Canadians pay high price when governments lose common sense

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Appeared in the National Post, August 8, 2023
Canadians pay high price when governments lose common sense

Due to a dearth of common sense in government policy across the country, particularly in Ottawa, Canadians are paying a price in terms of living standards, an increased burden of government to carry, and diminished prospects for the future. To reverse these trends, governments must make a dramatic U-turn based on common sense and real-world evidence.

Consider, for instance, one of the top issues worrying Canadians right now—housing affordability. Every politician from coast to coast pays lip service to the need to improve housing affordability. And yet, some of the actions taken will not only fail to increase affordability but will worsen it markedly.

Repeated analyses have shown that the main cause of Canada’s affordability crisis is the lack of construction of new homes (including single- and semi-detached, row housing and apartments). Housing completions reached 219,942 in 2022 but much more is needed just to catch up with just existing demand.

At the same time, the federal government has super-charged immigration. Canada is expected to increase its population by more than 1.2 million people in 2023, largely through immigration. While immigration is a positive for the country, it must be assessed alongside other considerations. Common sense tells us that we can’t increase the population by more than one million people in a year—while only increasing housing by roughly 220,000—without imposing enormous strain on the housing market.

This isn’t a new issue. From 2015 to 2022, Canada’s population increased by 3.3 million compared to just 1.6 million housing completions during the same period.

Or consider another hot-button issue—energy. The federal government and several provinces continue to march forward on a massive centrally-planned restructuring of the Canadian economy and our energy markets despite disastrous results in parts of Europe and the United States that have pursued similar policies. Which raises a common-sense question—if it didn’t work in Europe and the U.S., why implement the same policies in Canada and expect different results?

Regardless, Ottawa has imposed formal and informal restrictions on the exploration, development and transportation of traditional and reliable sources of energy such as oil and gas while pouring massive subsidies into unreliable renewable energy sources, principally wind and solar. Because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine, these energy sources require back-up sources, which must be available and maintained, making renewables more expensive. Like Europe and the U.S., Canada is on the path of more expensive but less reliable energy, which confounds basic common sense.

At the same time, governments in Canada, particularly the Trudeau government, are imposing additional regulations to transition all motor vehicles to electric without any realistic plan or even regard for the practical question of where all the additional electricity will come from to power existing and future needs.

In fact, the federal government has explicitly premised its plan on a yet-to-be-determined technological breakthrough. In other words, the success of the grand restructuring of the Canadian economy, and thus the wellbeing of Canadians, relies on an assumed technological breakthrough in the future. To say this lacks basic common sense is a generous assessment.

Finally, consider Canada’s investment crisis. Simply put, business investment has collapsed, which has both short- and long-term consequences for Canadians. Common sense dictates that the federal government at least acknowledge the problem if not actually introduce policies, or more accurately undo policies (e.g. tax increases, aggressive regulations), impeding investment. Instead, leaders in Ottawa continue to ignore the problem and maintain the same set of policies that led to the current crisis.

Canadians face huge costs because of the utter lack of common sense from many elected leaders across the country, particularly in Ottawa. If our country is to return to competitiveness, progress and prosperity, the halls of government in Ottawa require a dramatic dose of common sense.

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