Editor’s Note: We asked the candidates in Saanich South a series of three questions. Here are their responses.
What needs to be done to address the affordable housing situation?
David Calder – Liberal:
Affordable housing is a serious challenge and there is no one solution, but with the high demand, it’s no surprise that housing prices have gone up and the impact that has on affordability for many British Columbians.
We have taken action with:
Support for home ownership with our BC Home Partnership that offers down payment assistance for first-time home buyers. It provides up to $37,500 (or five per cent) towards the purchase of a first home worth up to $750,000 – with no interest payments for the first five years.
As government, we brought in an additional property transfer tax rate of 15 per cent for residential real estate buyers from outside Canada. This tax is helping manage the demand for residential real estate while the housing market responds by building new homes to meet local needs.
Affordable rental housing is the third area of action. Since 2001, we’ve invested $4.9 billion to provide affordable housing for those with low incomes, seniors and families. Over the past year we added an additional $920 million for affordable rental housing to make sure that British Columbians have access to almost 5,300 new units of affordable housing.
As the MLA, I will keep encouraging other levels of government to support the province’s efforts and make sure we increase housing and rental supply to address the ever-increasing demand as this is the key to improving housing affordability.
Andrew McLean – Libertarian
The biggest barrier to affordable housing is government. While all the other parties are talking about rent subsidies and “investment in affordable housing” they are not talking about the one reality with these proposals. The only way this can be paid for is via taxation which has become the largest and most expensive bill for families in Canada.
Housing costs are a result of market forces, supply and demand. We need to get government out of the way of investors who would build in this market and allow the market to function and address this by bringing more supply in naturally, this combined with large-scale reduction in taxation will increase net income while decreasing housing cost due to large supply in the market.
Mark Neufeld – Green:
The BC Greens have proposed an immediate 30 per cent tax on foreign speculation for B.C. houses. This should have been done long ago but it seems the Clark government was so busy accepting revenue from this temporary and unfair stream in an attempt to create the illusion of good economic management that they couldn’t resist. Beyond that the BC Greens’ vision is to provide homes first and a means of investment a distant second.
There’s no way around it, we need to increase the supply of affordable accommodation. I applaud the District of Saanich and their recent effort to allow the use of “garden” rental units. It is a solution that will help both homeowners and renters. Given that we have remarkable institutions in Camosun, Royal Roads and, of course, UVic, students will rightly want to come here. Finally, we’ll want to enhance housing support programs and protect tenants and landlords as we begin to move forward.
Lana Popham – NDP:
More and more people are watching helplessly as the cost of buying a house skyrockets and the stock of available rental units heads towards zero. Many are dealing with a reality where they may never be able to buy a house in the community they call home. And on the doorstep I have heard from parents who are angry that their adult children cannot afford to live in the region they grew up in. The BC Liberals have been asleep at the switch.
The BC New Democrats will invest in new housing. And they will make renting more affordable with a $400 renter’s rebate and changes to the law to end renovictions. We will close loopholes that allow speculators to dodge taxes and hide their identities, and charge a yearly two per cent absentee speculators’ tax to crack down on real estate speculation that leaves homes empty. An NDP government will direct revenue from the absentee speculators’ tax into a Housing Affordability Fund.
Identify the single most pressing transportation issue to constituents of your riding?
McLean: Transportation like housing needs to be a function of the market. The current B.C. government has blocked services such as Uber and free market competition with the taxi cartel and public transit. The ferry market for transportation across the straight and between the Gulf Islands would be opened up to market for-profit business to provide better service than BC Ferries as well. This needs to change. A libertarian government would get out of the way of private individuals to provide market-driven solutions to transportation needs.
Neufeld: It’s my opinion that the best thing we can do is continue to move toward a low carbon future. Forty per cent of the municipalities’ GHG emissions come from transportation.
There is a need for a co-ordinated transportation strategy for the Southern Island especially, and that should include the electrification of vehicles for those that need to drive them, support for electric bus transportation already being embraced by BC Transit and Wilson’s and continued support for the remarkable network of bike and walking lanes. Commuter trains service is a no-brainer. BC Ferries? I’ve got ideas to support them too.
Popham: The people of Saanich South know that BC Ferries is part of our highway system. The BC NDP agrees with them. Under Christy Clark, huge increases in BC Ferries fares have impacted ridership and restricted the mobility of many Island residents. The BC Liberals have also cut ferry services.
Christy Clark’s repeated increases to ferry fares have hurt families who need to travel to the Mainland for sports trips for their kids, seniors who have medical appointments with specialists, and small businesses going to trade fairs in Metro Vancouver.
The BC NDP will restore the seniors’ discount on BC Ferries, making it free for seniors to travel from Monday to Thursday, except on holidays. We will reduce fares by 15 per cent on secondary routes. We will freeze fares on major routes while we conduct a review of BC Ferries cost structures.
BC Ferries will be required to conduct a comprehensive operating review to look for inefficiencies, fiscal mismanagement and cost savings that don’t impact services. Every dollar saved will be used to keep fares down. I will work for better ferry service and keep a lid on fares if re-elected as your MLA for Saanich South.
Calder: The need to improve the congestion, safety and service to transit users for Greater Victoria and the South Island is a pressing issue for me.
That is why our Vancouver Island platform includes a transportation plan calling for an investment of a minimum of $25 million over the next two years on upgrades to the Malahat and Pat Bay highways where we will be working with local governments to ensure we get the priorities and design for any upgrades right. This is in addition to completing the interchange work at Admirals Road and MacKenzie Avenue, completing and assessing the study of using the E&N railway corridor for a dedicated commuter service between Victoria and the western communities, increasing funding to BC Transit and Handy-Dart services in communities across B.C. based on population and need and transit usage.
The province, together with federal and local partners, has spent and committed more than $271 million for transportation on Vancouver Island since 2015.
Locally we are spending or have spent $85 million for the McKenzie interchange, $34 million to improve five kilometres of Highway 1 through the Malahat Village section, $22 million for the West Shore Parkway Extension, $18.7 million for resurfacing projects in 2016, including Highway 1 between Duncan and Mill Bay, Highway 17/Pat Bay between Haliburton and Sayward Road, and $17.4 million to upgrade the Belleville Ferry Terminal.
What qualities do you possess that make you best suited to represent the riding?
Neufeld: The ability to listen and learn. I have been a teacher for 25 years in this community. Most recently I co-founded the Institute for Global Solutions at Claremont. My work there has allowed me to enable young people to look at the world’s most pressing solutions and guide them to the basic fact that many of the answers are right here in our community.
We have been blessed by over a decade of support from our community from Haliburton Organic Farms to conservation biologists to local and world-renown speakers. It takes a community to raise a child. I feel I am uniquely qualified given my quarter century of service in this capacity. B.C. and Saanich can lead in the 21st century. It’s time.
Popham: I am a fighter. From my community office I’ve helped hundreds of people who are struggling or in crisis. I’ve organized dozens of community gatherings and public meetings on everything from housing affordability to the environment. And I get results. Successes include helping restore public access to the Saanich Observatory, protecting Maltby Lake, and improving highway safety at Sayward and the Pat Bay Highway.
Calder: I grew up in this riding, spending 20 years as an Olympic rower training for four Olympic Games, and now I am raising my family here in Saanich. The hard work, discipline and dedication that I had to realize my Olympic dream is what I would bring as the MLA for Saanich South.
I want to ensure that all our kids are supported and afforded the same opportunity that I was. I will work tirelessly for this riding and will be a strong voice for Saanich South.
McLean: An unwavering respect of individualism, and the ability to vote your constituents’ conscience. Accountability, honesty and ethical government is what this party is about. Libertarians, first and foremost, believe that government must operate according to strict ethical standards. Fraud, aggression, theft, etc. are cause for expulsion from the party, and we all take this very seriously. If you want honest, open, ethical and principled government to maximize the freedom and prosperity of all British Columbia then this is the party for you
I will work hard with honesty and integrity. I really care about my community, and I believe I can make a difference. I am not afraid to stand up for what’s right, and to try to make something positive come from a bad situation, even if it isn’t the easy way.