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Meet your candidates for the Victoria-Beacon Hill riding

We asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are their answers.

1. What needs to be done to address the affordable housing situation?

Carole James — NDP (incumbent)

For years, the B.C. NDP has been calling on the B.C. Liberal government to do something about the growing housing crisis. They did nothing while the price of housing and rent went through the roof and homelessness reached crisis levels. We now have seniors living in their cars, young families staying in motels, and tent cities popping up in communities. These failures on housing aren’t just impacting renters and new home buyers, they are also hurting B.C.’s ability to attract and retain skilled workers. Fixing the housing crisis is important for affordability and our economy.

We will take major steps to make housing more affordable with a comprehensive 10-year plan. Through partnerships, we will build 114,000 new rental, social and co-op, and owner-purchase housing units. We will close loopholes in the Residential Tenancy Act to make sure renters are treated fairly during renovations and demolitions. We’ll provide a $400 per year rebate to rental households, because homeowners get the homeowners’ grant and renters deserve a break too. And we will crack down on the speculators who are distorting B.C.’s housing market, including introducing a two per cent per year tax on homes that sit empty and whose owners don’t pay tax in British Columbia.

Karen Bill — B.C. Liberals

The issue of affordable housing is a challenge — but it is one we are working to address thru targeted and record investments. We invested $920 million in the past year alone to create 5,300 units of affordable housing. It’s a result of a strong economy that we are making record investments — within our means to do so.

Our government has spends $32 million a year in Victoria to provide affordable housing for individuals, seniors and families. In Victoria more than 5,100 households benefit from a diverse range of provincial housing programs and services. We have completed close to 1,180 new units of affordable housing. And we provide financial assistance to more than 1,500 family and senior households renting in the private market.

The key to improving affordability over the long term is creating new supply. Our government is acting to help the market respond to increasing demand for homes. We have committed an additional $54 million over the last year to ensure more British Columbians have access to some 562 units of new, affordable rental housing. We introduced the B.C. Home Partnership to assist B.C. residents who are eligible first-time homebuyers by providing repayable down payment assistance loans. We anticipate investing $700 million over the next three years to help an estimated 42,000 British Columbians enter the market for the first time.

Kalen Harris — Green Party

Stop the speculative buying of houses as commodities with an increased progressive property transfer tax. Stop letting foreign investors park money here by doubling the foreign buyer’s tax to 30 per cent. Close loopholes in rental agreements that allow unfettered increases in rents. Invest $750 million to build up to 4,000 affordable homes a year for the next four years.

Art Lowe — B.C. Libertarian Party

A long-time goal of the Libertarian Party is to re-open some Crown land for homesteading, which will have the effect of increasing the supply of housing in a way that is affordable and suitable for those who enjoy a rural lifestyle. There is little or no cost to the taxpayers with this option. Another key is to reduce taxes, starting with the “tax on everything” carbon tax. Regardless of anyone’s view on CO2/warming etc., it is simply a fact that carbon taxes increase the cost of everything but provide no net benefit to society or the environment.

Jordan Reichert — Independent

We need to do more than just tax foreign buyers and curb speculation on empty units. We need a committed joint effort by the provincial and federal governments to build more social and co-operative housing. We need retention of our the current affordable housing stock and investment in improvements to these units. Furthermore, we have to deal with the underlying issue of the currently regressive property tax system and transition to a progressive one that is more equitable and generates revenue for social housing from those with real estate wealth by taxing properties valued at over $1 million. I would also invalidate the “no pets” policy that currently makes finding safe affordable housing for the thousands of pet guardians in B.C. a precarious process.

2. Identify the single most pressing transportation issue to constituents of your riding?

James: It’s hard to choose just one! From unaffordable B.C. Ferries fares, to the disability bus pass and traffic congestion in the greater region, transportation is a big issue in Victoria-Beacon Hill.

If I must pick one issue, it would be that people want better transportation choices. If we’re to encourage people to leave their cars at home, we need to ensure that our communities are more walkable, that our streets are safe for cyclists, and that our public transportation is affordable and convenient. A B.C. NDP government will work with mayors and other stakeholders in the capital region to explore the potential of a regional transportation authority, and we will make much-needed investments in capital projects and buses to support transit and cycling, and reduce traffic gridlock in the region.

Bill: Increasing funding to B.C. Transit and Handy-Dart services in communities across B.C. based on population and need and transit usage; investing a minimum of $25 million over the next two years on upgrades to the Malahat and Pat Bay Highways — and working with local governments to determine the areas of greatest priority; complete the interchange work at Admirals Road and MacKenzie Avenue — which we have already invested $85 million; complete and assess the study of using the E&N railway corridor for a dedicated commuter service between Victoria and the Western Communities.

Harris: In Victoria, the hot-button issue on the doorstep have been a toss-up between public transit and bike lanes. The overwhelming concern is that as soon as the election is over, all the money the B.C. Liberals are offering Victoria for transportation is going to dry up and we’ll be left with an underfunded system.

Lowe: In this riding, as in every riding in B.C., the single most important issue is the fact that taxes collected in the price of fuel are supposed to completely fund all roads, bridges, maintenance, snow clearing, etc. but only a small fraction of that money actually is spent on roads and bridges. Then, the government adopts tolls and municipal levies on top of the already extravagant fuel taxes! This is simply greed, fraud and corruption! The Libertarian Party will address this immediately to see that all money collected for roads is spent on roads and not other political adventures. Government involvement in transportation is an intolerable burden to everyone, whether as taxpayers, travelers, shippers, or consumers. It means massive waste and corruption, with unfair competition for sustainable potential alternatives. We support the measured and responsible privatization of transportation and the end of all government interference. We support business models similar to Uber that contain no costs for taxpayers. We oppose the coercion through taxes and eminent domain necessarily involved in implementing transportation plans.

LIBERTARIAN SOLUTIONS: We call for the measured, responsible and non-disruptive replacement of all government agencies concerned with transportation, and the transfer of their legitimate functions to competitive private firms. This can include privatization of rail and airports. In conclusion, we support any and all transportation solutions that are economically responsible and do not require taxpayer subsidization for their existence. If a service requires public subsidy then that is de-facto proof that it is not justified and from a rational economic perspective, it should not exist.

Reichert: Transportation has become a tremendous issue in Victoria due to development, densification, and lack of infrastructure. Meanwhile, the price of riding the bus has risen substantially and with the end of transfers have lost value. Public transportation services should be fully subsidized by taxing new vehicles sales that run on gasoline and diesel. Similarly, a one time tax rebate should be issued to all residents who purchase a bicycle for commuting purposes and more bicycle infrastructure built in our communities. Furthermore, maintaining and promoting the integrity of our communities as walkable is essential. We must also invest in electric passenger rail services from the core to growing outer communities.

3. What qualities do you possess that make you best suited to represent the riding?

JAMES: I grew up and raised my kids in Victoria-Beacon Hill, and I’m passionate about our community. I’ve worked with people, community organizations and businesses, providing support and advocating on critical issues. I’ve stood up against renovictions and called for investment in affordable housing. Instead of projects that put our environment at risk, I’ve advocated for clean growth and sustainable jobs. And I’ve fought cuts to education and public health, supporting a health care model where everyone can access the care they need.

I’m known for working with people across sectors to get things done. With twelve years’ experience in the legislature, and as a school board trustee, PAC president, and public servant prior to that, I have the experience necessary to bring the issues that are important to our community forward and take action. I’m fortunate to have represented such an active and engaged riding, and I hope voters will give me the opportunity to continue representing them in the legislature.

Hill: I am a mother of teens, a daughter of ageing parents who appreciates everything Victoria has to offer. I am hardworking, approachable and I love to learn. I am proud of the B.C. Liberal track record of growing a strong economy and also protecting our environment. We have added 85 new parks and 156 new conservancies. We now have the highest percentage of our land base dedicated to protected areas of all provincial jurisdictions! Growing the economy and protecting the environment are not mutually exclusive. I want to put my 20 years experience working with MLAs and Ministers most recently as senior advisor to the Minister of Agriculture to use for everyone in Victoria-Beacon Hill.

Kalen Harris: Besides an unrelenting sense of pride and gratitude about living in Victoria, I think I’m best suited to represent our city because I’m the kind of person that doesn’t give up if there’s a problem that needs addressing. It’s an odd mix of stubbornness and optimism. I look forward to being a tireless advocate for Victoria’s future.

Lowe: I was born and raised in Victoria, in James Bay. I is a property manager, accomplished the skills of plumbing and carpentry. My experience as a property manger requires the skills necessary to understand the diverse views of many people, with a special emphasis on diplomacy and real-world problem solving. I have run in two federal elections, in 2012 and 2015. I am known in Victoria for his active involvement in the community, helping to make it a safe and better place to live.

Reichert: I was born and raised in the district of Victoria-Beacon Hill, it is my home and one that I have watched change significantly through my life. Some of this change is positive, but much of it also has residents concerned about preserving the quality and uniqueness of their neighbourhoods and this is something I care deeply about protecting. I am also the only candidate that is animal inclusive in my policy, which is essential to address the tremendous environmental, social, economic, health, and ethical issues facing our community. We are animals, and other animals are a significant part of our social world and ecosystems that need to be given representation and consideration within our policy. This makes me the only multi-issue candidate that wants to comprehensively deal with the root issues of the issues we are facing. At the core of this is our unsustainable economic system that promotes commodification of our environment and constant growth in a world of finite resources and a delicate ecosystem with intrinsic value. I represent the voices of the millions of animals which are ignored by mainstream politics and I represent the interests of the people who don’t want politics of half-measures and candidates who just reiterate the party line. I live my values, build community, and speak authentically about the issues that affect all all of us. That is what I will bring to the Legislature for my community.

Editor’s note: David Shebib is also running as an independent in the riding, but chose not to participate in the series.