By Charlie Senack
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole made a campaign stop in Barrhaven last week to announce the party’s affordable housing strategy.
On August 19, residents who live near Flanders Street were woken up by campaign music blaring as the Conservative Party Leader walked down the quiet cul-de-sac. They used the growing suburb of Barrhaven to talk housing, which will undoubtedly be a key campaign focus for all parties.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no crowd with only a handful of residents gathering on the street to watch. Also in attendance was Matt Triemstra, the Conservative Party candidate for Nepean.
“It’s time to face the facts: we have a housing crisis in Canada,” O’Toole told the line of cameras lined up on the front lawn of a home. “The supply of homes to buy as well as to rent is not keeping up with our growing population. Foreign investors are also making our situation worse. They are bidding up prices, and in some cases, they are sitting on investments and leaving homes empty while Canadians search for affordable houses.”
O’Toole referenced stories coming out of western provinces where criminals have been found to buy houses as a way of stashing proceeds of crime.
Under a Federal Conservative government, O’Toole has committed to building one million homes in the next three years. This would in part be done by putting a ban on foreign investors, who live outside the country from buying property for at least two years, and making changes to the mortgage stress test.
“If people around the world want to invest in our great country — and I want that — we will instead encourage them to invest in purpose-built rental housing to provide more affordable options to Canadians,” said O’Toole. “We will provide more incentives to get more rental housing built, and we will create a federal beneficial registry for residential property.”
As a way of meeting their target, the Conservatives want to repurpose and convert some federal office buildings while allowing more government employees to continue working from home. The party wants to release 15 per cent of federally owned buildings into the housing market and also allow developers to defer capital gains taxes if they reinvest in rental properties. The part however has no detailed plan on how this idea would come into fruition, what it would cost, or how much work would need to be done in order to retrofit the buildings.
O’Toole held up the magazine-style cover of his election promises while making the announcement, noting they would increase the number of units built yearly from 270,000 to 340,000.
“Our housing plan is comprehensive and it will be effective,” O’Toole said. “It will give all Canadians a chance to build the life they dream of, to live on a street with good neighbours.”
The NDP, on the other hand, say they would build 500,000 homes and make housing affordable for Canadians, including rental prices, noting that one-in-three residents in the country are renters.
Justin Trudeau and the Liberals have said they would build, preserve, or repair 1.4 million new homes over the next four years with the intention of increasing supply. They would also double the first-time home buyers tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000 and put $1 billion towards loans and grants for rent-to-own projects. A tax-free ‘First Home Savings Account’ would also be created, allowing those under the age of 40 to save up to $40,000 and withdraw it tax-free to put towards a home purchase. And finally, a ‘Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights’ that would include measures to criminalize blind bidding and establish the right to a home inspection would be introduced.
Also during his announcement, O’Toole reiterated his support for the LGBTQ community. The party is trying to make themselves seem more inclusive after former party leader Andrew Scheer expressed his views on same sex marriage, saying marriage a practice that should only be done with a man and woman. O’Toole was asked about if the party would look at legalizing ‘poppers’, a drug which many gay men use to relax muscles during intercourse. The party leader said he plans to look into the issue and bring it up with health Canada.
“I want members of the LGBTQ community to know that if they want something looked at, if they are advocating for an issue, we want to make sure that the federal government is responsive to the needs of all Canadians in all communities,” O’Toole said.
But when it came to the topic of abortion, O’Toole said while he’s pro choice, he believes doctors should have the option to refuse service if it goes against their beliefs.
“As you know I am pro choice and I want to make sure that access for women to such services is available across the country,” he said. “I think it’s also possible to show respect for our nurses, our healthcare professionals, with respect particularly to the expansion of medical assisted death. Let’s find an appropriate and fair balance to make sure those rights are assessed, but we can respect provisions as well.”
So far Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole has been the only party leader to visit the riding of Nepean. The federal election has been called for September 20.