Prime Minister Justin Trudeau probably thought that he would get a soft ride when he showed up earlier this week for an interview on Vancouver’s Breakfast Television show.
The host Tara Jean Stevens went straight to the heart of what’s on the minds of many Vancouver millennials: the high cost of housing.
Here was her first question on the topic.
“Prime Minister, there are so many people in our province—and this question comes from the heart from me as I have a young family—it is so hard to buy a home in our province,” Stevens said. “And I’m wondering with housing costs at an all-time high here, what is your government doing to possibly stop this from getting worse or make it better?”
You can see Trudeau’s response in the tweet below.
— CityNews Vancouver (@CitytvNews) August 1, 2017
Trudeau did not promise to bring back the tax subsidy for multi-unit residential buildings. That’s what led to the construction of tons of rental housing in Vancouver in the 1970s that still houses people today.
Nor did he say that he would take back federal control over the Vancouver International Airport and build rental housing on the vast amount of land under the airport authority’s control.
Nor did Trudeau indicate that he would strive to have municipalities recognized under Canada’s constitution—and give them taxing authority to address the housing crisis in their midst.
No, Trudeau didn’t say any of those things. This is a transcript of what he said:
Trudeau: Well, you can understand the federal government has tools that apply right across the country and therefore, we’re limited in our ability to target one specific area, which is why it’s so important that we work as well as we do with the province and the municipality.
I’m going to be sitting down with Mayor Gregor Robertson in a few minutes actually to talk about his vision on housing and how we’re going to help. The federal government has done a number of things around affecting the housing market. But what we really needed to do and what we have done is actually step up and get re-engaged on housing.
The federal government for a long time stepped out of housing. We’re stepping back in in a big way for tens of billions of dollars in social housing, in affordable housing. We’re going to work with the mayor and with municipalities across the country.
Tara Jean Stevens: That’s what you’re doing. What would you say to a BT viewer watching right now who’s sitting going “I don’t have enough money. I can’t afford the rent.” What should they be doing right now?
Trudeau: We’re working to make sure, first of all, as you said, families, young families, get more money in their pockets. We lowered taxes on the middle class. Raising them on the wealthiest one percent. We’re making sure the child benefit flows with more money, tax-free, to families that need that support.
We’re also growing the economy. We’re creating new jobs. We’re pivoting to where the economy is going in terms of knowledge economy, in terms of creativity, in terms of innovation, in terms of being smarter about our natural resources.
There’s a lot of things we can do to grow the economy and if people have better jobs and more income coming in, they’ll be better able to afford their homes while at the same time we’re investing in significantly more rental housing spaces, creating new housing stock, both affordable and social housing—subsidized housing in partnership with municipalities.
There’s a lot that can be done and is being doing [sic] but I recognize how difficult it is for families and the uncertainty they’re facing.
Tara Jean Stevens: It sucks. It blows Prime Minister. It’s been awful here.
Trudeau: When I lived in Vancouver, it was just the beginning of the pressure around housing but what my friends are going through now and what they tell me is just unimaginable. I know how difficult it is.
It’s almost as if he has difficulty speaking when he is forced to go off script.