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Finding new pathways to home ownership

The following article was published in the Hamilton Spectator.

Canadian society is built on the idea that homeownership is the route to a prosperous middle-class lifestyle. Today with many young Canadians wondering how they will purchase their first home, it is time to re-examine the typical pathways to homeownership. 

For those with intergenerational wealth, homeownership remains quite accessible. A 2021 report by CIBC found that 30% of buyers received gifts of on average $82,000 from family to help with their first home purchase. This was a dramatic increase from 2015 when 20% of first-time buyers received on average $52,000 in support. Unfortunately, those seeking to purchase a home without family assistance face daunting timelines. National Bank of Canada recently found that even with recent price declines, an average family would require close to 25 years to save enough for a downpayment on a home in Toronto. Despite these obstacles, based on survey research I conducted with Conestoga College Professor Domenica De Pasquale and University of Waterloo Assistant Professor Sean Geobey, in partnership with the shared equity organization – Ourboro – we found that interest in homeownership remains high among renters. Using a sample of 2,086 Ontarians contacted in early February 2023, we found that 20% of renters planned to purchase their first home in the next year and half expected to purchase a home within the next five years. Many of these individuals will likely face disappointment as Statistics Canada research suggests that only 5% of renters become homeowners each year.

To continue reading please visit the Hamilton Spectator.

Addressing Climate Change

In 1991, Brain Mulroney and George Bush signed the acid rain accord, putting into place policies that to this day ensure that acid rain is no longer a major problem in Canada or the United States. Today, Canadians seldom even consider the issue of acid rain, seeing it as largely resolved.

Addressing environmental issues, like acid rain, typically follow a similar pattern as first observed by Tony Downs, in 1972. First, no one is paying attention to an environmental issue. Then something happens to put it on the public’s radar. This leads to widespread support for action, which is when the public realizes the costs associated with interventions. This leads to debate and eventually for public interest to decline. Finally, the public moves on to other concerns.

Recognizing this pattern, the key to addressing environmental problems is putting actions in place when the public is supportive. Those actions will then continue to work after the public has lost interest in the issue. The restrictions on pollution in the acid rain accord are a perfect example, as they continue to apply today despite the public’s lack of interest in acid rain.

Research in the latest issue of the Canadian Political Science Review, published by myself and my former Conestoga College students (Natalie Pikulski, Pranol Kunjamon Mathan, Suhani Singh, and Sarah Strickland), demonstrates that Canada missed an opportunity to act on climate change in 2007.

Our study used an algorithm to combine 29 different surveys from five Canadian polling firms between 2007 and 2021 to create a Belief in Climate Change Index. Individual polling firms estimate belief in climate change was as low as 52% to as high as 91%. Since polling firms ask different questions in different ways with different response options the index is best used as a trend line and not as an indication of the percentage of the population that believes in climate change at any moment in time.

Belief In Climate Change Index

When examining the trend line, belief in climate change starts at a peak in 2007, then dropped to the lowest point in 2011, before steadily rising back to a peak today in 2021. In 2007, there was a clear opportunity to address climate change with high public interest in the topic.

In the 2000s, some action was taken in response to public support, most notably the closing of coal-fired plants in Ontario. Closing coal plants combined with the financial crisis led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Canada from 2007 to 2009. Yet, rates then began to rise again.

Today, public belief in climate change is once again at its highest level since 2007 suggesting an opportunity for action once again exists. The most recent poll on this topic, done by Forum Research during the federal election, echoes this finding as it showed that 85% of respondents who had an opinion believed that climate change is caused by human activity. This is the highest level reported in a Forum Poll asking this question.

With a minority parliament, the breakdown of who believes in climate change is particularly relevant, as it shows which parties may be most likely to support action. The Forum Poll shows that 97% of Liberal Party and New Democratic Party supporters and over 87% of Green Party and Bloc voters also believe in climate change. Indicating that the Liberals have multiple potential partners to pass legislation related to climate change. (Belief amongst Conservative Party supporters is 75% but only 49% amongst People’s Party of Canada supporters).

A window of opportunity has opened for actions on climate change in Canada. Any actions taken should be designed in a way that they will continue to operate after the public has shifted attention to other issues. Policies should therefore be locked in and predictable. Policies developed today should make clear where they will be in ten years. This can look like a carbon tax with phased-in annual increases, industry energy efficiency standards phased in over a decade, and timelines for when vehicles with fossil fuels will be banned. Failure to act effectively will only lead to climate change returning to the public radar in a few years. Unfortunately, given the risk to the planet by then, it may be too late to prevent serious harm to the planet.

Evaluating the 2021 Federal Election Projections

With the final seat tally now official, it is possible to evaluate the prediction results. For this analysis, CBC Canada Votes 2021 at 8:00 am on September 25, 2021, is being used. The analysis examines six websites that aggregate polls from the polling firms and then create a model to predict the election are examined (338Canada, Calculated Politics, CBC Poll Tracker, Lean Toss Up, Too Close to Call, and The Signal), three projection websites using their own models (Election Prediction Project, Election Atlas, and Advanced Symbolics) and four polling firms which use their own data to predict the election (Ekos, Forum, Innovative Research, and Mainstreet).

The results show the Liberals with 159 seats, the Conservatives with 119, the NDP with 25, the Bloc with 33 and the Greens with two. Most projections underestimated Liberal support. Mainstreet was predicted exactly 159 seats. The average estimates were missed by five seats. The Conservative support was very close with a mean of 118. Six projections overestimated Conservative support, seven underestimated Conservative support, and the CBC Poll Tracker had exactly 119 seats. The average estimates were very close only missing by one seat. NDP support was overestimated by every projection by an average of seven seats. The Bloc seats were overestimated in ten projections and underestimated in four. The mean of Bloc support was only off by two seats. Seven projections accurately predicted the Greens would win two seats and the average projection was two seats. Five projections predicted the Greens would win three seats and two predicted one seat. Three projections incorrectly predicted the PPC would win one seat.

To evaluate the overall accuracy of the different projections the projection for each party is subtracted from the actual seats won. The absolute value is then taken (i.e. if it is negative it is turned positive) and these values are added together. This gives a value of the error of each projection. (A more accurate method would be to look at each individual riding and see what percentage of the ridings were accurately predicted. This information is not readily available for each of the projections).

The average projection error was 24. The most accurate projection was by Mainstreet who only missed by 12. Mainstreet also had the most accurate projection in 2019. The poll aggregates as a group were the most accurate. Five poll aggregator projections (Calculated Politics, CBC Poll Tracker, Lean Toss Up, Too Close to Call, and @politicstacan) had an error of 14. The most accurate other projection method was Election Atlas with a projection error of 16. Ekos also had an error of 16.

Part of the accuracy of the models used to predict the vote share of each party in the election is due to the accuracy of the projection of the vote share of each party. The next comparison examines how accurate the vote share was projected. The average error is calculated in the same way as the previous analysis, with the absolute value of the difference taken for each party.

The average error was 10.1 percentage points. The most accurate projection was from The Signal with an error of 6.2 percentage points. Too Close to Call was just behind at 6.5 percentage points off. All but one of the aggregators had better projections than each polling firm. Calculated politics had the same tracking error as Mainstreet at 10.7 percentage points. Mainstreet was the most accurate polling firm once again. On average, the projections underestimated the Liberal, Conservative, and Bloc party support were underestimated. The NDP, Green, and PPC support was overestimated by the projections.

Every projection accurately predicted a Liberal minority government with the Conservative party in second place. Seat projections for the Bloc, Greens, and PPC were also reasonably accurate. The NDP seat projections were the biggest miss with every projection overestimating the projected seat total with an average error of seven seats. The Liberal party support on average was overestimated by five seats on average. A post-election analysis of why the NDP was down in the projected vote and seat count is warranted to improve future projections. Overall, the projections were very accurate, and the projection modellers should be satisfied with their predictions.