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Parliamentary committee studying housing affordability descends into crosstalk chaos

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland questioned the point of a parliamentary committee's hearing on the rising cost of housing Thursday after the meeting descended into loud crosstalk and shouting.

Freeland accused Conservative MP of being 'rude' and 'inappropriate'

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland arrives to House of Commons Finance committee on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland questioned the point of a parliamentary committee's hearing on the rising cost of housing Thursday after the meeting descended into loud crosstalk and shouting.

Thursday's finance committee hearing kicked off with Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan asking Freeland if she had seen Conservative Leader Pierre Poilieve's recent video on housing and recommended she "like, share, and subscribe."

The Calgary Forest Lawn MP then asked why Canadians should have faith in the Liberal government's ability to build millions of new homes.

Hallan interjected as Freeland began to comment on what she called "the Conservative scheme on housing," eliciting shouts from the Liberal side of the room.

After the committee chair, Liberal MP Peter Fonseca, made multiple attempts to speak, he asked Hallan to let Freeland respond to his questions.

"The witness did not even have a nanosecond to answer your question," he said.

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WATCH | Freeland calls Conservative MP 'rude' and 'inappropriate'

Freeland calls Conservative MP ‘rude’ and ‘inappropriate’

14 hours ago

Duration 1:15

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland calls out Conservative MP and finance critic Jasraj Singh Hallan for repeatedly interrupting her attempted answers during finance committee.

Conservative MP Philip Lawrence then countered with a point of order, saying Freeland was not answering their questions.

"Could you please let Conservatives speak? I know you don't want to hear it as a Liberal. I know you don't want to hear about the housing hell," he said.

Following pleas from the chair for less "screaming," Hallan resumed his questioning, this time focusing on the rising number of people using food banks in Canada.

"Why should anyone believe that anything that your government has done is actually helping address the affordability crisis?" he asked.

"The Conservatives cannot be trusted when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable people in Canada," Freeland replied.

WATCH | Poilievre video blaming Trudeau for Canada's housing crisis takes off online

Poilievre video blaming Trudeau for Canada’s housing crisis takes off online

4 days ago

Duration 1:49

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has released a 15-minute video blaming the prime minister and his policies for Canada’s housing crisis. The video has garnered more than a million views since its weekend release, as a new poll suggests the Conservatives are now leading the Liberals by almost 20 points.

When Hallan interjected again, Freeland accused the Conservatives of posturing.

"You haven't given me a chance to answer and that is not only rude, it's inappropriate at committee," she said.

Then it was NDP MP Daniel Blaikie's turn to raise a point of order.

"What I didn't realize was that Mr. Hallan wanted her here to perform a monologue in front of her and not to actually have a conversation," he said.

"Perhaps the committee, Mr. Chair, could invest in some gold stickers or something to assuage Mr. Hallan's ego."

Freeland asked about mortgage charter enforcement

Freeland agreed and questioned the validity of the finance committee hearing.

"If committee members prefer to engage in monologues, then there doesn't seem to be much point in actually gathering as a committee," she said.

In response, Hallan said he can use his time at committee as he likes.

Poilievre has made the cost of housing a key part of his message as he rides high in the polls.

The government has acknowledged the public's anxiety over housing costs and has insisted since its cabinet retreat in Charlottetown over the summer that boosting housing construction is a government priority.

The committee eventually calmed down in time for the remaining rounds of questions.

Freeland was asked repeatedly why her government's recently announced Canadian Mortgage Charter exempts insured mortgage holders from re-qualifying under the "stress test" when switching lenders at time of renewal, but not uninsured holders.

Blaikie asked her what consequences a financial institution would face if they disregarded the charter, and if the charter is legally enforceable.

Freeland said the intention of the charter is to provide comfort and give options to people to allow them to stay in their homes.

"On the question, I'm going to take that as a no," Blaikie said.

Housing costs have been on the rise for years in Canada, with the national average home price sitting at roughly $650,000 in October 2023, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation says the country needs about 3.5 million additional housing units by 2030 to restore affordability.

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