Ontario’s ever-changing rent control policies prove that politicians are just as committed to flip-flopping as the Minnesota Vikings are to not winning the Super Bowl.
Ontario’s modern history of rent control legislation began during the 1975 election campaign, when it was actively promoted by the New Democratic Party (NDP). This was the stagflation era, and the NDP conveniently ignored Canadian monetary policy as a major contributing factor to price inflation—7.8 percent in 1973, 11 percent in 1974, 10.7 percent in 1975—including higher rents, preferring instead to talk about “horror stories of individuals and bad landlords who imposed exorbitant rent increases.”
However, as William Watson wrote in the Financial Post, “What protection do renters have against unscrupulous landlords? Other landlords—and lots of them.” That is, of course, if other landlords are not dissuaded from entering the market because the government forbids them from charging market prices. Flip-flop: the NDP finally conceded this point—sort of—when, in 1992, they “tried to encourage the building of more rental units by offering a five-year rent control exemption on new units. The exemption later became permanent.” Well, temporarily permanent, as we shall see.