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Kathleen Wynne’s housing plan is crucial to her re-election plan – Toronto

There’s a theme to Premier Kathleen Wynne’s biggest policy steps this year. 

First, you got what the Liberals called “Ontario’s Fair Hydro Plan,” a move to knock 17 per cent off the price of electricity (after years of rising costs).

Now, you get “Ontario’s Fair Housing Plan,” a move to cool the price of buying or renting a place to live (after years of rising costs).

Starting this fall, a revamped Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) will, say the Liberals, “make post-secondary education more affordable,” (after years of rising costs, giving Ontario Canada’s most expensive average tuition).

Yes, Wynne and the Liberals have realized that affordability issues are top of mind for voters. Whether it’s the cost of housing, hydro, tuition, car insurance, transportation, taxes, or all of them put together, people are feeling it in their pockets. And they’re demanding that politicians make things better (or at least, stop things from getting worse).

As such, whether Wynne’s housing plan succeeds will have a significant impact on whether her re-election campaign succeeds.

The polling firm Forum Research asked 840 voters earlier this month: “What is the biggest problem facing Toronto right now?” The response they got most often: the cost of housing.

Given that prices have shot up by 20 to 30 per cent in a year everywhere from Peterborough to Waterloo to Niagara, it wouldn’t be a stretch to conclude it’s likely a hot issue there too. 

‘A tax on other people’

In another poll this month, Forum Research found a “very high level” of support for a foreign buyers tax throughout the Greater Toronto Area, said the firm’s president, Lorne Bozinoff. 

“This is a tax on other people, so it’s kind of a popular concept,” said Bozinoff in an interview on Thursday.

The question everybody’s asking now: what will the foreign buyers tax and the rest of Wynne’s housing strategy actually do to house prices? The answer is: nobody knows, including the Liberals.

The Liberals hope a foreign-buyers tax, plus the extension of rent control, will help Premier Kathleen Wynne regain some of her popularity and give them a chance to win again in 2018. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Wynne has flat-out refused to state her target for what she wants to happen to house prices as a result of the measures, despite repeated questions from reporters. But she is leaving the door open to further steps.

“We’re going to continue to pay attention to what happens in the housing market,” she told a news conference Thursday. “If there’s more that we need to do, if there are changes we need to make, then we will make them.  

Just as no one knows what will happen to house prices, no one knows what impact the moves will have on voters.  

Bozinoff is not convinced the steps are enough to bring Wynne back from the brink.

Too little, too late?

“It might be a case of too little, too late,” Bozinoff said. “It may be perceived that this is something they…

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