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  • Could skyrocketing private sector debt spell economic crisis? June 21, 2017
    Our latest report finds that Canada is racking up private sector debt faster than any other advanced economy in the world, putting the country at risk of serious economic consequences. The report, Addicted to Debt, reveals that Canada has added $1 trillion in private sector debt over the past five years, with the corporate sector […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The energy industry’s insatiable thirst for water threatens First Nations’ treaty-protected rights June 21, 2017
    Our latest report looks at the growing concerns that First Nations in British Columbia have with the fossil fuel industry’s increasing need for large volumes of water for natural gas fracking operations. Titled Fracking, First Nations and Water: Respecting Indigenous rights and better protecting our shared resources, it describes what steps should be taken to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Betting on Bitumen: Alberta's energy policies from Lougheed to Klein June 8, 2017
    The role of government in Alberta, both involvement and funding, has been critical in ensuring that more than narrow corporate interests were served in the development of the province’s bitumen resources.  A new report contrasts the approaches taken by two former premiers during the industry’s early development and rapid expansion periods.  The Lougheed government invested […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Canada-China FTA will leave workers worse off June 2, 2017
    Global Affairs Canada is currently consulting Canadians on a possible Canada-China free trade agreement. In CCPA’s submission to this process, CCPA senior researcher Scott Sinclair argues that an FTA based on Canada’s standard template would almost certainly reinforce rather than improve upon Canada’s imbalanced and deleterious trade with China. It can also be expected to […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Faulty assumptions about pipelines and tidewater access May 30, 2017
    The federal and Alberta governments and the oil industry argue that pipelines to tidewater will unlock new markets where Canadian oil can command a better price than in the US, where the majority of Canadian oil is currently exported. Both governments have approved Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project, but a new report finds that […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
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Five Things to Know About Pre-1964 Canadian Housing Policy

On November 4, I gave a historical presentation on Canadian housing policy at the annual conference of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. My slide presentation, which focused on pre-1964 Canadian social history, can be downloaded here.

Here are five things to know about pre-1964 history that set the tone for important developments in Canadian housing policy:

  1. Prior to the 1940s, there was virtually no government-assisted housing for anyone at all in Canada. In the early 1900s, if you were without work and needed help paying the bills, you typically had to rely on family or friends for assistance. In some cases, a social welfare agency might provide you with time-limited support (i.e. used clothing, food, fuel); in other cases, a local church might help you. But barring any of those options, you likely faced destitution.

  1. The Great Depression had an important impact on the role of government in Canada’s social welfare system. Prior to the Great Depression, it was easy for some Canadians to see unemployment as an individual failing; but by the end of the Great Depression, it was clear to most that unemployment was often brought on by macroeconomic factors that were largely outside of the control of the individuals who found themselves without work. This changed the mindset of Canadians—suddenly, it wasn’t hard to convince people of the need for government to play a strong role in both job creation and social policy supporting unemployed persons.
  1. World War II had a profound impact on Canada’s social welfare system. By the end of World War II, Canada’s national and provincial governments were in a relatively strong macroeconomic situation; indeed, unemployment was at an all-time low. This more favourable fiscal situation, combined with the abovementioned change in mood vis-à-vis unemployment, made it much easier for Canada’s federal government to start contemplating increased spending on social programs.
  1. After World War II, Canadian veterans had to fight hard for government-funded housing. As Professor Kevin Brushett has eloquently pointed out here, veterans returning to Canada after the Second World War were not given government-funded housing; rather, they had to fight for it. Once the federal government made government-funded housing available for veterans, this made the thought of government-funded housing for other groups of Canadians more palatable.
  1. The introduction of government-sponsored mortgage insurance in 1954 had a profound impact on home ownership in Canada. This social insurance program protected financial institutions against risk when they provided mortgages to Canadian homeowners. Indeed, it was a government-sponsored insurance program rather than a subsidy per se. Under the scheme, individual homeowners would pay insurance premiums. This plan, which remains in place today, resulted in higher levels of home ownership.

Canadian housing policy then saw dramatic change in 1964, but that’s a topic for a future blog post!

The following individuals were very helpful in helping me prepare the present blog post: George Fallis, Francesco Falvo and Allan Moscovitch. Any errors are mine.

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