Opinion: Life is getting harder in Canada

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Much ink has been spilled about the affordability crisis affecting Canadians in every province, and yet, our politicians seem either uninterested or utterly helpless in confronting this crisis.

In Canada’s largest cities, rent is spiralling out of control. In Alberta, where the government continues the Alberta is Calling campaign — including conditional $5,000 tax credits for those who answer the call — Calgary, Edmonton and surrounding bedroom communities are facing large rent increases, leaving a growing number of Albertans without options. Notably absent from any government news release, statement or the premier’s weekly radio show are any attempts to support those renters now faced with losing their homes.

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Of course, this pattern continues in provinces whose governments have implemented some form of rent control — with both the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver seeing single-bedroom rentals skyrocket above $3,000 per month — clearly there isn’t an easy answer for government intervention.

But, at the same time, there doesn’t seem to be anyone in Canada looking for one.

During the daily sparring of question period, Conservatives are quick to point out that housing costs have nearly doubled since the Trudeau government was elected. What they are not offering, however, are clear solutions to help Canadians currently facing those skyrocketing costs.

In municipalities, we’ve seen a rush to approve density, looking for an increase in apartment towers, multiplexes and townhomes, changing zoning to fast-track approvals with the belief “densification” is the answer. However, if past trends are to be believed, these new units, touted as relief for renters in crisis, will likely be priced at the going rates, offering little hope to those already struggling.

This makes owning a home a fully extinct idea for the outpriced middle class.

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Housing isn’t the only area where middle-class affordability is met with a collective shrug from policymakers. Canadians are faced with some of the highest phone bills in the world, brought to you by telecom oligopolies comfortably insulated and protected by legislation that restricts foreign competition and suffocates homegrown newcomers with staggering anticompetitive price barriers. (The Trudeau government claims phone bills have come down by 50 per cent, although anyone paying their monthly bill knows that’s a load of malarkey.)

And, despite some political virtue-signalling and faux outrage from the politicos, there’s not a single meaningful conversation in Canada about changing the freewheeling exploitation of the Canadian market from Rogers, Telus or Bell. Good luck with the next outage, folks.

Airlines are no different, as flights to Vegas, Puerto Vallarta, Miami and other foreign destinations are often cheaper than flights across Canada. (So sorry to my family in Toronto, but for $700, I’ll be picking sunny beaches over the murky depths of Lake Ontario.)

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And then we have the sacred cow of supply management, a verboten subject in the halls of power. The Canadian market is force-fed depressing cheese and dairy, with insane tariff barriers to international competitors, while forcing producers to dump countless gallons of milk down the drain to keep prices artificially high. Eggs and poultry are subject to the same protection, the prices for both more than doubling in my lifetime.

This is not an extensive list of the issues facing the middle class, but it does capture the national response of politicians to this crisis: absolutely nothing, nada, zilch, zero has been done.

How can it be the political class is so out of touch? Why are leaders failing, across partisan lines, to hear the cries of the suffocating Canadian middle class? Who is going to do something about a broken market that crushes Canadians while protecting the very entities responsible?

I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath while you wait for an answer.

Harrison Fleming was formerly the deputy director of government communications for the Government of Alberta, and a speech writer for former premier Jason Kenney.

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