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Mike Moffatt and Cara Stern: What Australia can teach Canada about getting homes built


As much debate as there is on demand-side solutions to the housing crisis, on the supply side, it’s pretty clear: we just need to build a lot more homes. If there was a good enough supply of homes for everyone who wanted one (to own or rent), housing would naturally be affordable.

But you can’t build 5.8 million homes in the next six years, as Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says we need to do, without adding infrastructure to service all those homes and those people.

Premiers and mayors alike have asked the federal government for more money to support this growing population. Specifically, Premier Doug Ford of Ontario has called on the federal government to provide more funding for transportation infrastructure, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called on the federal government to establish a new dedicated water and wastewater fund, noting the lack of this infrastructure is slowing housing development. 

The federal government should use this request as an opportunity to strengthen homebuilding incentives for municipalities by creating a fund that would pay municipalities for each housing start. Simply put: Ottawa’s policy response to municipalities’ calls for incremental infrastructure funding should come in the form of a fixed amount for new housing units.

There would be some who’d argue that direct federal funding to municipalities to influence their housing policies represents a case of federal overreach—it’s not the role or responsibility of the national government to dictate local land-use rules. But that constitutional debate has been effectively superseded by politics. Both the federal Liberals and Conservatives now include municipal incentives in their housing policies.

The Trudeau government’s Housing Accelerator Fund has driven substantial reforms at the municipal level in exchange for federal funding, including reducing red tape and allowing for more as-of-right construction. While provincial parties in Ontario debate the merits of allowing fourplexes as of right, the Accelerator requires it of larger cities. It has worked to change zoning rules in many cities, though some, such as Windsor, have refused to sign on, forgoing tens of millions of dollars of federal funding.

While these zoning reforms are helpful, they won’t do enough on their own. The Ontario and British Columbia governments, along with Pierre Poilievre through Bill C-356, have recognized that municipalities can always find creative ways to block new housing. Creating incentives based on actual results will stop that from happening. The federal Liberals would do well to take a page out of the Conservative playbooks of Poilievre and Ford and introduce outcome-based housing incentives to municipalities in addition to their incentives through the Housing Accelerator.

However, the Liberals should also recognize that both the Poilievre and Ford approaches suffer from some design flaws that should be addressed. The targets in each, particularly Poilievre’s Bill C-356, are arbitrary and will be trivially easy for some municipalities to hit and nearly impossible for others, limiting their effectiveness as incentives. As well, the incentives in Bill C-356 only apply to a handful of cities and leave out many cities with chronic housing shortages and growing unaffordability, such as Waterloo, Edmonton, Burlington, and most of the 905. Finally, in both approaches, it is difficult to estimate how much any one decision affects the amount of money a municipality will receive. Incentives only work if they are understood.

The federal government should design a new infrastructure funding system based on the best of the Poilievre and Ford approaches while correcting for their design flaws. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has called on the federal government to provide an additional $2 billion per year in infrastructure funding in their Budget 2024 submission, which provides a target budget for the federal government to achieve with their new plan.

New homes are constructed in Ottawa on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press.

This is an opportunity for the federal government to create a program, inspired by one used in Australia, to require cities to sign on to the Housing Accelerator, along with other pro-housing policies of the federal government’s choosing, such as eliminating parking minimums, allowing homes from the design catalogue to be built as-of-right, and increased density on transit lines.

Any municipality that did so would receive a flat per-unit sum of $10,000 for every housing start. Given that Canada has 200,000 and 250,000 housing starts per year, and not every municipality would sign aboard, this $10,000 figure would keep the total budget at, or below, $2 billion. The $10,000 per housing start figure could be adjusted if the federal government was willing to put more (or less) money into the program.

This is a win-win plan, as it not only provides communities with the infrastructure they need to build more homes, but also creates easily understandable funding that does not rely on arbitrary targets. It would also potentially cover every community in Canada. It would also create a clear cost to the opposition of new housing construction. 

When a city councillor suggests, say, removing 38 units from a project, housing-supply proponents would be able to point out the loss of $380,000 of federal funding such a move would cause. One of our hometowns of London is raising $70,000 for a new playground; it would be an incredibly powerful argument for local YIMBYs to point out that by council removing “just” seven units from a planning application, the city is losing the funding that could be used to fully fund the new kindergarten playground for John Dearness Public School.

We cannot meet our housing ambitions without more infrastructure. Let’s hope that in Budget 2024, the federal government recognizes the opportunity that it has been given with the municipalities’ funding request and creates a well-designed, outcomes-based infrastructure plan.

Michael Geist: We need more than empty words to combat growing antisemitism


The Jewish holiday of Purim over the weekend sparked the usual array of political tweets featuring some odd interpretations of the meaning of the holiday and expressing varying degrees of support for the Jewish community. But coming off one of the worst weeks in memory—cancelled Jewish events due to security concerns, antisemitism in the mainstream media, deeply troubling comments on the floor of the House of Commons, and the marginalization of some Jewish MPs in government —the time for generic statements of support does not cut it.

The Globe and Mail has noted the “dangerous slide into antisemitism” and called for a House motion unequivocally condemning antisemitism. This post provides further context to that piece, arguing that such a motion is necessary but insufficient since it is leadership and real action from our politicians, university presidents, and community groups that is desperately needed. 

The relentless antisemitism in Canada has left many in the community numb, creating a new normal that has obvious echoes of prior generations who faced pogroms, ethnic cleansing, and the Holocaust. Some point to events in Israel and Gaza to explain the antisemitic surge, yet Canadian Jews are no more responsible for the actions of the Israeli government than Canadian Muslims are to blame for last week’s ISIS terrorist attack in Russia.

Since October 7th, there have been terrorism charges in Ottawa involving plans to target the Jewish community, firebombsshots, and vandalism targeted at Jewish schools and community centres in Montreal, Toronto, and Fredericton, vandalism, and threats at Jewish-owned businesses, as well as protests outside synagogues, Jewish institutions, and Jewish neighbourhoods. In addition, there is the antisemitism in the cultural world including the cancellation of a Jewish film festival in Hamilton (since relocated) and plays with Jewish or Israeli themes cancelled in British Columbia. Meanwhile, Jewish politicians have been targeted with threats or pressured out of office altogether.

The situation on university campuses merits special mention. The congressional testimony in the U.S. from three presidents seemingly unable to articulate a clear position on the implications of calling for the genocide of Jews captured headlines last year, but here in Canada being openly Jewish on campus carries real risk, including efforts to evict Jewish organizations from campus. Universities have policies in place designed to promote safety and inclusivity, but Jews know that outward expressions of their religion runs the risk of verbal or physical abuse and that death threats or antisemitic graffiti can be found on campus walls. Indeed, buildings carrying Jewish names, reflecting a commitment from the community to give back to these institutions are now specifically targeted by protesters. Universities react quickly to incidents targeting other groups, but rarely to Jewish students or faculty. In contrast to other external signals of inclusivity, there are no signs on faculty doors that say “kippas welcome here” and EDI officers often don’t think of the wellbeing of Jewish students as part of their mandate. Further, the situation is little better in secondary schools, where school boards are often missing in action as Jewish teachers hide their religion and live in fear of being targeted.

This is simply the reality of being Jewish in Canada in 2024, where antisemitic incidents represent the majority of reported hate crimes in our largest cities. Going to synagogues or Jewish schools often involves a police presence and speaking about your concerns in public requires hushed tones. In work environment after work environment—doctorspublic servantslabour unions, and more—one hears about a steady stream of antisemitism that has led to resignations and lawsuits. Some now choose to hide their religion in the hope of being ignored or remain silent for fear of the terrifying antisemitic backlash that speaking out invariably sparks.

For a country that prides itself on rights of equality, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, these rights and freedoms do not apply in equal measure right now for the Canadian Jewish community.

The government has made inclusivity its brand and one would have hoped that it would be vocally supportive of the Jewish community in words and deeds. Yet the silence from the majority of MPs and misleading comments from government ministers in 2022 when it was revealed that Canadian Heritage had funded an antisemite as part of its anti-hate program was a warning sign of the cowardice that exists when it comes to antisemitism.

A counter-demonstrator carries an Israeli flag as protesters gather outside an Indigo store in Toronto, on Thursday November 30, 2023. Chris Young/The Canadian Press.

That cowardice was repeated last week when Pascale St-Onge, the new Canadian Heritage minister, was unwilling to forcefully call out an antisemitic cartoon published in a major French newspaper or when MPs avoid referencing antisemitism by relying on more generic anti-hate messages. Domestic political calculations appear to trump principle and after the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust and a Canadian immigration policy that was once premised on “none is too many”, the Jewish community is seemingly too small today to matter to governments.

This is not an easy post to write. But after the Globe and Mail last week called for a House motion unequivocally condemning antisemitism, I felt it necessary to endorse the proposal and supplement it by arguing that supportive words alone are insufficient. The motion must be accompanied by action. That could start with ensuring that public dollars for education and cultural institutions do not go to institutions that maintain a hostile environment by failing to address antisemitism, narrowing Bill C-63 to online harms rules that hold platforms accountable for failing to abide by their own policies, providing financial support for the security of Jewish schools and community institutions, promoting antisemitism education within the public service, and implementing Holocaust education in our schools. There needs to be similar motions and commitments to act from provincial and local governments since many of the issues fall within their jurisdiction.

The story of Purim isn’t about the “triumph of inclusion, love, and resilience” as one MP suggested. It is about the personal and political courage summoned by leaders such as Queen Esther to speak out and act against evil. That is the lesson for modern times as we need more of that courage today if we are to confront antisemitism in Canada.

This column originally appeared at