moved that Bill C-356, An Act respecting payments by Canada and requirements in respect of housing and to amend certain other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, the Prime Minister admitted he was not worth the cost. He found out that I was holding a monster rally in a Liberal stronghold, and he panicked. His phones lit up as Atlantic Canadian Liberal MPs, bawling their eyes out, pleaded with him to relent to the pressure that the Leader of the Opposition was mounting to axe the tax.
The Prime Minister said that he was stiff in spine and that he would never back down, and the Liberal MPs from the Atlantic caucus said that they would oust him as leader and he would lose his job. What would that do for his ego? The Prime Minister said, in that case, that they would pull together a press conference that afternoon, try to time it right before the Conservative leader's great rally in Windsor, where a thousand people were scheduled to rise up against the tax, and they would promise to pause the tax until after the election.
Now Atlantic Canadians know that if they elect the Prime Minister, they will get a massive tax hike on their home heating oil. If they elect the common-sense Conservatives, they will have tax-free heat. That is a pretty simple choice. The Prime Minister has just defined the issue of the next election. They can vote for him and have a massive home heating tax, or they vote for common-sense Conservatives and we will axe the tax for everyone and forever. Who would you vote for, Mr. Speaker?
The Prime Minister sent out one of his Newfoundland MPs to say that the reason only some Canadians were getting a pause on the carbon tax was that other Canadians did not vote Liberal. Soon they will have a new income tax rate for provinces that do not elect Liberal MPs, a new sales tax rate and new tax rates everywhere else. The problem with this bloody-minded divide-and-conquer tax strategy is that some Liberals seem to have failed to win over the Prime Minister's heart.
The Liberal MP for Sudbury does not get a carbon tax exemption. The two Liberal MPs in Thunder Bay, a very cold climate, do not get a carbon tax exemption. The Liberal member for Nickel Belt did not get a carbon tax exemption in those harsh, cold northern Ontario communities that use gas and propane. The extremely ineffective Liberal MP for Edmonton Centre did not get a carbon tax exemption. There is the loquacious, loud and never quiet member from Winnipeg, which they call “Winterpeg” because it is cold. The member for Winnipeg North, a man of many words but few actions, has failed to get a carbon tax exemption for Winnipeggers.
Apparently those people are forced to pay higher prices for their heat, because their MPs are so ineffective that they could not mount pressure on the Prime Minister to back down.
It is proven that he is not worth the cost, just like he has not been worth the cost for housing. After eight years, the Prime Minister has doubled mortgage payments, doubled the rent and doubled the needed down payment for a home.
Let us just review the housing hell he has caused since he promised to lower housing costs. It now takes 25 years to save up for a down payment in Toronto. Before the Prime Minister, a person could pay off a mortgage in that time. Families are now stretching out their mortgage terms to 90 years and 120 years, because interest rates on their exorbitant mortgages have stretched out the amortization. People used to pay off an entire mortgage 25 years in and then they could retire mortgage free.
Now, not only will they never be able to pay off their mortgage in their entire lifetime, but even if they hand their house and mortgage to their kids, they might not be able to pay it off in their lifetime. They would then have to hand the house to a third generation that would still inherit a mortgage. So much for the government taking on debt so Canadians do not have to.
Under the Prime Minister, homes cost 50% more than they do in the United States, and a person can buy a castle in Sweden for the price of a two bedroom in Kitchener. Toronto is now ranked the worst housing bubble in the world by UBS Bank. Vancouver is the third-most unaffordable housing market on earth, when we compare housing costs to income, and Toronto is the 10th. Vancouver is now more unaffordable than New York, London, England and Singapore, which is a tiny island with 2,000 times more people per square kilometre than Canada.
Canada should be the cheapest place in the world, because, of course, we have more land per person than all but four countries on the planet. In other words, we have a lot of space, just not a lot of homes. In fact, we have fewer homes per capita than all other G7 countries even though we have by far the most land on which to build. In fact, we have fewer homes per capita today than we did eight years ago when the Prime Minister took office, promising more homes and more affordable homes.
If members want the best all-in-one measurement of the Prime Minister's performance on housing, look at the OECD, which compared housing costs to income, starting in 2015 to present, among all 37 OECD countries. How has the ratio of home prices to family incomes grown in Canada relative to the other 36 OECD countries? We are the second worst. In other words, housing costs outgrew incomes in Canada at a faster pace than in all but one of the other 36 OECD countries. This is a new problem that occurred after the Prime Minister took office and it is a problem that is unique to Canada. He cannot blame some prior government and he cannot blame other countries, because it is worse than Canada has ever been and worse than almost anywhere else in the world.
This is a made-in-Canada problem unique to the Prime Minister. Why? Because he has spent the last eight years building bureaucracy rather than building homes. He brags that he has the most expensive housing programs. He complains that when I was housing minister, my programs did not cost as much, and he is absolutely right about that. I had far more affordable housing programs. In fact, there were far few billions in my housing programs than there are in his programs, but we do not measure the success by how expensive we can be. We measure success by how affordable we can be.
He even made up a fact. He looked at a CBC headline, which is always a dangerous thing to do, and he said that when I was minister we only built 99 homes with $300 million. I thought, “What the heck is he talking about?” I have a mind like a steel trap. I would have remembered if I had announced a $300-million housing project, and so I checked into it. Here is what actually happened.
First, the program was created in 2008, a half decade before I even became the minister. Second, it did not spend any money. The program was designed to encourage private home ownership by first nations. It invested capital of $300 million, but did not spend a penny. Because the money was invested commercially, it actually grew to $380 million. Also, it was not 99 homes; 7,000 homes were built, purchased or renovated for first nations people.
It did not cost any money. It made a profit and it built, renovated and bought 7,000 homes. By the way, the entire thing is run by first nations themselves. No wonder the Liberals do not like any of that, but forget the facts. If I had to deal with the bare body of facts in litigating the housing file, I do not know what I would do. I might have to hallucinate to come up with some other facts too. I might even get desperate enough to read CBC headlines as well.
In the meantime, let us talk about the real common-sense plan to bring in homes Canadians can afford. Let us talk about my bill, the building homes not bureaucracy act.
Principle number one is that it will require cities to boost home completions by 15% per year or they will lose federal infrastructure money. We give them $5 billion a year in direct transfers. They can pretty much do whatever they want with that money. I am saying that this is going to be a housing incentive. We are going to start paying city bureaucrats the way real estate agents get paid, on volume. They get housing completed, they get more money. They do not get it completed, they get less money.
The bureaucrats will have to wake up every morning and think about how they can approve as many permits as quickly as possible so Canadians have a place to live. It is going to be very mathematical. I will require them to hit 15% more home building per year. If they beat that by, say, 10%, they get 10% more money. If they miss it by 10%, they get 10% less money. Maybe then the bureaucrats and the mayors will wake up everyday and think about how they can get it done quickly. Mayors would then be forced to move their offices right into the permitting room, a big open room with big screens. Permitting times would be on one wall showing the number of homes waiting, how many people are on hold right now and how many homes are being held up. Imagine if they had big screens in city hall and all the bureaucrats were busy motoring away, trying to get to a “yes” and getting things done. Would that not be incredible if we actually focused on results, rather than on building more bureaucracy? That is what my bill would incentivize.
Right now, by contrast, the current housing minister has come up with a program that works very simply. He calls up the mayors. He says to them that everyone knows housing is hell after eight years of the Liberal government. He asks if he can go to the town and take credit for homes that it were already going to build. He then will write a big cheque for it if the town does that. He shows up and notes that there was already a subdivision being built. If the town gives the minister credit for that, in exchange he will stroke a big cheque for $40 million with which the government can build more bureaucracy. Then the bureaucrats will be happy, the politicians will be happy and everyone else will be miserable. That is what he has been doing.
We know that this is not leading to more housing construction, because housing starts this year are down 9%. Yes, he can show up and say, “Look at these 24,000 homes, which were already going to be built”, but the overall housing starts, the number of shovels put into ground, is down 9%. Two years after the so-called housing accelerator was created, not a single solitary new house has been completed; a $4-billion housing program that does not build housing. My plan would create a strict, mathematical formula that pays for results.
The second principle is that we will require federally funded transit stations to be surrounded by housing so people can live right next to the bus or train. I have been right across the country and countless stations do not have housing. In fact, in Winnipeg, the gatekeepers actually stepped in to block 2,000 new homes right next to a transit station that was built for those homes. They had to get slapped down in the courts. What did the Liberals do? They gave more money to the incompetent politicians at Winnipeg city hall to block housing for the people who needed it.
I am going to put all the federal funds for transit stations into a trust. The city will not get the money for the transit station until there are apartments occupied all around the station. That way they will have to hurry up and approve the housing if they want to get that money. We will, again, pay for results.
Next, the bill would require that the federal minister of public works do a full inventory and come to the House within months to announce all the buildings that would be sold in order to build housing. The Prime Minister promised that eight years ago. In eight years, with all the 37,000 federal buildings, the 6.2 million square metres of office space, and the thousands of acres, how many homes has he managed to build on that federal land and in those federal buildings? I asked him and he did not know either. It is 13; not 13,000, not 1,300. My bill would make it mandatory by law that the minister come here with a plan to sell off 15% of all federal buildings and thousands of acres of federal land so that we can build on that land that is being used for nothing.
On the fourth principle, federal bureaucrats will have to get their act together as well. I was speaking with a builder who builds beautiful environmentally friendly homes and apartments in Atlantic Canada. He is in the process of building a carbon-neutral building right now. It will be the greenest apartment complex in the world. He had to wait two years for CMHC to approve the financing on that building.
The benchmark is supposed to be 60 days, so here is how life is going to work around here when I am prime minister with what is in this bill. CMHC bureaucrats will have to hit the 60-day target within six months. If they do not, I am cutting their pay in half. If they do not do it within a year, I am firing the entire executive. It is right in the bill. That is life. If a barber does not cut hair well, they get fired. If a mechanic has an engine block fall out, they get fired.
In the real world, when people do not do their job, they do not get bonuses. That is not how life works under the Prime Minister for the senior, six-figure bureaucracy. This bill would put an end to that. We are going to pay for results, not for bureaucracy and the privilege of incompetent bureaucrats who make life miserable and costly for everyone else.
The building homes not bureaucracy act is common sense, the common sense of the common people united for our common home: their home, my home, our home. Let us bring it home.