What’s behind Liberal promises on fairness for every generation?

Gen Squeeze weighs in on new housing and family policy announcements

On March 27, the Government of Canada promised that Budget 2024 (to be released on April 16) will deliver “Fairness for Every Generation.” We’ve already shared why this promise is so important. It’s incredibly exciting to see that Ottawa has now accepted the diagnosis that Gen Squeeze has long been sharing: hard work isn’t paying off for younger Canadians as it did for previous generations, because the deck is stacked against them. That’s why we need our governments to deliver a better generational deal.

The federal government is already demonstrating that ‘fairness for every generation’ isn’t just a convenient slogan. Every day since March 27, the Prime Minister has announced concrete policies to improve affordability for younger Canadians — policies which align with ingredients in our comprehensive housing and family solutions frameworks. Here’s a snapshot of new announcements between March 27 and April 4 and our takeaways on restoring housing affordability, supporting young families, and looking ahead.

Restoring housing affordability

We all know that housing unaffordability has become a particularly big challenge for younger Canadians. Canadian Real Estate Association data show that average home prices rose 60% while Prime Minister Harper was in office, and another 54% since Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister.

In response to the harmful effects of rising home prices, many of Ottawa’s pre-budget announcements aimed at restoring fairness for every generation have focused on housing: 

Renter Protection Fund

On April 4, Ottawa announced a new $1.5 billion Canada Rental Protection Fund to protect affordable housing and create thousands of new affordable apartments. This announcement responds directly to the Gen Squeeze call for governments to scale up non-profit housing, and delivers more than half of the funding requested by the collation of non-profit housing advocates who asked for this policy mechanism in budget 2024. Congratulations to the Canadian Housing Renewal Association, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, the Rental Protection Fund, and others for their leadership and success.

Apartment Construction Loans

On April 3, Ottawa added $15 billion to its revamped Apartment Construction Loan Program. This program provides responds directly to Gen Squeeze’s call for governments to “dial up the right supply” in our plan to restore housing affordability forever. Since home ownership is increasingly out of reach for younger Canadians and newcomers of any age, it’s really important for governments to prioritize the construction of affordable rental units.

The program offers low-cost funding to developers during the risky, expensive phase of construction — through to the moment when renters are welcomed into new units. The federal government responded to suggestions about how to streamline access drawn from its review of the program over the past year. Adding additional funds was a key part of the feedback received, and this announcement shows Ottawa is listening. 

Accelerator Fund

On April 2, the federal government added $400 million to its game-changing Accelerator Fund. This commitment also responds directly to our recommendation to dial up the right supply.

Back in 2015, Gen Squeeze called on Ottawa to use its investments in housing and other infrastructure to incentivize cities to add more density to land already zoned for residences. While it took longer to implement this idea than we’d have liked, that’s what the Accelerator Fund is doing by only giving cities to the largest share of federal funding if they meet specified goals to add density. This matters, because municipal action is often hindered by NIMBYs — people who might support added housing elsewhere, but don’t want it to change their specific neighbourhoods. Now, mayors and councils can resist NIMBYism by telling their voters added density is necessary to take advantage of the full range of federal funding for housing, transit and other infrastructure. This is making a difference. Since Sean Fraser became federal housing minister, we’re seeing unprecedented changes to zoning to add density in Canadian communities from coast to coast to coast. 

Infrastructure Fund

Also on April 2, Ottawa delivered a new $6 billion infrastructure fund, recognizing that we don’t just need new homes to be built — we also need systems for water, wastewater, stormwater, solid waste and more. Municipalities directly receive $1 billion of new funds, while the remaining $5 billion is on offer to provinces — with conditions (that we really like).

Renters' and Homebuyers' Bills of Rights

To access federal funding, provinces must agree to mandate that cities amend zoning to legalize four units on land currently zoned for just one or two; adopt changes to the national building code to support more affordable climate-friendly housing options; and implement new consumer protections via a Renters’ Bill of Rights and a Homebuyers’ Bill of Rights. Strengthened rights are important to help shift Canadian culture to protect to young renters, many of whom also aspire to buy one day. Young people currently face harmful practices from some shady landlords and realtors who damage the reputations of their industries — at the expense of the good work delivered by many others.   

Support for Renters' Credit Ratings

On March 27, the Prime Minister announced the government’s intention to work with landlords and financial institutions to build up the credit rating of renters who consistently pay their rent on time. While Gen Squeeze has questions about how this plan can be implemented, we applaud the government’s efforts to search for another tool by which to level the playing field between renters and owners — another key plank in our housing solutions framework.

Owners build up their credit rating every time they pay their mortgage. With a growing number of young people locked out of home ownership by high prices, they are paying rent for longer (if not indefinitely). This makes it harder to build credit scores to qualify for loans — whether as entrepreneurs or aspiring home owners. Renters shouldn’t be second class neighbours. This announcement is an important signal that the federal government agrees.

Supporting young families

Funding for $10-a-day child care spaces

On March 28, Ottawa added to its already historic investment in $10-a-day child care with an additional $1 billion in low-cost loans and $60 million in grants to help accelerate program roll-out. This announcement responds directly to Gen Squeeze’s recommendation that child care should no longer cost another rent- or mortgage-sized payment, and was celebrated by Child Care Now, the national voice for child care advocacy. 

Back in 1970, the Royal Commission on the Status of Women first recommended a national child care program. Sadly, all levels of government resisted this call for half a century — until the current federal government finally brought our country in-line with other industrialized nations and adopted a high-quality, affordable, accessible and inclusive child care system. Parents who access $10-a-day spaces report that it’s life-changing. They are better able to manage the high cost of housing, and can afford to invest in better housing, activities, food, and transportation for the kids — or just afford to have kids in the first place.

Those who still lack access to a $10-a-day spot are understandably frustrated — but where should this frustration be directed? After decades of inaction, the current federal government stepped up to do what it can under Canada’s constitution. Yet some provinces are playing politics with federal funding, and are not doing all they can to accelerate implementation of the $10 a day system for young families. 

National School Food Program

On April 1, the Prime Minister announced that Ottawa will invest $1 billion to build a national school food program. This announcement responds directly to the 2024 budget recommendation from the Coalition for Healthy School Food. While this isn’t a policy area on which Gen Squeeze focuses, we applaud the Coalition for its effective advocacy, and affirm the value of new federal investments. The data are clear that the generations raising kids are squeezed by earnings that have fallen behind housing costs, despite completing more postsecondary education than previous generations — with accompanying loans and debts. A national school food program can help to ease the squeeze on family finances.

Looking ahead

The scope of these announcements shows that Ottawa’s promise to organize the 2024 Budget around ‘fairness for every generation’ is more than empty words. Progress is already underway, and the budget hasn’t even been released yet!

That said, we can’t expect decades of generationally unfair fiscal planning to be unraveled in a single budget. Lots of heavy lifting will remain after April 16 to recalibrate the machinery of government around promoting wellbeing for all ages, from the early years onwards. Gen Squeeze will remain vigilant on your behalf to assess whether planned actions are capable of delivering the results we need to reverse the deteriorating wellbeing of younger people, and restore a proud legacy for older Canadians to leave to those who follow.  

We’ll be in Ottawa for budget day to crunch the numbers and tell the hard truths. Stay tuned to our budget season page for the latest commentary, and look for Gen Squeeze Founder Paul Kershaw’s coverage in The Globe & Mail. For a sneak peek, here are some of the key questions we’ll be asking:

  • Despite the above announcements, it’s a certainty that the vast majority of new federal spending in Budget 2024 will support retirees, as part of the ongoing expansion of Old Age Security (OAS) — the full cost of which wasn’t prepaid by today’s retirees. Will the budget formally acknowledge this intergenerational tension in federal fiscal policy?
  • It’s clear from the data that rising investments in OAS and medical care for those age 65+ are driving what we call ‘structural deficits’ — deficits that are baked-in to our fiscal landscape regardless of economic performance. Will the budget acknowledge that all governments (regardless of party) are confronted with this challenge? Will Ottawa recognize the degree to which structural deficits are contributing to growing interest payments on government debt — interest payments that well surpass investments in things like child care and housing?
  • Will the budget acknowledge that decades of rising home prices didn’t just yield unaffordability for those who don’t own homes — but also significant wealth for many home owners (including the founder of Generation Squeeze)? To be frank, we’re skeptical that this intergenerational tension will be acknowledged in Budget 2024. But until it is, we can never fully break the addiction to high and rising home prices at heart of Canada’s housing crisis.


Andrea LongAndrea Long is Senior Director of Research and Knowledge Mobilization for Gen Squeeze. She has more than 20 years of experience in policy analysis, research and knowledge mobilization on health and social issues, including housing and homelessness, poverty, social determinants of health, and health in all policies.

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