It was welcome news on Monday when “housing minister” Steve Clark resigned.
Blame it on lazy journalists and headline writers or political propagandists, Clark was often referred to as housing minister, leaving out the most important aspect of his portfolio, that of municipal affairs. These are, however, different times and the lack of awareness within the ruling class of the basics continues to boggle our mind.
Along with shuffling his cabinet, Premier Doug Ford found time for a pile-on over the Bank of Canada. B.C. Premier David Eby had issued a similar letter to Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem last week, pleading for a stop to interest rate hikes. The independence of the Bank of Canada and separation from political interference is a pretty standard concept most politicians respect. Playing to the crowd and pitching for the folks might impress the uninformed, but it is amateur hour.
Without the cover of the pandemic, Ford is again on full display. Much like his first few months in office it has become a case of bungling one file after another. A few buzz words for the folks may keep people showing up at “Fordfest,” but for those of us able to discern reality from the carnival, there is no comprehensive plan.
From Ford’s X platform (formerly Twitter): “As Ontario grows, our government is on a mission to build at least 1.5 million homes. After decades of inaction, we’re seeing real results: 2022 and 2021 had the most housing starts in 30 years. Our work won’t stop.” Who comes up with this tripe?
The reality is housing starts have already slowed down in 2023, following two years of unprecedented activity brought on by an ultra-low interest rate and pandemic purchasing patterns. Today, we have a mess and by many reports, Canada is sitting on a housing bubble. Despite the worry and concern that faces many families who recently purchased homes, the market needs to naturally correct itself and stabilize into a new normal.
While it may be wishful thinking, the new minister needs to revisit the damage done in recent months.
Municipalities need to be consulted, respected and heard when it comes to finding the smartest ways to develop lands to maximum effect. Rather than meeting with developers to generate windfalls, how about developing policies that would encourage private and non-profit builders to make the investments needed. But, to be fair, a methodical approach takes time. The haste with which this government makes decisions compounds the very problems it claims to be solving.
For example, in a news conference held Tuesday in the wake of Clark’s weekend resignation, the premier laid out a path forward that further complicates the picture. He announced a complete review of the Greenbelt system, including the properties at the centre of the controversy, while at the same time stating those developments would be expected to go forward under threat of a return to Greenbelt status if rapid progress is not apparent. Which is it? Are they under review or under development?
While the departure of a staff person and the minister himself may allow Premier Ford time to regroup, he has lost the trust of the people. Under the circumstances, Ford himself needs to go.