PC’s internal pollster floats possibility of ‘putting an end’ to NIMBYism

By Alan S. Hale November 16, 2021

Housing affordability was the topic of the day at the Pink Palace after a new poll from PC-linked firm Campaign Research became public, suggesting the governing party could be preparing to focus its efforts on housing affordability.

The survey, which was independently obtained by Queen’s Park Today, floats a number of possible strategies to make housing more plentiful and less costly, including whether “the Ontario government should put an end to people fighting development in the neighbourhoods.”

Opposition from existing residents of a particular neighbourhood is a common obstacle for new housing developments, particularly when it comes to intensification projects, where a multi-storey condo or apartment building is proposed in an area that consists mostly of detached single-family dwellings. Vocal homeowners, known as NIMBYs, have been known to get such projects quashed while developers seek approvals from municipal planning committees.

Other questions in the poll gauge support for whether a property owner should be able to build a duplex or a triplex on their property, instead of just a single-family home, and ask if the government should stay out of the way of determining what type of housing is constructed “as long as the buildings will fit.”

Queen’s Park Today asked Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark’s office whether the province is considering a possible method to neuter resident opposition to development projects but did not receive a response

Polling questions circulated by Campaign Research last week.

Battling municipalities on density and potential opposition support

The poll also wonders whether Ontario should work with municipalities to “fast track the building of more houses,” which could be a nod to Ministerial Zoning Orders or the province’s growth plan.

Clark has been requiring municipalities to provide plans on how they will meet his ministry’s density targets for areas around transit stations but has faced pushback. For example, City of Toronto officials want 11 of the 180 transit hubs set out by the province disqualified from development quotas. If city council approves that request next year, the ball will be in Clark’s court. He can decide whether they should be developed anyways, and the city can’t appeal.

Opposition parties have been calling on the government to focus on housing intensification rather than enable more single-family dwelling neighbourhoods (i.e. suburban sprawl). Neither the NDP nor the Liberals ruled out supporting a legislative solution that would make it easier for intensification projects to survive resident opposition, but still found the poll’s proposal to “put an end to people fighting development” troubling.

“I find that it’s a disturbing trend with this government trying to silence people, I really do,” said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in response to a question from Queen’s Park Today. “Intensification is controversial, no doubt, but that is what we need to do.”

Liberal house leader John Fraser said the development approval process may need some minor tweaks but argued that blaming resident opposition for the affordability crisis is not going to solve the issue.

Campaign Research also sought respondents’ views on providing more tax credits to homebuyers, taxing vacant homes, making more land available for development, restricting developer profits and foreign purchasers, and ending practices like blind bidding.

The latter describes the common practice whereby people compete for the same property without knowing what their counterpart is willing to fork over. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to crack down on it during the federal election campaign, which prompted a heated response from Ontario Real Estate Association CEO Tim Hudak.

Campaign Research is owned by Premier Doug Ford’s advisor Nick Kouvalis and is a frequent internal pollster for the PC Caucus Services Bureau. The firm does not discuss who commissions its polls, citing confidentiality.