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Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the federal Liberal government will be annihilated unless it pauses its carbon price increase in April. That’s not totally correct.

If the Trudeau Liberal government is annihilated in the next election, on an economic matter, it will be on carbon pricing but also broader, continuing inflation worries. And also concern about Canada’s GDP slumping on a per capita basis. But mostly housing.

Premiers and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre are seizing on the carbon price. But this is a much easier political feat because many Canadians are so angry about all the mounting costs of everything, particularly the money needed for four walls and a roof.

Yes, climate policies are incredibly important, as are the debates. Seven premiers are calling on the Prime Minister to abandon the April hike. When Justin Trudeau was in Calgary on Wednesday, he vigorously defended the carbon levy even after a private meeting where Alberta’s Danielle Smith hammered away on the topic.

The Prime Minister wouldn’t be facing this ferocity from premiers if he hadn’t done the heating oil carveout. It was a move that disproportionately benefited one electorally pertinent region, shattering a fragile cross-country acceptance of carbon pricing. His discussion Wednesday of his government being averse to using the “heavy hand of government” to regulate carbon emissions wasn’t accurate. Besides the carbon tax, there are regulations, including those that would cap oil and gas emissions and set requirements for annual EV sales.

But all of this doesn’t mean politicians should lose sight of the issue really shifting the vote: housing.

The Liberals aren’t responsible for all of this. But many aren’t likely to see that nuance when it comes to voting day, this year or next. Many predicted 2024 would be better on the housing front, but the early signs aren’t good.

“Compared to two years ago in February, 2022, just before the start of interest rate hikes by the Bank of Canada, average asking rents in Canada have grown by 21 per cent, or $384 per month,” said a report from and Urbanation this week. The number of listings for shared accommodations, where tracked, surged 72 per cent in February, compared with a year earlier.

Outside of the rental market, many Canadians will also be renewing their mortgages at significantly higher rates than before, no matter the Bank of Canada’s moves. Between 2024 and 2026, nearly 60 per cent of all outstanding mortgages are up for renewal. These numbers are a recipe for political upheaval in a country where there’s always been a plot of space available, if you worked or went far enough afield.

Alberta is the prime example of the evolution. The province’s combination of ample work and housing affordability, a friend once quipped, allowed people to be grown-ups. Until recently, a person aged 25 to 34 in Ontario was more likely to be living at home with their parents in Barrie or Oshawa than in significantly larger Albertan cities such as Calgary and Edmonton.

That all could change. Rents are increasing because of a strong flow of newcomers. Alberta now has the fastest-rising prices, with the average cost for apartments up 20 per cent year-over-year. The housing crunch is playing out in other parts of the world, but is arguably more dramatic in Canada for a host of reasons, including that the Liberals have increased immigration levels to heights rarely seen.

Many Canadians believe the federal Liberals are failing on this file, and increasingly believe owning a home is the realm of the rich. While younger voters, as a rule, are less inclined to support conservative parties than their older counterparts, that’s not necessarily true in Canada. That’s according to analysis from John Burn-Murdoch, chief data reporter at the Financial Times. He compared 10 advanced economies last month, and found a Canadian 40-year-old is just as likely to say they will vote conservative as a 70-year-old. That contrasts with Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand, where an older age is far more correlated with voting for parties on the right.

After prime minister Brian Mulroney decided to implement the GST in 1991, his party was clobbered in the election two years later. Still, Mr. Mulroney – who died last month – always reflected that it was important to do what was “right for Canada” instead of being well-liked. This week, there was a Mulroney-like tenor to Mr. Trudeau’s remarks on his commitment to his carbon pricing system.

“My job is not to be popular,” Mr. Trudeau said. “My job is to do the right things for Canada now and do the right things for Canadians a generation from now.”

But at this moment, not having a home is the crucial issue. Expectations, even dreams, are being annihilated.

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