As civilization faces an existential crisis, our leaders demonstrate their inability to respond. Theory of change shows that now is the time for radically new ideas to transform society before it’s too late.
‘Developers were only too happy to keep building safety deposit boxes in the sky, helping domestic and foreign capital — rather than people — find a home.’
We’re now 10 years on from the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. Or, as our national mythology puts it, 10 years since Canada breathed a deep sigh of relief as the crisis mostly grazed our economy and financial system.
Since 2008, we’ve had 10 years of congratulatory back-patting over our system of financial regulation, 10 years of low inflation and low interest rates, 10 years of periodically oil-driven economic growth — and 10 years of exploding housing prices, of renovictions and demovictions, of working people pushed out of some cities and a real estate investment bonanza for the homegrown and foreign rich.
The neoliberal state we’ve inherited prides itself on not interfering with or, god forbid, regulating markets and financial flows except when inaction might be systemically destabilizing. Unfortunately for the government, our housing sector needs patching up — even if it means breaking out the red tape.
Both Ontario and British Columbia have instituted foreign buyers taxes. B.C. has also implemented a mildly progressive property tax on homes valued at over $3 million and increased property transfer tax rates. Vancouver has an empty homes tax starting this year.
These measures, which are welcome and contributing to cooling the two most haywire housing markets (Vancouver and Toronto) in terms of both sales and price growth, are nonetheless insufficient to the scale of Canada’s housing affordability crisis.
Luckily, the alternative policy toolbox is full for those willing to make use of it. Here are some of the sharper implements:
The Ford Government is a textbook example of extreme neoliberal policy: reduce government and regulations to a minimum; cut taxes; let business operate freely without restrictions; encourage investment and embrace the free market to deliver growth, maximum profits — all leading to prosperity. Question: Is this making your life better?
The Ford government has axed provincial funding for two institutes credited with positioning Ontario and Canada at the forefront of artificial intelligence research — a field the government’s own prosperity think tank says must be supported if the province wants to remain competitive and create jobs in a booming technology sector.
The Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade cut $20 million from the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and $4 million annually from the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), which supports a hub of AI-focused computer scientists. Both draw funding from the federal government and other sources and say they will adjust programming or operations.
A prosperity think tank funded by the ministry concluded in a report last year that Ontario has a “rich AI ecosystem led by some of the world’s best AI scientists and business thinkers,” thanks in part to early investment in basic research. The report cited the Vector Institute as an attractor of high-profile talent to the region.
The report’s key recommendation: “It is imperative that the province stay ahead of the curve and support the research and development of this technology, so that we stay at the leading edge of AI innovation.”
The think tank that issued the report, the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, was itself axed by the government and closed its doors last week after 18 years. It was the research arm of a task force created by then premier Mike Harris in 2001 and was designed to examine policies that could help Ontario become more competitive. MORE