Canada will have to embrace challenges on the path to responsible growth

  • National Newswatch

Minister Freeland offered $15 billion in new spending on loan programs for purpose-built rentals, in addition to providing updates on previously announced measures like the Housing Accelerator Fund and the GST exemption for rental construction. These are steps in the right direction, addressing an issue that cripples our prosperity and contributes to a sense of generational inequity.

Perhaps equally importantly for the Trudeau Liberals, housing affordability has become a political vulnerability. Recent research shows that younger Canadians have less optimism about their prospects for home ownership, with less than one third of young Canadians who do not own a home expressing that they are very likely to purchase one. Those who already own their own home are more worried about their ability to continue to make mortgage payments.

It’s the type of opinion environment that keeps politicians up at night. Further, housing affordability rarely comes up in isolation. And in public discourse and policy discussions it is inextricably linked to another issue vital to our national agenda: immigration.

Further research also shows declining support for Canada’s immigration levels. In forming these opinions, no concern is cited more than housing affordability, which more than doubled as a concern from 15 per cent in 2022 to 38 per cent last year.

The bottom line is that Canada simply needs to grow, and we must do it well. Like other developed countries our population is aging and we are having fewer children. We aren’t just solving for an aging issue, however. Without immigration, we won’t have the resources or tax base to pay for the services and infrastructure we desperately need.

A report done by the Fraser Institute found that Canada’s aging population could lower per person income by $11,200 over the next 20 years, and that Canadians aged 65 years and older could account for up to 25.5 per cent of the population by 2043.

For comparison, this is just 3.6 percentage points lower than current-day Japan, which has historically rejected immigration but whose Prime Minister recently told his country it is “on the brink of not being able to maintain social functions.” With fertility rates declining globally, immigration is a necessary part of a solution to demographic decline. It is important to remember that there’s quite a stark choice in front of us. We simply need to grow, and we need to move with urgency in addressing this crisis.

While there are no silver bullet solutions, one new, and welcome initiative from the government’s economic update was the creation of one Department of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities to better coordinate investments in public infrastructure with population growth.

But there’s more work ahead. Perhaps most immediately, we need to tackle issues with Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs to ensure they comply with a long-term cross-government growth strategy. These workers provide solutions to labour shortages. Yet many aren’t put on a path to citizenship, lack the support they need, face precarity, and, in some cases, abuse. If we want to meet our potential, we need to have people working here who are supported, and those who are qualified to be absorbed and welcomed properly.

The big picture, where we must focus, is one of strategic growth and responsible planning. With global economic shifts and existential demographic challenges, our policies need to reflect a balance between immediate realities and long-term national interests.

This is not just a challenge but an opportunity – to build a Canada that is prosperous, inclusive, and resilient. Our response to housing and immigration challenges will define our trajectory for decades to come.

Lisa Lalande is the CEO of Century Initiative