We all have our “favourite” newspapers and our “not-so-favourite” papers, right?
Of the four major Toronto newspapers, I’m sure you can imagine which ones I lean toward, and which ones I feel see the world through a different lens than myself.
There are many different ways to present news, as evidenced by CNN vs. FOX, which routinely tell completely opposite versions of the same story.
Here in Toronto, I have fantastic memories of the Toronto Star as a child; being up at a cottage in 1989, following the SPORTS section religiously every morning and watching the Toronto Blue Jays climb the standings. Not to sound (too) old here, but back in ’89, we had to wait until the next day to find out who won the game, the night before..
This institution of Toronto news does have great writers, and it’s so ironic that while I personally consider this newspaper to be, at times, left-wing propaganda, I really like a lot of their writers and columnists.
The Star Editorial Board routinely takes jaw-dropping stances on current events, usually virtue-signalling to the rest of us, and often shaming and guilting society for not taking up each and every possible cause, no matter how small, or how few people are affected, when the rest of us are busy working and leading our lives.
Or, sometimes they just write about a topic from an utterly bizarre standpoint, one that I feel can only be born of hate for anything that doesn’t adhere to their principles of socialism of the twenty-first century.
A prime example:
“Jason Kenney’s Alberta Firewall Is A Giant Distraction”
Star Editorial Board
November 13th, 2019
Honestly, I read this article twice, and it feels like “fake news” to me. I know it’s an editorial, so it’s not news per se, and rather falls into the “opinion” category, but it focuses on everything but the issue at hand. It’s like suggesting that there shouldn’t be snow on the ground, but leaving out the fact that it’s January, and not June.
There are two sides to every story, and while I feel the Editorial Board’s side looks at about 10% of this issue, and leads the reader away from the real story, I’d like to present an opposite viewpoint.
I know many of you do not like Rex Murphy, for reasons A, B, or C, but it’s hard to argue with his column from Tuesday, titled, “This Is Not A Standard Downturn And Albertans Are Not Whining.”
Read the article, please. Then personally email me with your rebuttal, because I don’t see anything I disagree with.
The Alberta oilsands produce the one essential product without which every other industry in Canada (or the world) could not function or exist: energy.
I have, from the beginning of the war on the oilsands, never understood why a product that everybody uses, every person, household, business and industry — and uses gratefully — to heat homes, travel, produce goods and maintain the economy, should draw down such blistering hostility on the one industry which supplies that product.
The globalist international movement of apocalyptic climate change has marked Alberta and its oilsands as its chosen target and symbol.
There has never been so concentrated and focused an attack on any industry or project that equals in scale the relentless, propagandist denigration of the Alberta oilsands and the town of Fort McMurray.
Whole continents and countries, whose oil production is exponentially more massive, have been ignored. No demonstrations in front of the great coal plant construction in China. No “down with pipelines” in Beijing or Delhi. A pipeline in Alberta gets world coverage; oil production in Nigeria will never find the front page of the Toronto Star.
The key element of Alberta’s distress lives in the No. 1, frantically trumpeted, and ever-so-virtuously exhaled policy priority of the Trudeau-environmentalist government. Climate change is its very favourite, top-of-mind, most to be bragged about, highest virtue-signalling issue.
The Trudeau government’s obsession with its fantasy of being a global warming champion is and has been in direct and impassable conflict with the Alberta economy. You can pose as the Galahad of climate change, waltz in Paris and Rio, but only at the cost of damning the Alberta oil and gas industry. The mandarins of central Canada, and the parliamentary caucus of the Liberal government, at best, see Alberta oil and gas as an impediment to, a blotch on, their passionate desire to be the toast of the eco saints.
For SNC jobs, jobs, jobs, Justin Trudeau will dance around the rule of law and risk even his own government. For the billions in capital that have fled Alberta, the companies that have relocated, the tens of thousands of jobs lost — where is his leadership, his voice, his action? Climate change is his bible. Alberta oil, a footnote.
In case you missed it, this perfectly sums up how I personally feel about what’s going on out West, but I digress.
So there you have two news stories about the same topic.
We know how this goes.
I go to CNN and I’m led to believe that Donald Trump is about to be impeached, because there’s “BREAKING NEWS” and all sorts of revelations and incriminating documents surfacing.
I go to FOX News and I’m told that the Democrats are making fools of themselves in a Kangaroo Court, as they have no evidence and the country is laughing at them.
Is this not how news works in 2019?
It’s tough to have any idea what’s going on, anywhere, about anything.
Except that the Leafs suck, Mike Babcock is the wrong coach for the team, and Kyle Dubas really was in over his head.
So far this week, I’ve had one television station and two newspaper columnists contact me about this story:
“How Many Condos Are Sitting Empty In Toronto?”
Mary Warren & Gilbert Ngabo
You have to read the article, since this is not what you think!
The CMHC didn’t provide vacancy rates.
Neither did Statistics Canada.
From the article:
From the fifth floor of his College and Dovercourt two-bedroom apartment, Jaco Joubert has a spectacular view of the glittering lights of Toronto’s downtown condos.
He’s often wondered why so many people struggle to find a decent place to live, with so many shiny new towers and cranes in the sky.
That curiosity led him to do his own investigation, training his camera on those very lights. What he found surprised him.
“It’s hard to explain why things are the way they are,” said Joubert, a designer, software developer, entrepreneur and city-building enthusiast, who’d heard stories of investors snapping up condos and leaving them empty.
“I basically wanted to answer that question.”
As a side project on his own time, Joubert set up a camera to watch more than a thousand units in 15 buildings at night, taking photos every five minutes from sunset to sunrise over a week, then repeating the process a few months later. Using heat maps and a custom filter, he overlaid images to get a snapshot of light patterns that he believes are a good measure of whether anyone lives in the unit.
His results suggest 5.6 per cent of the units he watched are unoccupied, in the middle of a housing crisis. In West Harbour City, a 36-storey condo tower just west of Bathurst Street, he found 13.5 per cent of units were vacant.
It’s analysis that, given the number of condo units in Toronto, could mean that thousands of potential homes are just sitting empty in the sky, as the city continues to study whether a vacant homes tax might incentivize landlords to rent them out.
“I think it’s an unreasonable state of affairs, to be honest,” said Joubert of his results.
“Some people have such excess that they can have empty units while at the same time our shelter system is overflowing.”
So here we have a guy with nothing better to do, who sets up cameras and films people’s units?
That’s not weird at all…
“Joubert set up a camera to watch more than a thousand units in 15 buildings at night.”
Can you imagine if this guy wasn’t using these cameras to help with his pet-project, but rather was watching people shower and change clothes? What’s the difference here?
My problem with this article (in case you couldn’t tell I have a problem with it…) is not the fact that units are empty in Toronto, but rather that a major news publication gave a platform, as well as presumed accuracy and authenticity to somebody who used such a rudimentary, unsophisticated, error-prone methodology, and both he and the publication are passing this off as fact.
I just saw two people outside my window wearing red. This leads me to believe that all people wear red.
And yes, I take issue with his, and everybody else’s idea on “fairness” in society, as emphasized by this quote:
“I think it’s an unreasonable state of affairs, to be honest,” said Joubert of his results. “Some people have such excess that they can have empty units while at the same time our shelter system is overflowing.”
What does one have to do with the other?
Herein lays the problem with connecting these two dots.
If somebody has something, and somebody else doesn’t have something, there are those out there that think the simple answer is to take from the person that has. Look no further than the United States where 100% wealth taxes are being floated by people running for government. Ignore the economics behind how spectacularly this would fail, but just from that “fairness” perspective people talk so much about, is it really unreasonable to allow somebody to have something?
If two public school teachers work hard, save money, and buy an investment condo, is that wrong?
What if they refinance the condo two years later, and buy a second investment property? Now they have three properties: their primary residence, and two investment properties.
What’s wrong with that?
Because we’re almost at the point where society has deemed it immoral to own housing. That’s the root of this entire issue; the issue of owning a vacant condo.
That statement again: “I think it’s an unreasonable state of affairs, to be honest.”
That units are vacant?
That next quote: “Some people have such excess that they can have empty units.”
Who’s job is it to define “excess?”
Does the billionaire from China, who flies a private jet and lands on a runway paved with the souls of the unfortunate, who purchases condos in crisp dollar bills, have “excess?”
Do the school teachers who save for years and years to invest in Toronto real estate have “excess?”
I ask again, “Who’s job is it to define ‘excess’?”
The solution for so many in society today is to institute a “Vacant Property Tax” like Vancouver has. Because it didn’t take long before this peeping-Tom’s “study” caused Toronto city councilors to clamour about fresh blood, er, tax:
“Councillor Calls On City To Mull Vacancy Tax After Man Does Own Study Of Empty Condos”
November 12th, 2019
I will argue, to nobody’s surprise, that yet another tax is not the answer.
First and foremost, what is the number of vacant units in the city of Toronto?
Our friend from the Toronto Star article, who videotaped people’s condos, seems to think it’s quite high! Has he taken into account that newer buildings, in the “occupancy phase” of ownership, may not allow rentals from non-owners? Or that occasionally there’s price-fixing from condo developers that make it impossible to rent out your new unit?
Or how about that the investors, who are looking to sell once “occupancy” is through and “registration” has taken place, have chosen to keep the unit empty and bleed money each month so they are able to sell the unit upon registration without a tenant that they can’t evict?
Or how about the fact that he conducted this “study” in the fall/winter, when many retirees are away?
I am of the opinion that the number of downtown condos, kept deliberately vacant, for prolonged periods of time, is miniscule. It is a rounding error, at best.
What evidence do I have of this?
As much, or as little, as our friend from the article above. I’ll rely on my sixteen years in the business, and my standing as one of the top one-hundred agents out of fifty-five thousand, which assuredly gives me some credibility.
Now my second point would be in reference to the who, which is to say that I do not believe, except for the case of “occupancy to registration,” any domestic owner of real estate is keeping it vacant.
You, me, and/or the person sitting in the cubicle next to you are in no way able to own a vacant condo.
If you or I purchased a 1-bed, 1-bath condo for $550,000 tomorrow, to forego the $30,000 per year in rent would break us.
There’s no point to keeping a condo vacant! That is what the above article is missing. That is what everybody who talks about “vacant condos” is missing. Nobody in their right mind, and/or of standard means, buys a condo and keeps it vacant, when vacancy rates in Toronto are less than 1%, and when rents are at an all-time high. The appreciation in condos is not enough, on its own, to justify the investment. Not even close.
So who buys condos to keep them vacant?
Those who can afford to. Those who have F-U money. Those, who you might assume, are attempting to take money out of their politically-unstable countries, with suspect banking systems, and keep it in Canada in the safety deposit box that has become condominiums and houses.
There is a house on my street that sold for an unGodly sum of money last year, which is now vacant. Yes, this massive house, the most expensive house to EVER sell in this area, almost doubling the previous record, and it’s vacant. It’s owned by people who may be of foreign-origin, and I have seen them once in six months. The lights are off every single night, and all the neighbours are talking about it.
Those people can afford a vacancy tax, I’m sure of it.
So do we tax them?
You might think the obvious answer is “yes,” but it depends on why we’re instituting the tax in the first place.
I ask you, is the purpose of the tax to:
a) Raise revenue
b) “Incentivize landlords to rent out vacant units,” as per the Toronto Star article above
If it’s the answer, (a), then why are we having this conversation at all? Just bring in the tax, and ten more like it. Then twenty. Then thirty. This tax, that tax, every tax. The government spends money like it’s water, has no plan to reduce the deficit, and despite promises for “free this” or “free that,” nothing is, in fact, free, and anything presented as “free” is actually paid for by naive tax-payers who don’t understand taxation to begin with, by a government who is bribing them with their own money.
If the answer is (b), then you’re kidding if you think taxing people with F-U money is going to incentivize them to rent out their units.
This is something I have a huge problem with.
“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt,” said Stuart Smalley, a famous Saturday Night Live character who now probably would be considered offensive by kids on college campuses.
People choose to deny the reality that a “Vacancy Tax” would create revenue, but would not actually result in a greater supply of available real estate.
The people who can afford to keep real estate vacant, will continue to keep real estate vacant. Do you really think a 1% tax will move the needle for these people?
So I’m calling out this so-called “solution” to sham that it is: a tax grab.
And let’s remember that if, for argument’s sake, the government brought in an additional $30 Million in “revenue” from a tax, it does NOT automatically go toward building affordable housing. That’s how how government, or taxation, works. That money is simply added to the pile. There will never be a direct correlation between a tax and affordable housing.
I was supposed to appear on a Toronto morning show this week to discuss this story but after the pre-interview, I was told that my answers didn’t really “fit” the story they were looking to tell.
How is that for manufacturing news?
Happy Friday, folks!
Now I’d better step down off this soap-box and take a cold shower…Back To Top Back To Comments