At some point a duck needs to be called a duck: Any reliable source will show that Canada’s real estate market has been inflating proportionately higher than all other economic sectors for the past 20 years or so. If we look at the real cause and real effects of this, we’ll see very easily that no one, including the middle class, have to be left behind, problems such as homelessness can be greatly alleviated, and all that has to change is for government to do a better job of managing the economy.

Simply reading the definition of the term ‘hyperinflation’ on an economics site plainly shows that the real estate sector in Canada qualifies. Canada, like most western democracies, has been increasing its money supply while lowering interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis and even since the dot com boom and bust in 2000.

As is cultural practice and tradition, the middle class has been moving more and more of what is available to them of this new and cheaper money into real estate. This increase in money availability of course increases demand while flow of course raises prices.

The easy money and low interest rates also attract international investors into the sector, who in turn drive up prices even higher and faster. Of note is that a few recent policies, in Vancouver and Toronto for example, have finally begun to target international real estate speculators in Canada.

Where does this new money come from? The Bank of Canada, of course. Like all western democracies, Canadian currency is managed by a central bank with the goals of maintaining a healthy economy and keeping inflation low but still positive.

To do this in the past two decades, the Bank of Canada has had to increase the overall money supply and lower interest rates to such a degree that as a side effect it has substantially contributed to pushing Canada’s real estate sector into hyperinflation mode. Now, the Bank of Canada of course does not choose to or have the goal of facilitating hyperinflation in any sector, and of course not one as important as Canada’s real estate market.

Let’s ask why our central bank, which always acts in the public interest generally, has been increasing the money supply and keeping interest rates historically absurdly low. The reason is the overall poor management of the economy. Who manages the economy? Government, of course. The central bank is only a reactionary institution to overall economic trends and not a policy setter itself, all proactive policy is set by government.

Successive federal, provincial and municipal governments have been serving the needs of investors above and beyond those of the general population. When this happens, investors are put at the helm of the whole economy and any problem with the investor class needs to be solved above all problems.

If the stock market crashes or there is a dot com boom and bust or an international financial crisis, investors are propped up by subsidies and policies by governments with almost no questions asked. Central banks don’t have much choice but to follow suit and prop up investors as it has become their sole means of saving the overall economy.

All three levels of government have been serving investors above all, from federal corporate welfare and industry-specific subsidies at the provincial level, to permits, zoning changes and subsidizing gentrification at the municipal level. This policy direction from governments has itself also contributed to real estate hyperinflation through increasing the availability of investment capital for real estate purchases, increasing pressure for apartments to be converted into condos and for land to be sold to real estate developers.

The middle class acts as a whole with one of their primary or main goals remaining home ownership. They divert more and more of their disposable income into real estate, furthering the upward spiral of real estate prices and rendering much of them ‘house-poor’ and otherwise lowering their consumer purchasing power until their home is finally paid off.

As government funds are diverted to investors, fewer funds proportionately are available for public services. Health care and schools suffer, just for example. People become less healthy and educated negligibly on a yearly basis, but considerably over time.

Advocates and activists for societal causes such as homelessness have fewer resources while the number of homeless increases. The reduced availability of affordable apartments due to gentrification and condoization further causes an increase in homelessness. Hyperinflation in the housing market forces some middle class members to entirely abandon home ownership and choose rental apartments instead, further crowding out those in the rental market and increasing homelessness further.

While it is true that profit and investment gains are ultimately good for everyone, this goodness is allotted extremely unequally, with top investors benefitting greatly and lower income earners benefitting almost negligibly. The middle class can be easily persuaded to feel good about their investment gains while reaping a proportionately low percentage of these gains and having to divert increasingly larger amounts of their budgets toward housing. Government overly pandering to investors therefore causes the economy to be incapable of providing conditions favourable to universally affordable housing.

The simple subsidizing of social housing is often cited as a key solution by activists in response to this situation. This is a band-aid only, at best, as causal problems are not solved. The best long-term solution would be a large-scale shift in political momentum toward long-term investment in everyone’s health, education and well-being, which will create a society of more innovation, able and productive people.

Increasing funding of public services while simultaneously reducing funding of the investor class re-allocates resources from inflationary and already well-off recipients, to include disadvantaged and potentially seminal ones. Creating broad improvements in prosperity and economic conditions rather than simply inflating investment values requires less central bank corrective intervention, which in turn reduces inflationary pressures on the real-estate sector.

With less real estate inflation, the middle class would once again gradually increase its purchasing power, which in itself is a positive driver of economic conditions, and be able to leave more room in the rental real estate market.

Housing-as-a-human-right type policies can come and go as governments do, election-to-election. Correction of general economic conditions generally outlast any single government mandate and provide the economic conditions necessary for universal housing affordability and solve real estate hyperinflation entirely. Only then will central bank policies be able to be normalized and the housing market will correct.

The investor class must realize that investing in the health and education of everyone will provide them with better employees. Governments must realize that directing public funds to the public, rather than investing in investments, reduces drains on public funds and provides for better economic conditions long-term. The middle class must realize that their own governments are the cause of the real estate hyperinflation they suffer through.

Featured Image: Recreation of the UP balloon house from the National Geographic Channel

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney go through some of the week’s top news, roundup-style.

Topics:

The US leaving Afghanistan
The 2021 Canadian Federal Election
OnlyFans dropping explicit content
Forced sterilization of Native women in Saskatchewan
Gatineau boy’s father denied human rights complaint

Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram

Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram

It’s official. After a quick 36 day campaign, Canadians will head to the polls on September 20th. This morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Governor General Mary Simon to dissolve the current Minority Parliament in place since October 2019, which she did.

As Trudeau seeks a Majority, his Government’s handling of the pandemic will most likely play a dominant role in the five week campaign. The current pandemic situation will also directly effect the election itself, with all poll workers masked, a fresh pencil for each voter, hourly cleaning and some provinces not allowing schools to be used as polling places. Whether or not voters themselves will have to mask up depends on the current provincial health rules in place where they live.

While Trudeau had hoped to pass legislation allowing for three days of voting, it came off the table when Parliament was dissolved. Voting will be limited to election day, advanced polling days and mail-in ballots, which Elections Canada expects a significantly larger than average number of.

Trudeau argued that this election is necessary to give voters a say in the COVID recovery: “In this pivotal, consequential moment, who wouldn’t want a say? Who wouldn’t want their chance to help decide where our country goes from here?”

While the opposition parties all say they are ready, they are also critical of the decision to call the election. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called it a “selfish” election and argued that Trudeau is calling it “to be able to do less, not more” for Canadians in need, referring to the fact that his party was able to push the Minority Government for more in the COVID support benefits like the CERB and CRB.

All parties now have the shortest amount of time allowed by law to make their case.

Featured Image by Coolcaesar via WikiMedia Commons

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss the upcoming Montreal Municipal election (with an emphasis on the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Montreal Nord boroughs), the possibility of a fall Federal Election and Quebec’s new vaccine passport.

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

See Samantha’s mural outside of the Union United Church

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

Gracia Kasoki Katahwa will run for Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce under the Projet Montréal banner. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante made the announcement earlier today at a press conference in the borough alongside Katahwa and seven other first-time candidates whom Plante referred to as the future of her party.

Katahwa joins an arguably crowded field which includes incumbent Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, originally elected as a Projet candidate and now running with her own borough-specific party Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery. Longtime City Councilor for the Darlington district Lionel Perez is running for the post as the candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, a party of which Perez was recently the Interim Leader.

Matthew Kerr is running under the banner of Mouvement Montréal, the party started and led by Balarama Holness. Meanwhile, Alex Montagano promises a “back to basics” approach as he runs with his borough-specific party Team/Equipe CDN NDG.

Katahwa has a background in healthcare and is the only black woman on the Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec. While this is her first foray into politics, she has a long history with the borough.

CDN/NDG is shaping up to be one of the races to pay close attention to this November.

Featured Image via Projet Montréal on Facebook

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss some of the top news stories of the day (local, national and international):

Quebec’s curfew lifting, Marjorie Taylor Greene stalking AOC, hidden systemic racism in the Federal Government, the Montreal Municipal Election & this summer’s hybrid festivals.

Follow Samantha Gold Artist on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

François Legault has shoehorned his foot into his mouth, yet again. Last week it was his claim – in response to the growing affordable housing crisis – that the average rent in metropolitan areas in Quebec was $500-$600 a month. This week, it’s his inflexibility on pay raises for public sector workers.

In Quebec, we have an expression “Au Quebec, on syndique!” in other words, “In Quebec we unionize”. We are also in a pandemic where the gap between rich and poor is clearer than ever, and the definition of who counts as an essential worker is all the more obvious as a result.

It therefore came as a slap in the face to those same workers that Legault told government worker unions there is no money left to pay for pay raises. The Quebec government’s current offer to healthcare workers – called “guardian angels” by Legault – is a five percent pay raise over five years with an option for a further three percent if inflation exceeds the amount they’re offering. Higher pay raises are being offered to patient attendants in long-term care homes and first year teachers in an attempt to lure more people to these professions that are facing severe staffing shortages in Quebec.

The unions have said government offers are too little to accept, and Legault’s response is to cite pandemic-related public spending as grounds for the claim that his government cannot offer them more. In an age where unions are more important than ever in the face of mounting corporate greed, his remarks come as particularly insulting when he himself owns a multimillion dollar home in Outremont.

Since Legault’s callous remarks around residential renting costs, his government and the Coaltion Avenir du Quebec has been engaging in damage control. This can be seen in the Premier’s conspicuous absence from the press conference announcing the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every time Legault goes public on financial matters, his wealth and privilege shine through. This is a man who claims that he will do what the majority of Quebeckers want, yet his responses to issues surrounding poverty and people’s value stinks of the arrogance that comes with extreme wealth.

While I have zero interest in saving the Quebec premier’s reputation, I do have a suggestion of how Francois Legault and his party can save his ass from political blunders that have finally alienated their base:

Francois Legault should take a pay cut.

He should accept a reduction in his salary as premier and that amount should go straight into an offer of increased salaries for essential workers. A simple Google search reveals that Legault’s approximate net worth is about ten million dollars, so he clearly doesn’t need the money.

He wants to be a man of the people? He needs to prove it, and he needs to do it now!

Now I could bring up that since Quebec is already facing teaching shortages, suspending Bill 21 would be a fantastic way to attract more staff, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the population of Quebec facing mounting financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s about nurses, nurses’ aides, and other front line workers fed up with a rich man telling them what they can and cannot afford when they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus while he remains in safety. It’s about the fact that while homelessness is on the rise and buying a home is so far out of reach for most people, he owns a multimillion dollar home.

That said, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in Quebec when I make this challenge to our illustrious premier:

Are you truly a man of the people? Prove it, Monsieur Legault, take a pay cut.

Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

On April 20, 2021 the Superior Court of Quebec issued a ruling on Bill 21, Quebec’s Secularism law which many Canadians were awaiting with baited breath. It was a victory for some, and a tragedy for others.

In its decision, it upholds the Quebec Secularism law with the exception of English schools in Quebec, and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec government under Premier François Legault has already announced its plans to appeal. This article will give a rundown of the ruling itself, the response by those affected, and what it represents to the people of Quebec and Canada.

I’m not going to go into all the nuances of Quebec’s Secularism Law, hereafter Bill 21. I gave a full and detailed rundown in multiple articles when the law was forced through the National Assembly in 2019.

In a nutshell, it severely limits employment in most of Quebec’s public sector as well as access to certain government services for anyone who wears religious symbols, including crosses, hijabs, headscarves, and kipas/yarmulkes. At the time, the government claimed the law would unite Quebeckers, but it has made us more divided than ever. Hate crimes and harassment of Muslim women are on the rise, something experts tried to warn the government about prior to the law’s passing.

The government knew that the law would never survive a legal challenge based on constitutional rights so they wrote in the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause written into Canada’s constitution to allow discriminatory rules to remain in effect for five years notwithstanding certain articles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is largely the court’s measure of the effect of the Notwithstanding Clause that decided the outcome of the case.

I knew that no matter WHAT the court’s ruling, someone would appeal the decision. That someone is the Quebec government and it is unfortunate because for the most part, the Quebec government won the case.

Bill 21 is still in effect, and teachers and other people hoping for the stability that comes with public employment have had their hopes dashed, with one exception. The court decided that Bill 21 remains valid due to the province’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause, with the exception of English schools, which are constitutionally protected by a clause in the constitution that isn’t covered by the Notwithstanding Clause, as well as the National Assembly. It is this aspect that the government plans to appeal, claiming that this exception divides Quebec when the province’s society should be united.

William Korbatly, a lawyer, feels the government’s claim that the judge’s ruling split Quebec is erroneous and dishonest.

“[I]t’s the law 21 that did that by making some Quebeckers lesser citizens than those who think of themselves (as) superior or have more privileges just because they are part of the cultural majority. That being said, we cannot deny that a large part of Quebeckers have serious problems and are very allergic to any religious manifestation in public spaces. Thus, politically speaking, that law should be put to the courts’ authorities and they will decide what is constitutional and what is not.”

Unfortunately despite Quebec’s ongoing teacher shortage, English schools in the province will still be subjected to Bill 21 pending appeal.

Carolyn Gehr, an Orthodox Jewish woman and teacher with the Montreal English School Board who wears and headscarf and submitted an affidavit with the other plaintiffs had some choice words about the legal decision keeping the law in force for now.

“I feel horrible for the prospective teachers who enthusiastically applied to the English school boards who desperately need them, only to find out in a day or two that their hopes were dashed yet again, and that this ruling does nothing for them for the foreseeable future. The fact that the government is fighting this so vociferously reinforces in me the idea that I’m not really wanted here, especially in that I’m only allowed in my job as I am because ‘Oncle Francois’ magnanimously grandfathered me in so as not to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t like to see someone fired for no reason.”

M. I. a Muslim teacher working in the private sector who no longer wears her hijab for personal reasons spoke of why she chose to take it off.

“I grew up in a moderately conservative Muslim family and the choice to wear the hijab was mine to make and I chose to wear it until about a year ago. Why I chose to take it off was a completely personal choice because I was no longer wearing it for religious reasons. It just provided me with a sense of comfort and not wearing it felt like going out without my pants on since I had worn it for so many years.”

On Bill 21, she says she and most of her community were very concerned. There was this feeling that this sort of law would never happen in Canada and most members have been directly or indirectly affected.

“I know the law adversely affects all religious communities but as a Muslim woman who used to wear the hijab my feelings are very strong when it comes to the effect the bill has on the women in my community. I find this law to be discriminatory, anti-feminist and anti-human rights. As a woman, I cannot accept that someone can have any say in how I choose to cover myself. I am well-educated and have never been forced by any part of my religion and can say for a fact that his holds true for most women in my community.”

M.I. says the Muslim community is one of the fastest growing minorities in Quebec and that the law, like the hijab ban in France, is just a way of keeping minorities under control. She points out that this open hostility has just led to more anger and extremism among Muslims in France than ever before. Adding, like Carolyn Gehr, that Bill 21 made her feel she didn’t belong.

“I am many things: Iranian, Muslim, Canadian and a Montrealer but a Quebecker I am not. I no longer feel any pride in that.”

Francois Legault and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and others with clear and open hostility towards visible and religious minorities in Quebec represent the worst elements of Canadian and Quebec society. A society that buys into the narrative of white victimhood and denial of a more honest history that includes everyone who contributed to the great society we have today.

In metropolitan areas like Montreal, more and more people find this attitude dangerous and even laughable and recognize that those who support it can either embrace the diversity that enriches our food and other aspects of our culture, or die with the dinosaurs. That said, let the government know their decision to appeal is a frivolous waste of Quebec tax dollars when there’s a pandemic and a housing shortage to address. The fight’s only over when we the people say it is, so keep fighting.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

Activist Sam Hersh joins Jason C. McLean to talk about the NDP’s Palestine Resolution, which he and a group of Palestinian and Jewish activists helped pass with 80% support at last weekend’s convention and the ensuing reaction from NDP leadership and others.

Follow Sam Hersh on Twitter @SamHersh01

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Could it really be that simple? Is Quebec Premier François Legault just out of touch?

For months, it’s seemed like Legault was just prioritizing the interests of his political base when deciding on what and who to restrict to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if it isn’t just a craven political calculation? What if the Premier really just doesn’t understand what many in Quebec are going through?

While Legault sees closing schools as an absolute last resort, something to do only if the COVID numbers get so bad, he has no such reservations about imposing a curfew or deciding to start it earlier. That is just something that can be done as a precautionary measure, as an experiment.

Putting ethical rights issues and the actual efficacity of a curfew in fighting COVID (Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t) aside for a moment, it kinda makes sense that Legault doesn’t see a curfew as such a big deal. It’s not like he’s trapped indoors after 8pm.

Legault recently listed his house in Outremont for $5 million. Not sure where he’s living now, but it’s a solid guess that the place is akin to a mansion with a more than ample backyard.

When Legault tries to empathize with Quebec youth who have been shut in for months, does he think that they all have access to a backyard, too? Does he think they all have balconies, at least?

Does Legault understand that many youth (and quite a few post-youth) live in crammed apartments with two or three other people? That “Why don’t they just go to the backyard?” is the 2021 Quebec version of “Let them eat cake”?

We already know that he doesn’t understand the reality of the homeless. Fortunately the courts fixed that particular oversight.

Now, we have to ask if Legault is truly aware of what the rest of us are going through. What Montreal is going through.

The answer, sadly, is no. We’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Legault is in a yacht, many of us are in powerboats or rowboats and far too many are drowning.

We all need to make sacrifices to fight COVID, but Legault thinks that some need to sacrifice more than others. Simply because he doesn’t fully understand what sacrifice means for people he doesn’t truly understand.

Sadly, François Legault is out of touch.

Two nights, two very different protests. Since Quebec Premier François Legault’s 8pm curfew took effect in Montreal (also in Laval) on Sunday, our city has seen two nights of protest with only two things in common: opposition to the Provincial Government’s “preventative measure” of moving the curfew start time from 9:30pm back to 8pm and fireworks.

I wasn’t at either protest, so I’ve cobbled together what happened from various social media posts, livestreams and mainstream media accounts.

Let’s recap:

The Sunday Night Old Montreal Shitshow

Sunday night’s protest started off on a promising note, with hundreds of people, roughly around 1000 in total, arriving at the Old Port just as the curfew began, itself an act of defiance. For over 30 minutes, the atmosphere was largely celebratory though defiant., people danced, some set off fireworks and the Montreal Police (SPVM) stayed a few blocks away.

Then, some people lit a bench in Place Jacques Cartier and some trash cans on fire. The SPVM moved in, fired teargas (good thing people have masks at the ready, or are already wearing them, these days) and most of the crowd dispersed.

Of course, not everyone did and that’s the part of the story that many are now familiar with. Things turned into a riot as some smashed the windows of local businesses who were already reeling from the loss of the tourism industry and probably weren’t fans of the curfew either.

There were right-wing agitators in the crowd, specifically Ezra Levant, Keean Bexte and their Rebel Media crew. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pro-pipeline to the point of trying to ambush interview Greta Thunberg and while this was an anti-curfew protest, these guys are against any type of COVID health measures, even masks.

Now whether, as the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff thinks, it was these guys who caused all the rioting, or if it was agent provocateurs, or if it was just Montreal once again being Montreal at its most unattractive (or a combination of the three), things really went off message fast Sunday night.

Monday Night’s Downtown Cat and Mouse

Monday night was a completely different story. There were no smashed windows, no fires. And, of course, this was the protest the SPVM moved to shut down almost immediately.

Originally also planned for the Old Port, the protest quickly diverted to Downtown Montreal. As they made their way up from Place du Canada, the police ordered them to disperse, and disperse they did.

What followed was a game of cat and mouse with the cops up and down city streets. Some even set off small fireworks.

This group, by all accounts, was comprised largely of teenagers and young adults. They wore masks. Simply being out after 8pm was their protest.

Messaging Moving Forward

If there’s one thing I think these protests need moving forward, and by all accounts, they will be moving forward, like every night is what I heard, is solid messaging. And that messaging needs to be specific.

This is against the curfew. It’s against the very idea that a curfew can actually protect against the spread of COVID.

More specifically, it’s against the seemingly arbitrary manner in which the Legault Government chose to move the curfew back to 8 pm in Montreal and Laval while admitting that it wasn’t necessary. Restricting people’s ability to leave their homes should always be a last resort and only done when absolutely necessary, not an afterthought or something implemented as a precaution.

If protesting a 90 minute shift in a curfew seems a little too specific for protest, remember that the 2012 Student Strike was sparked by a marginal tuition increase and it brought down a government. If you focus on the details, the underlying message comes to the surface. In 2012, it was the heartless arrogance of the state, in 2021, it can be the same thing.

Protests always see different groups trying to attach themselves to something that has coverage. Sometimes that works, this time it won’t.

Yes, Climate Change is real, but that’s not the point here and neither is saving the whales. If you keep things focused and specific, you can also keep out all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and assorted anti-science types who would only co-opt and damage such an important message, just as those breaking the store windows did on Sunday.

“Liberté” is a solid and downright sexy thing to chant, but please remember that COVID-19 is still a very real threat. Freedom from arbitrary and ineffective government restrictions is one thing, but Karen still needs to wear a mask at the grocery store.

It’s also important that while, from the looks of it, this is youth-led (or at least it was on Monday night), it doesn’t come across as just “the kids are fed up.” I’m 43 and I’m fed up, too, even if I’m not out there with you.

We’ve abided by these restrictions and adapted to them. But this last one is just government arrogance.

If we stay focused on that and the messaging solidifies, we may win this one.

Is it that time again? We’ll, at the time of writing this, not for a few months. The 2021 Montreal Municipal Election is on November 7th, but the campaigning has already begun.

So, with that in mind, we’re launching our 2021 Montreal Municipal Election Poll. And the focus of the poll is the Mayoral race.

We’re making all declared candidates for Mayor of Montreal choices and will be adding new candidates if and when they join. So yes, you can switch your vote right up until the poll closes on November 5th at midnight.

We’ve also added an Undecided category as well as None of the Above. If you make up your mind later, or a new candidate piques your interest, please feel free to change your vote.

If you’re planning on voting for a City Councilor or Borough Mayor from a different party than your choice for Mayor of Montreal, that would be a split ticket in the actual election, but not here. This vote is only for the city-wide Mayor.

The winner of this poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post to announce it. While we do these polls for all elections where Montrealers can vote (Municipal, Provincial, Federal) and even some where most of them can’t (US Primaries), the 2017 Montreal Municipal Election Poll was the first time FTB readers selected the same candidate that the general electorate did.

So have your say below (or in the sidebar of any page on this site):

Who do you support as the next Mayor of Montreal?