Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We livestream and liveblog all the action.
Candice Bergen wants Adam Vaughan, downtown Toronto’s newest MP, to know Canada is larger than its largest city. The context for that remark: Vaughan had the temerity to question the government’s commitment to Toronto’s affordable housing wait list. He pegged the number of city families waiting for a unit at 90,000 (the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association reported earlier this year that the number of households on the province’s wait list is 165,069). Re-announced federal money will only create 60 units a year in the city, Vaughan charged—meaning the last Toronto family will wait 1,500 years for a reasonable place to live.
Maclean’s asked Vaughan for some background on those numbers. Here’s his math: in August, the feds and the Ontario government “renewed” a shared investment of $801 million over five years for affordable housing programs. Much of Toronto’s chunk of that top-line number, split over the term of the commitment, isn’t spent on creating new spaces, Vaughan says. He points to a city housing office claim that just 60 new spaces per year come of the plan.
Ninety-thousand families on the city wait list divided by 60 spaces a year = a 1,500-year wait-time for those unlucky souls at the end of the line. Given the current limits of Canadian life expectancy, Vaughan was proving a point more than lamenting the millennium-long lineup for an affordable home.
The Tory response? Bergen, the minister for state for employment and social development, chose not to talk much at all about housing in Toronto. Instead, she lamented the rookie MP’s handling of his critic portfolio. She criticized him for not having asked a question about housing, a file Vaughan holds dear, since his first appearance in the House a month ago (for the record, he did make a members’ statement that called for a national housing strategy on the second day of the fall sitting). Bergen also lauded the government’s ongoing spending on affordable housing across the country and reminded Vaughan that “there is life outside of Toronto.” Her government, she said, is happy to pledge money to provinces and cities that “know how to address their housing needs.”
Implied there, even if by accident, is a suggestion that Toronto somehow doesn’t know how to address its housing needs. Not a particularly tactful strike at an opposition MP in a city where the Tories broke through in the last election—and where they hope to win again in 2015. Odds are Bergen won’t play down the importance to her government of a place some of her caucus mates love every bit as much as her new Liberal foe.
We were watching parliamentarians fly back to Ottawa after an important week in their constituencies. The opposition, properly settled into their seats, will ask the government about its response to West Africa’s Ebola crisis, deforestation in northern Alberta, and maybe even a stubborn union that refuses to give up benefits. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair isn’t likely to let Canada’s deployment to Iraq fall off the Commons radar. Thanksgiving week is over. Ottawa is back in session.