In the runup to the Sept. 20 federal election, Black Press Media asked the candidates in Cowichan-Malahat-Langford a series of questions.
BPM: With homeownership out of reach for too many in Greater Victoria and rent for an average one-bedroom reaching $1,700, what will your party do to stabilize housing costs?
Mark Hecht – People’s Party: In Canada, the average worker should be able to afford an average house on an average income. Excessive government regulation plus inflationary pressure from excessive monetary stimulus under the Trudeau government has raised home prices while wage gains have fallen behind. The People’s Party would stabilize housing prices through prudent fiscal management, alleviating price pressure from the inflow of excessive foreign capital, and by reducing government bureaucracy that impedes innovative small-scale housing developers and community housing organizations.
Blair Herbert – Liberal: Firstly, what we are experiencing is shortage of supply against increased demand. COVID caused us to reflect on how/where we live, with many making a change to live here. Secondly, some local governments have restricted expansion of housing supply. Housing is a provincial/local government responsibility; they need to plan for future demand and develop policies allowing for expansion. All along, the Liberals have supported Canadians in homeownership through their National Housing Strategy and First-Time Home Buyer Incentive. Re-elected Liberals will build on those successes through their three-part A Home for Everyone plan.
Lia Versaevel – Green Party: Housing costs have ballooned because of market and social forces that commodify shelter. It is now seen as an investment, instead of a home. Vacancy controls must be instituted so that properties cannot be rented to subsequent tenants at ridiculous prices. More social housing must also be built and the RHOSP program from the 1980s brought back in to allow buyers to save money for a downpayment tax free.
Alana DeLong – Conservative: Our plan for stabilizing housing includes commitments to build one million homes in the next three years. We will make it easier for more families to get a mortgage. We plan to partner with municipalities and the private sector to bring new rental units into the market. We will implement the “For Indigenous, By Indigenous” housing strategy. We will encourage a new market in seven- to ten-year mortgages to provide stability for first-time home buyers and lenders, reducing the need for mortgage stress tests.
Conservatives will fix the mortgage stress test to stop discriminating against small business owners, contractors and other non-permanent employees including casual workers.
Alistair MacGregor – NDP: A New Democrat government will create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years, with half of that done within five years. To help put an end to speculation that’s fuelling high housing prices, we’ll put in place a 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax. We also believe that $5,000 in annual rent subsidies should be made available to low-income renters who are struggling with their housing costs. We will re-introduce 30-year terms to CMHC insured mortgages on entry-level homes for first time home buyers. This will allow for smaller monthly payments, freeing up funds to help make ends meet for young families. We’ll also give people a hand with closing costs by doubling the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit to $1,500.
BPM: What sacrifices must Canadians be willing to make in order to reach our targets for climate change?
Blair Herbert: Great question; my thinking is reflected in Robert Swan’s quote, “The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” Canadians must consider the environment in everything they do, from buying a coffee to a car. For instance, instead of asking why alternative fuel vehicles won’t work, they need to ask why they will. Different choices are not “sacrifices” as much as “taking action.” The Liberals released their 64-point climate plan and I ask you to read it (contact me for a copy, email@example.com). Not everyone agrees. Conservatives are still deciding if climate change is real, while the Greens and NDP are calling for radical change that will create chaos and long-term damage to the economy.
Lia Versaevel: It is not a sacrifice to live a more localized, sustainable lifestyle. Infrastructure must allow for walkable liveable cities and towns where people are not forced to travel elsewhere for goods and services.
Alana DeLong: Climate change response requires all governments and all Canadians to make changes to achieve our targets. Adoption of electric, and eventually hydrogen, powered vehicles. Retrofit of buildings and homes to adopt clean energy technologies. Adapt to new building regulations designed to create greener homes. We’ll ban the export of plastics and end the dumping of raw sewage into our water ways. Better public transit systems and increasing our use of them. Reducing consumption of products that require high carbon manufacturing. Our party is committed to helping Canadians achieve these changes with our climate change plan.
Alistair MacGregor: Our changing climate promises to bring more extensive heat waves, more drought, and more extreme weather events in the future. These will have very real and extensive ecological, societal, and economic costs for our communities. Individual action is important in confronting this challenge, but the real change must be done collectively through strong and decisive leadership from the federal government. This means an end to oil and gas subsidies, and actively promoting energy efficiency, clean technologies and renewable energy use across Canada.
Mark Hecht: We do not believe that Canadians have to make sacrifices. We see a bright future, not a dour and gloomy one. We would bring practical solutions to environmental problems. Working together, especially with innovative minds, will allow us to reach our common goals for a healthy environment and healthy planet.
BPM: What is your view of the provincial and federal measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19?
Lia Versaevel: Measures taken to address the pandemic were initially appropriate but the politicization of the response has been unfortunate, even deadly. Too many people have died, and too many more will suffer long term effects. Masks must become a part of public space protocol until the pandemic is in abeyance.
Alana DeLong: Government response has seen its’ share of highs and lows. The federal government was slow to act when COVID-19 first appeared. For a while there was an almost ‘Fortress America’ mentality that the virus would not reach our shores.
When procurement of vaccines started, they chose a single source purchase, with predictable results. But then vaccines started to arrive, and the Provinces shone in implementing vaccination plans and administering the vaccines. They also put their Chief Medical Officers out front in the notification process ensuring trust in the information being disseminated. The only area needing improvement is education about the virus and the vaccines.
Alistair MacGregor – NDP: I have received both of my COVID-19 vaccine doses, and I encourage everyone to do the same. I have spent the last 18 months listening to the hardships that people have gone through with their small businesses and jobs because of the pandemic. The fourth wave is being driven by spread amongst unvaccinated, including a massive increase in hospitalizations. While I regret it has had to come to this, I support measures limiting non-essential activity to those who have had vaccines so that we can stop the spread and get back to normal.
Mark Hecht: The response has been overbearing, out of step with scientific research, and an assault on Canadians’ rights and freedoms. We would bring a rational and scientifically based approach that focuses on protection of the most vulnerable, guarantees the freedom of Canadians to make decisions based on informed consent, and rejects coercion and discrimination. We oppose vaccine mandates and vaccine passports and would repeal them immediately.
Blair Herbert: Government has done great work tackling the spread of COVID-19; it hasn’t been easy. This is a first-in-a-lifetime pandemic; we’ve never seen anything like this virus. Actions must be grounded in science; science takes time. Our work is not done. To protect children under 12 and those medically unable to receive the vaccine, everyone needs to step forward and get vaccinated. People need to sacrifice some of their interests to guarantee the safety of everyone. Without this happening, we’ll be fighting this virus for a lifetime.