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Why don’t federal politicians discuss housing? Strategists weigh

Strategists from the entire spectrum of political stripes say party leaders in Canada need to place a greater focus on their plans to increase housing supply and make housing more affordable, or they’ll risk missing out on large swaths of potential voters.

Liberal MPs and cabinet ministers — including the prime minister — are continuing their tour of the country this week, touting their recently tabled budget, which focuses largely on pocketbook issues.

A key line item in the budget is the “grocery rebate” — a one-time payment through the GST tax credit system with the goal of helping low- and modest-income earners pay their bills. It’s a move that saw several cabinet ministers stopping at grocery stores this week to laud the Liberal government’s affordability measures.

But as prices remain high in another area, namely housing, the weekly panel of political strategists on CTV’s Question Period says party leaders could be missing out on large groups of voters by not focusing more on their housing plans. They say at this point, one of the largest pools of voters is those who are frustrated they may never be able to afford to own a home.

Kory Teneycke — who was Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s campaign manager and former director of communications for ex-prime minister Stephen Harper — told Question Period host Vassy Kapelos on the panel airing Sunday addressing the cost of housing is important strategically because of the number of potential voters focused on entering the market.

“I think for campaigns, federal elections, provincial elections, etc., the largest voting demographic out there right now in society is millennials, and this is their number one issue,” Teneycke said, adding housing is also a top-of-mind concern for new Canadians.

“It’s really those two groups that are duking it out in the real estate market trying to find housing, and it’s very expensive because it’s in very short supply,” he also said.

Teneycke said the challenge for politicians is to get more housing built quickly, but it can be a challenge working with different levels of government to cut down construction approval times.

Kathleen Monk, a former NDP strategist and director of communications to the late Jack Layton, agrees political leaders could be missing out on potential voters depending on how they communicate their housing plans.

“We know there’s a direct correlation that if you’re a homeowner, you’re more likely to vote,” Monk said. “But recent data has shown that in the kind of battleground ridings of Ontario and B.C. there are more renters now that are eligible to vote than there are homeowners.

“So what’s interesting is that the party that can actually talk to not just homeowners but also those who are renting will actually potentially be able to build a bigger coalition for their party,” she added.

According to Monk, the problem for politicians is a combination of how to communicate what they’re doing to address housing affordability, and also how to solve the policy challenge in the first place.

“I think the market isn’t always going to solve everything, the government is going to have to step up and step in, to actually make that affordable housing,” she said.

Tim Murphy, the chief of staff to former prime minister Paul Martin, chalks it up to the years it can take between a federal policy change and a real difference for potential homebuyers. That could determine whether a government puts a communications focus on housing, he said.

“It depends a bit on where in the cycle the politician is,” Murphy said. “And I think you saw that, for example, in the federal budget. They had some stuff in this one, they had some stuff in the last one, but I would not say that they grabbed hold of this issue and tried to derive a political cure that can address some of the political challenges that Kory spoke to.”

Murphy said housing policy depends on every level of government working in concert with each other, so at the federal level, political leaders need to “grab it rhetorically, and have something that looks like a solution, and then figure out how you can cooperate to get something done.”

“Frankly, our bigger problem is we’ve got a massive lack of supply, and at the same time our population is growing and there’s a big chunk of middle income people who suddenly view housing as an unrealistic dream,” he added. “And that’s where I think politicians and governments need to act.”

Source: ctvnews



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