Finally, a Mayoral Candidate (Sarah Climenhaga) Speaking the Truth About Toronto’s Housing Crisis

For many reasons, such as 102 candidates running to become Toronto’s next mayor, the Toronto media is focused on the top six polling candidates:

  1. Ana Bailão
  2. Brad Bradford
  3. Josh Matlow
  4. Mark Saunders
  5. Mitzie Hunter 
  6. Oliva Chow

Because mainstream media is a profit-driven industry, like any other industry, it usually overlooks fringe candidates; thus, their ideas, suggestions, and platforms do not receive public attention.

At some point, the Toronto media must draw the line and focus on candidates likely to win and generate views that will attract advertisers. A candidate’s refusal to accept the media’s reality of having limited space and resources does not alter the fact that the media cannot possibly cover 102 candidates.

Among the fringe candidates in the current mayoral race is Sara Climenhaga. This is her third attempt at becoming Toronto’s mayor. (Sarah finished fifth out of 31 candidates in Toronto’s election last October.) Sarah also ran for the Green Party in the 2019 federal election. 

Putting aside Sarah’s political acumen deficit, I am a fan of her Substack newsletter, Sarah’s Thoughts – Toronto Mayoral Edition, one of the few newsletters I read regularly. The suggestions Sarah offers are consistently aimed at making Toronto a healthier city, particularly in the area of environmental initiatives. 

Sarah’s recent newsletter, If you build it, they can come., discusses housing affordability, Toronto’s most prominent mayoral election issue. While her opponents, the media darlings and fringe candidates, are recycling the same political rhetoric since Nathan Phillips was mayor (1955-1962), Sarah took a different approach—a gutsy and authentic approach.

Aside from her newsletter, I like Sarah because she is not a career politician, not that she has not tried. I would go as far as to say Sarah is the anthesis of a career politician. She avoids the paradox that political success calls for a degree of lax integrity to be able to do what it takes to gain votes, namely, not to be honest but to tell voters what they want to hear.

Sarah, to the detriment of her political aspiration, tells the truth, which I have come to greatly admire her for.

The biggest lies Toronto mayoral candidates are telling Torontonians:

They can reduce traffic congestion.  

No megacity in the world does not experience frustrating congestion, especially one experiencing Toronto’s rapid growth. 

Growing population = Greater density = More congestion

Living in a city, especially one as big as Toronto, means having to deal with traffic congestion.

They can address crime.  

As Toronto’s population increases, the city’s crime (number of) will inevitably increase. A question that is never asked because it would erase the false narrative that Toronto is a crime-ridden city: Has Toronto’s crime rate—violent crime per capita—increased in the past 20 years? 

A fact conveniently overlooked by mayoral candidates, who act as if they will have the ability to flash a Bat-Signal to summon a crime crusader to come to the rescue, the fact that most laws intended to “deter” and “regulate” criminal behaviour are made at the provincial and federal levels, not at the city level. 

They have a solution to address affordable housing. 

Housing affordability is arguably the most important issue in this mayoral election.  

Like congestion, name a major city that does not lack affordable housing. Canada aims to welcome 465,000 new permanent residents in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025. Most of these new immigrants will likely settle in Toronto and its surrounding area. As Toronto’s population grows, the economic laws of supply and demand increase rents and housing prices.  

Toronto’s population has grown exponentially.

1950 … 1,068,000
1960 … 1,744,000
1970 … 2,535,000
1980 … 3,008,000
1990 … 3,807,000
2000 … 4,607,000
2010 … 5,499,000
2020 … 6,197,000
2030 … 6,793,000 (U.N. projection)

Candidates have yet to put forward a budgeted-out plan to build housing at a pace that will keep up with Toronto’s population growth, in large part because such a plan is unfathomable.

Most of the candidates, certainly all six forerunners, are making the contradictory claim that they are concerned about affordable housing but then propose increasing property taxes, which landlords will pass on to their tenants, increasing the cost of renting or owning in Toronto.

Climenhaga displays a cooler head than her opponents, who are alarmists trying to gain attention and then turn around to sell voters their solution to what they call a “housing crisis.” Sarah puts the issue of affordable housing in Toronto into perspective when she writes, “But all of that is not a crisis, it’s just the current state of affairs.”

Boom! Across the globe, there is a current housing state of affairs in megacities like London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, Los Angeles, São Paulo, Chicago, Lagos, Istanbul, Delhi, and Mexico City.

Then Sarah asks the question none of the mayoral candidates are asking, “When it comes to housing, what can government do, and what can’t it do?” 

Not only does Sarah have the nerve to ask this question, but she also writes, “I think it’s time for someone to admit that what government can’t do is house everyone.”

This truism, which has been apparent for decades, is uncomfortable. Regardless of whether they have participated in the election that elected the current government—given the low voter turnout, chances are they did not vote—citizens expect the government to take care of them.

Sarah continues by saying that individuals are responsible for the consequences of their actions and decisions, which is the antithesis of a winning political strategy. 

“Ultimately, where we each live is up to us individually. We are the only ones who we can hold fully accountable for whether we have a roof over our head.”

You have to respect a candidate who is not pandering to voters.

As a libertarian at heart, someone who believes less government is better, Sarah’s point of view resonated with me on many levels. It has always bothered me how people ask more of their elected representatives than they do of themselves. Many people expect the government to solve all our social ills, so to speak, thereby absolving them of being responsible for their life choices, one being where they choose to live.

According to all polls and whispers in my ear, one of the top six candidates I mentioned—most likely Olivia Chow—will be Toronto’s next mayor. Interestingly, all six forerunners are career politicians who, to date, have not meaningfully addressed affordable housing in Toronto or any of the numerous issues they are now saying they have the answers to. Thus, assuming Torontonians continue their tradition of electing career politicians to city hall, it can be expected that Toronto’s current state of affairs around housing will continue as it does in megacities throughout the world. 

Also, to continue is mainstream media not covering fringe candidates who speak the truth like Sarah Climenhaga does, a candidate who wrote the truth that the government cannot house everyone and “where we each live is up to us individually.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to politics and getting people to vote for you, being truthful undermines your chances of winning and relegates you to being a fringe candidate.

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Nick Kossovan, a self-described connoisseur of human psychology, writes about what’s on his mind from Toronto. You can follow Nick on Twitter and Instagram @NKossovan

Image source, Sarah Climenhaga Twitter feed

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