With a third of MPs profiting off the housing crisis, how can we ever expect them to solve it?

‘The government is simply not interested in the perspectives of renters’
Aquinas Street in London, U.K., where deputy prime Minister Chrystia Freeland co-owns two rental properties with her husband, from which they’ve drawn income. Image via Google Streetview
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At an April 21 news conference in Toronto, then-Conservative leadership candidate, and now Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre was asked how he reconciles his commitment to make housing more affordable with the fact he and his wife own rental properties, profiting off the affordability crisis he says he wants to solve.

According to an RBC report from last month, housing has never been more unaffordable in Canada. At current prices, home ownership eats up 60 per cent of the average Canadian income. In Toronto and Vancouver, it’s even worse, at 83 per cent and 90 per cent, respectively.

Poilievre co-owns a real estate investment firm, which owns a rental property in Calgary, while his wife Anaida Poilievre owns a rental property in the Ottawa suburb of Orleans.

“We're helping solve the problem by providing affordable rental accommodations to two deserving families,” said Poilievre, who didn’t acknowledge Ricochet’s request to know how much his tenants pay in rent.

But Poilievre is not alone, according to a list of MPs with real estate holdings compiled by Passage managing editor Davide Mastracci based on MPs’ public disclosure statements. The list roughly shows which companies the MPs own interests in, what property they own, and whether they’ve earned income from their companies or properties.

There are a lot of question marks raised with the data from the disclosures. It doesn’t specify how many units each member owns, nor does it specify how much income each member has earned from their properties. Sometimes, as in the case of Poilievre’s predecessor, Erin O’Toole, it just says they’ve earned rental income, but doesn’t list any properties.

Of the 338 MPs writing housing policy in Canada, 38 per cent, or 128 MPs, are landlords.

That’s 62 Liberals, 54 Conservatives, six Bloc Quebecois, four NDP, one Green and one independent MP own real estate. The disclosures of two MPs — Liberal Karina Gould and Conservative Fraser Tolmie — aren’t yet available.

The list includes many familiar names from all parties. Ricochet reached out to all the MPs mentioned in this story about how they reconcile their commitment to addressing the affordability crisis with the fact they profit from it. Just one responded.

Notable names

Most egregiously, Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen is a landlord, owning a rental property in Ottawa, from which he has earned income.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau owns shares in two numbered companies — 9190-0563 Québec incorporated, which is involved with real estate development, and 7664699 Canada Incorporated, which owns vacant land — land which might be useful for social housing. Trudeau has received dividends from 7664699 Canada Incorporated.

Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen is the landlord of a rental property in Ottawa, from which he has earned income.
ahmeddhussen on Instagram

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland co-owns two rental properties on Aquinas Street in London, U.K., with her husband, New York Times reporter Graham Bowley, from which they’ve drawn income. She also co-owns a residential property in Kyiv, Ukraine, and a farmhouse and parcel of farmland in her hometown of Peace River, Alta.

Andrew Scheer, who led the Conservative Party from 2017 to 2020, co-owns a rental property in Regina with his spouse and two other people. He also owns shares in Cormack Properties Limited Partnership, Dorril Properties Limited partnership, and Markland Properties Limited Partnership, which came under scrutiny when he was Conservative leader for being a “super lucrative” tax shelter.

John Kidder, the husband of former Green Party leader, and current Green Party leadership aspirant, Elizabeth May, is the sole owner of a commercial farm in Ashcroft, B.C. Separately, he draws income from renting out the basement of his primary residence in Vancouver.

In a tart response to Ricochet’s request for comment, Kidder said he owns 10 acres of property in Ashcroft, which have served as “a place of refuge” from floods and fires for four families. He hasn’t drawn any income from the farm since the hops he had planted there were destroyed by the 2017 Elephant Hill fire.

“There is indeed a housing crisis in this country. There are a number of factors behind it, but Elizabeth May (and I) are not contributors to the problem,” Kidder said.

Where’s the NDP?

Notably, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh doesn’t own any real estate, nor does Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

The NDP has labeled the housing affordability crisis “Justin Trudeau’s housing crisis,” with Leader Jagmeet Singh accusing Trudeau of “giving rich developers millions of dollars to build unaffordable apartment buildings and hike the price of rent.”

A billboard campaign with cheeky messages has been popping up in Canadian cities calling attention to the housing crisis. This one is in Ottawa. Another in Toronto reads: "Can't afford a home? Have you tried finding richer parents?"
Canada Housing Crisis

As a solution, he proposes building 100,000 affordable homes within 10 years, without defining “affordable,” to remove GST on homes that meet vague “affordability standards,” and to establish a fund to help non-profits purchase properties.

However, NDP MPs Alexandre Boulerice (Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie), Alistair MacGregor (Cowichan—Malahat—Langford), Lori Idlout (Nunavut) and Laurel Collins (Victoria) do own real estate.

Boulerice owns a rental property in Montreal, from which he earns income; MacGregor co-owns a rental property with his spouse in Duncan, B.C.; Idlout owns two rental properties in Iqaluit, and her spouse owns one, with both earning income from their properties; and Collins co-owns a Victoria rental property with her spouse, which earns income.

York University political scientist Dennis Pilon told Ricochet that the NDP’s “pretty tepid” housing platform runs deeper than a handful of MPs who own real estate.

“The New Democrats are basically suffering under a situation where the people who would benefit from more aggressive and progressive housing policy don't vote in significant enough numbers to allow them to pursue those policies,” Pilon said.

Worst offenders

Marty Morantz, Conservative MP for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, is the most prolific real estate holder in Parliament. He co-owns an unspecified number of rental properties in Edmonton and 16 in Winnipeg.

Morantz is the president and director of Winnipeg-based companies Jernat Investments Ltd., real estate commission financing company, Jernat Holdings Ltd., a real estate holding company which partially owns a property that leases commercial real estate to Public Works and Government Services Canada, and Levmor Mortgage Corporation. He also owns shares in all three.

Conservative MP Marty Morantz is the most prolific real estate holder in Parliament. Here he is with Conservative leader and fellow real estate investor Pierre Poilievre, co-owns a real estate investment firm, which owns a rental property in Calgary..
Marty Morantz Twitter

Additionally, Morantz owns trust units in Artis Real Estate Investment Trust and limited partnership units in LS Properties.

On the other side of the aisle, Vancouver Granville Liberal MP Taleeb Noorhmohamed flipped 21 houses between 2005 and 2021, making $4.9 million in the process. “While I have had business activities improving homes, I have been consistent in my support for measures to make housing more affordable, and as the MP for Vancouver Granville, it will remain a priority,” he told CityNews when his activities came under scrutiny in the runup to the 2021 election.

The Liberals ran on implementing an “anti-flipping tax” for residential properties, which has yet to be implemented.

Disclosures show Noormohamed owns shares in Immeubles Q-Mont (II) Industrial Properties L.P., a real estate business, as well as an unspecified number of rental properties in Vancouver. He also owns a “significant interest” in 310672 BC Ltd., a real estate holding company, which owns one property in Vancouver.

One thing the Liberal government did was provide $500 in relief to renters, which Geordie Dent of the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations says is a pittance.

“It's probably just going to go directly into a landlord's pocket,” Dent told Ricochet. “This makes perfect sense when you realize that I don't think a single tenant group was interviewed or consulted on that policy. This is part of the problem.”

Renters shut out of the political process

York University’s Pilon told Ricochet that it’s important to distinguish between different types of property ownership among elected officials, as some are more exploitative than others.

There’s a difference between someone renting out their basement to help pay down their mortgage and those who profit through investments in real estate. The latter is far more egregious than the former, he said.

The number of landlords in Parliament is a symptom of the larger issue. “In elections, you don't get renters running because if you're renting property, you probably don't have enough income to stabilize your housing through property ownership."

“Whenever we commodify the housing market that way, it doesn't serve the best interests of those who are most vulnerable in terms of gaining housing. And if there's anything we know looking at the long haul of the 20th century, it’s that the market does not respond well to providing housing for everyone,” said Pilon. “The market will provide for those who've got money.”

The number of landlords in Parliament is a symptom of the larger issue that running for political office is largely restricted to the upper echelons of the socioeconomic system.

“In elections, you don't get renters running because if you're renting property, you probably don't have enough income to stabilize your housing through property ownership. And if you can't do that, well, then you probably can't take time off work to run for office either,” Pilon said. “We end up with a situation where our politicians don't reflect the broader population.”

Dent said the number of MPs who have investments in real estate demonstrates the “penetration of the real estate industry has in our government.”

As a result, he says, the government is simply not interested in the perspectives of renters.

“Almost nobody understands the tenant world. Almost nobody cares about what they face. And the government hasn't been talking to any of those [advocacy] groups,” Dent said.

But he urges renters not to give up and become disenfranchised, because that would be handing an easy victory to landowners and landlords. “Billionaires love it when people abandon the political system, because the rich are certainly not abandoning the political system,” said Dent.

“The rich are certainly putting a lot of effort, time, coordination and money into seizing power, and they do so very effectively. They do that because they understand that holding power is beneficial to them. The same is true for tenants and working people holding power.”

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