Hon. Jane Cordy: Senator Gold, Canada is in the midst of a housing crisis not seen since post-World War II. In my home province of Nova Scotia, Halifax Regional Municipality saw the highest year-over-year spike in residential rent in the country between 2021 and 2022. At the same time, the vacancy rate stayed around 1%, which is the second lowest in the country.
Yesterday, the Progressive Senate Group heard from a panel of experts on the housing crisis, and their urgency is echoed in the concerns of all Canadians. The Prime Minister’s announcement last week to remove the GST from construction of new rental units was a welcome one, to be sure. It is a great start, but this alone will not solve the problem.
What will the federal government do to ensure that all levels of government coordinate action on the critical housing issue? Senator Gold, the lack of housing is a human rights issue.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. This government is very aware, as are all Canadians, of the housing crisis that we confront. Thank you, in your question, for underlining the importance of coordination between not only all levels of government but all sectors that are responsible for this.
I won’t repeat things that I have said in the past. This government has taken important action, as you mentioned, with regard to removing the federal GST on the construction of rental apartment buildings and — importantly, and to your point — showing leadership in urging the provinces to follow suit. Indeed, many provinces have already done so. We hope that others, like my province of Quebec, will come on board as well.
Indeed, there is also a role for municipalities, as many commentators have observed. Once again, the government is committed to working with municipalities in order to exercise its leadership, moral and otherwise, as we seek a solution together to this crisis.
Senator Cordy: I am glad that we agree that it has to be a coordinated effort of all governments and all sectors of the population who have concerns, like the people that our group met with yesterday.
Housing must be built as quickly as possible to meet the needs of Canadians. There is a critical shortage of non-market housing and supportive housing. A major hurdle to building 5.8 million homes over eight years is Canada’s labour shortages.
Senator Gold, there are simply not enough skilled tradespeople to build the number of homes that we need quickly. What steps is the government taking to bolster the construction labour market in Canada?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. As the Minister of Immigration has remarked in the past months, the government is hoping to attract increasing numbers of skilled immigrant people who can, in fact, contribute to make up the shortfall in our skilled labour force in this particular area. Indeed, there is a labour shortage in many sectors.
It is a challenging and delicate balancing act when all the factors need to be combined in a rational, prudent and sensible policy. The government is committed to doing its part to meet that need.