, to the public peace, to the public safety, to the public order, to the public property.” It is within the Canadian public’s interest and the government’s purview to ensure the safety of its most vulnerable population and deter them from ending their own lives. 

While Jonah makes a passionate appeal to freedom with which many conservatives may sympathize, his analysis fails to consider that there can be no freedom without order. There is a great difference between the MAiD program and Covid-19 vaccination policies that attempted to coerce unvaccinated citizens to get vaccinated against a virus that, by in large, does not kill healthy people under the age of 60

There is no freedom in the Canadian government facilitating a euthanasia regime for those capable of living rewarding lives. Because there is no freedom to be enjoyed when you are dead.