Editor’s Note: We asked the candidates in Victoria-Swan Lake a series of three questions. Here are their responses.
What needs to be done to address the affordable housing situation?
Rob Fleming – NDP:
Fixing the housing crisis is important for affordability and our economy: we must increase the supply of housing and introduce laws to curb speculation and better protect renters. Decent affordable housing has become very difficult to find for new home buyers and renters alike. Our region’s vacancy rate is among the lowest in Canada and monthly rents have skyrocketed. Over the past 16 years, no new affordable, non-profit family housing has been built in my riding of Victoria-Swan Lake. We have thousands of singles, seniors and families on our region’s affordable housing waitlist. Without action, this situation will get worse.
We have a plan to build 114,000 affordable rental, non-profit, co-op and owner-purchase housing units in B.C. through partnerships over 10 years. We will support building more student housing at UVic and Camosun College, which will help everyone in this tight rental market. We will give renters a $400/year rebate and close loopholes that allow sudden renovictions of entire apartment buildings by requiring that fair treatment be written in legislation. We will close loopholes allowing speculators who do not live, work and pay taxes in B.C. to buy up homes, keep them empty, while hiding their identities to dodge taxes. Revenue from a two per cent absentee speculators tax will go into a Housing Affordability Fund to be spent on building more housing.
Chris Maxwell – Green:
The affordable housing situation has many levels. For renters and home buyers, we must re-balance supply and demand forces. In the rental market, a BC Green government will increase the supply of affordable housing and implement measures that protect tenants and landlords. For home buyers, a BC Green government will address the artificial inflation of demand due to speculation (local and foreign) and a predatory Home Partnership Program from the BC Liberals. Specifically, a BC Green government will implement a 30 per cent tax on the purchase of homes by foreign buyers that do not have legal residence in B.C. We will also tackle supply through improvements to densification and transportation.
For those suffering from homelessness and precarious housing, a BC Green government will address poverty and security by examining the benefits of implementing a basic income in B.C. and committing to the increased funding for education and retraining throughout one’s lifetime. Government must foster a secure environment that ensures the health and essential needs of all British Columbians; these are monumental challenges. So along with a BC Green government, I will listen to our community, collaborate, and adapt our policies to meet your needs.
Stacey Piercey – Liberal:
Affordable housing is something that many individuals and families in our riding are seeking, including my own, to build our families and our dreams. I fully understand how challenging it has become for people to have affordable housing and buy their first home. I believe the key to the affordable housing situation is creating new supply; increase housing supply, increase rental supply, and support first-time home buyers.
With the support of all levels of government we can increase housing and rental supply to meet the demand. Our government is addressing this issue in many ways already, including the B.C. Home Partnership Program, a loan up to $37,500 toward the purchase of a new home. We have also invested $4.9 billion to provide affordable housing for low-income individuals, seniors and families. It’s these kinds of efforts that I support, and with a strong economy and a bright future, we can continue to build on these achievements.
Identify the single most pressing transportation issue to constituents of your riding?
Maxwell: Congestion is the single most pressing transportation issue in Victoria-Swan Lake. Congestion has tremendous negative costs on: quality of life (hours in traffic versus hours at home), environment (air quality), and infrastructure maintenance and construction.
To address congestion, we need to move people more efficiently and build urban communities with more family-oriented homes within Victoria. New urban communities will support the small businesses operating in and near Victoria and will use the established infrastructure in Victoria (schools, police, fire, sewage, roadways), which reduces the duplication of this infrastructure in the western communities. The McKenzie interchange is just one example of the B.C. government chasing the symptoms of unhealthy congestion by spending $85 million to move traffic jams meters done the road.
A BC Green government will address the causes of congestion. We will rebalance supply and demand in the housing market and increase affordable rental housing to allow families to live closer to their careers. We will support municipalities as they consider rezoning. We will fund public transit along with the federal government, introduce road pricing measures, empower local constituencies to make their best choices, and conduct a long-needed full review of BC Ferries.
Piercey: The single most pressing issue I have heard from constituents in Victoria-Swan Lake is affordable housing. Both renters, would-be buyers and current owners are struggling to afford their homes. We also have a lot of homeless, seniors and disabled people in Victoria that are worried as well about housing.
With the prosperity that B.C. enjoys it is important that we take care of our own. Addressing affordable housing can solve so many problems for this riding. It is important now more than ever to continue to build on the achievements of the BC Liberal Party plan which are possible through this strong economy and at the same time plan for the next generations.
Fleming: The biggest issue is the lack of transit service that is frequent, convenient and reliable to get to work, school and around town. Ten years ago, the province promised transit ridership would double by 2020. Today, the share of commuting by transit is stuck at just 6.5 per cent, almost unchanged since 2001.
With underfunded service levels unable to meet demand, transit users are often stranded at bus stops while full buses pass by. Buses are now stuck in the same traffic as cars on clogged municipal roads and highways. Without good transit service, we risk pushing people back into their cars, leading to further congestion and carbon pollution.
For the past 16 years, the BC Liberals have made almost no regional investments in our transportation infrastructure. John Horgan and the BC NDP will make dedicated investments in the Victoria region that will get public transit projects back on track, in partnership with BC Transit and local governments. We’ll purchase new buses and add additional service along routes across the region and major corridors, develop new transit exchanges at Uptown and other locations. We’ll introduce rapid bus service to the Westshore on the Trans-Canada Highway 1 that aligns with the future LRT corridor.
What qualities do you possess that makes you best suited to represent the riding?
Piercey: For one thing, I am a natural problem-solver. My background includes being an economist and small business owner. I approach challenges with an open mind and I believe in working toward solutions that make the most sense. Victoria is booming right now, and I want to encourage entrepreneurship on Vancouver Island.
Another quality that I possess is that my passion for connecting with the community. I love being in the coffee shop and walking the streets and meeting the great people in Victoria-Swan Lake. I believe that it is through these connections that I can be a fresh leader for this riding.
One thing that means the most to me, is speaking up for people. A lot of people in this riding care about the homeless and vulnerable people. I feel the same and I want to be a voice for people on the fringes of society. I have fought for transgender rights, and for women and seniors. I will continue to take care of my neighbours the best I can, through community involvement and social advocacy. I care deeply about the issues and I respect the responsibility of being an MLA. I feel privileged for the opportunity to hopefully be the 103rd woman elected to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, as well as the first openly transgender MLA in B.C. history.
Fleming: There are some very big challenges in front of us and we need a provincial government that is working for you to make life more affordable, supporting key services like education and health care, with a focus on creating good jobs in a sustainable economy. I’ve got a deep passion for working with people in our community and representing them in the legislature.
It may sound basic, but MLAs really need to know how to listen to the concerns of their constituents to know how and when to lead on an issue. An MLA needs a broad set of skills and experience to be effective and be able to help people and get things done. My interest in politics has always been as a problem solver. And I also know how to advocate strongly to get results for my constituents. What our region needs is a team of MLAs in a new government with the ideas and energy to make things happen. That’s why I’m running in this election.
Greater Victoria is an incredible and dynamic region. It has been passed over for years by the current government. It’s time for our region and the Island to be heard and respected by the provincial government so we can.
Maxwell: Community and change: I was born and raised in Victoria. I have lived many places while I obtained my PhD degree in medical sciences and led research teams. But, Victoria is always my home. I know our community still struggles with many long-term challenges (poverty, homelessness, congestion, affordability). Past MLAs and governments (NDP and Liberal) have not improved these issues. We must make genuine change. We must focus on the health and well-being of British Columbians rather than corporations. For this reason, the BC Greens have banned donations from corporations and their unions. It is not sufficient to talk about change, one must make change happen.
Leadership, collaboration and education: I have spent the last decades in science and education leading teams of researchers, and implementing projects that span from single graduate students to multi-national teams of scientists. As your MLA, I will use my experience and enjoyment of collaboration, problem solving and management to help enact policies that benefit the constituents of Victoria-Swan Lake. I will be your public servant and vote in the interest of Victoria-Swan Lake, not a political party. I will explain the reasons for my votes, engage the community, and welcome your feedback and criticism.