Ottawa

Affordability a key issue confronting politicians campaigning in Ottawa

The economy is on the minds of many Canadians during this campaign, and the cost of daycare, housing and food is what matters to them as candidates come knocking.

Cost of housing, food, daycare top of mind for voters this election

Christina Ross says affordability and day care are issues she'll be watching during the election campaign. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Christina Ross holds her two daughters, one on each hip, and sways back and forth. For her, the big issue in this federal election is affordability — maintaining steady control over her household budget.

Ross, a stay-at-home mom, says she'll look to the politician who can help her find that balance.

"We're trying to make it on one income," she said. For Ross, putting her children in daycare just doesn't add up.

"I'd be working a 40-hour week to pay for daycare. It doesn't make any sense."

The economy is on the minds of many Canadians during this campaign, and the cost of daycare, housing and food is what matters to them as candidates come knocking.

Running on a record

On the morning of the election call, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau stood in front of Rideau Hall and declared his party's record on the economy is proof that life is now better for Canadians.

"Poverty has dropped. The unemployment rate is among the lowest ever recorded in the country and job creation is on the rise," said Trudeau in French, adding his government also cut taxes for the middle class and ended the practice of sending child benefit cheques to millionaires.

A majority of incumbents in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are Liberal.

They'll be running on the Liberal government's record over the past four years.

But NDP candidate Morgan Gay said he's not hearing much gratitude toward the Liberals when he talks to residents in  Ottawa South.

NDP candidate Morgan Gay canvasses in Ottawa South. (Brian Morris/CBC)

"I don't hear people saying the economy is going wonderfully and everything's going great," said Gay, a member of the Alta Vista Community Association who by day works as a negotiator for the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

"What I hear most people saying is they can't afford their medications, they can't afford their dental work, there's no affordable housing."

Reality check

"Generally the Canadian economy is doing quite well these days. Overall, the labour market is actually one of the strongest aspects in the overall economy," said Tony Bonen, director of research data analytics for the Labour Market Information Council.

Tony Bonen is director of research and data analytics at the Labour Market Information Council. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Yet a robust economy isn't translating into an improved cost of living for many Canadians.

A recent study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found what it calls a rental affordability crisis in Canadian cities.

Part of the problem is that until recently, wage growth has been stagnant.

"Employment growth has been strong year over year, and more recently we've been seeing wage growth finally tick up to levels that would be more in line with the rapid growth in employment," said Bonen.

"It's hard to say who can take credit for the economy as it is."

Conservative view

Campaigning for the Conservatives in the Ottawa riding of Nepean, Brian St. Louis believes the Liberals play with the economic figures to suit their own narrative.

St. Louis, a longtime Barrhaven resident, is concerned about what he sees as out-of-control spending by the Liberals, and said so are residents.

"That's the first issue that comes to mind. [Residents say,] 'I'm concerned about the deficit, I'm concerned about our business, I'm concerned about our competitiveness, I'm concerned about family affordability.' To me, those all fall under the economy, and I would say an overwhelming majority of the time that is the biggest focus on people's minds."

Brian St. Louis is running for the Conservatives in Nepean against the Liberal incumbent, Chandra Arya. (Julie Ireton/CBC)

The Conservatives see tax cuts as one solution and promise to decrease taxes for those in the lowest bracket from 15 per cent to 13.75 per cent.

"A dollar left in the hands of a person who earned it is always better spent than in the hands of the politician who taxed it," Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said at a campaign stop in B.C.

CBC's Julie Ireton unpacks the main parties' campaign messaging on affordability. 7:37

Elizabeth May and the Green Party announced promises on Monday aimed at making life more affordable, including pharmacare for all, full dental coverage for low-income Canadians, affordable housing and free post-secondary tuition.

"We are wealthy enough as a country to actually eliminate poverty," May said. "So guaranteed livable income for all is something we can and must do."

Josée George has been receiving various candidates at the door in her Ottawa South neighbourhood. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Candidates have been knocking on Josée George's door in Ottawa South and making promises.

George said she can share her own reality as a voter, but she's not sure who's going to fix things for her and others in her community.

"I'm not a political person, I'm sorry.... I can complain about the rent and how high and impossible it is and all that stuff, but who's going to fix it? I don't know."

About the Author

Julie Ireton

Senior Reporter

Julie Ireton is a senior reporter who works on investigations and enterprise news features at CBC Ottawa. She's also the host of the new CBC investigative podcast, The Band Played On. You can reach her at julie.ireton@cbc.ca

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