Saanich-Gulf Islands candidates speak out on housing, climate and COVID-19

Candidates in the 2021 federal election for the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding answer Black Press Media’s questions relating to current issues. (Black Press Media file photo)Candidates in the 2021 federal election for the Saanich-Gulf Islands riding answer Black Press Media’s questions relating to current issues. (Black Press Media file photo)
David Busch is the Conservative candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Courtesy of the David Busch campaign)David Busch is the Conservative candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Courtesy of the David Busch campaign)
Dock Currie is the Communist Party candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Photo courtesy of Dock Currie)Dock Currie is the Communist Party candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Photo courtesy of Dock Currie)
Sabina Singh is the NDP candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Photo courtesy of the Sabina Singh campaign)Sabina Singh is the NDP candidate for Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Photo courtesy of the Sabina Singh campaign)
David Hilderman is the Peoples Party of Canada candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Courtesy David Hilderman campaign)David Hilderman is the Peoples Party of Canada candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. (Courtesy David Hilderman campaign)
Elizabeth May is the Green Party candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)Elizabeth May is the Green Party candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)

In the runup to the Sept. 20 federal election, Black Press Media asked the candidates in Saanich-Gulf Islands 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?

David Busch – Conservative: Home prices reflect supply and demand. We will increase supply by requiring municipalities receiving public transit funding to allow increased density near funded transit; releasing at least 15 per cent of federal real estate for housing; encouraging investment in rental housing; through support for Indigenous by Indigenous to meet their housing needs; encouraging land trusts to donate land for affordable housing; imposing a two-year moratorium on foreign purchases of homes; and encouraging foreign investment in purpose-built rental homes.

Dock Currie – Communist: Housing costs have spiraled out of control because housing has become a speculative commodity and source of profit, rather than what it needs to be, a public good to fulfill the needs of people. This change has occurred as a result of political choices by both federal and provincial governments. This past year Bloomberg reported that “the buying, selling and building of homes in Canada takes up a larger share of the economy than it does in any other developed country,” that this industry “soaks up a larger share of investment capital than in any of Canada’s peers” and yet, at the same time, Canada’s major urban areas have undergone “the worst deterioration in housing affordability among the world’s major metropolises.” The Communist Party of Canada calls for the construction of public housing with rent geared to income so that no one needs to spend more than 20 per cent of their income on housing.

Sabina Singh – NDP: Housing inequality is hurting Canadians. Our plan is to build and renovate 1.7 million homes over the next four years and build 500,000 new affordable homes over 10 years. Dedicated fast-start funds will streamline the application process for non-profit builders. We’ll use federal lands for housing projects and waive the federal portion of the GST/HST on new affordable rental units to get new units built faster. We will ease borrowing restrictions to allow people to buy a home with friends and provide 30-year mortgages to reduce costs. We will double the first-time home buyers’ credit and make it a rebate.

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David Hilderman – People’s Party of Canada: Real estate costs are a supply and demand question. Governments at all levels continue to increase zoning restrictions and bureaucracy while Canada’s federal government continues to increase immigration levels. 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 reduced immigration, prudent fiscal management, and reduced government bureaucracy.

Elizabeth May – Green: Affordable housing is a crisis right across Canada, but nowhere more so than here on the Saanich Peninsula. Greens will declare housing affordability and homelessness a national emergency; redefine affordable housing using an updated formula that accounts for regional variations; appoint the Federal Housing Advocate as established in the National Housing Strategy Act, and move to end speculative, non-resident ownership. In addition, the platform lays out plans for indigenous housing and national policies such as a pandemic eviction moratorium.

Sherri Moore-Arbour – Liberal: A re-elected Liberal government will:

• Build and repair more affordable housing

• Stop “renovictions” by deterring unfair rent increases that fall outside of a normal change in rent.

• Require landlords to disclose, on their tax filing, the rent they receive pre- and post-renovation, and implement a proportional surtax if the increase in rent is excessive.

• Give cities the tools to speed up housing construction

• Convert empty office space into housing

• Support Indigenous Housing

BPM: What sacrifices must Canadians be willing to make in order to reach our targets for climate change?

Dock Currie: I don’t believe in the pseudo-religious notions of generalized debt or sacrifice. ‘Humans’ in general are not responsible for the climate crisis, the irrational private organization of production and exchange in our society is responsible. The Communist Party of Canada calls for the nationalization of the energy sector, the abolition of the tar sands, and a just transition for all energy workers to renewable energy.

Sabina Singh: Not everyone can afford to buy an electric car, add solar panels, or upgrade appliances. Many can’t afford to make sacrifices to reach our climate targets, so we will create an Office of Environmental Justice to address the disproportionate impacts of pollution and loss of biodiversity on low-income, racialized, and other marginalized communities. New Democrats will ensure that climate investments are directed towards reducing that inequality, honouring Indigenous rights, and supporting communities that have been left behind by decades of Liberal and Conservative inaction.

Election 2021: Who are your Greater Victoria candidates?

David Hilderman: Ask any climate scientist or politician what the effect of Canada stopping all CO2 emissions would be to atmospheric CO2 levels and the earth’s temperature. The answer to both is no measurable effect. As Third World nations continue to develop, fossil fuel demands will continue to increase, During the pandemic China surpassed 50 per cent of all the world’s CO2 emissions. The world cannot expect Third World nations to stop their development and keep their citizens impoverished. Reliable energy is key to any nation’s success and ability to deal with the climate. Canadians don’t need to make sacrifices. We see a bright future, not a 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.

Elizabeth May: Acting to address the climate emergency need not burden Canadians. For example, cancelling the TMX pipeline (total cost $17 billion, according to the Parliamentary Budget Office, now 30 per cent completed) will save billions. Ending subsidies to fossil fuels – fracking and oil sands – will save Canadians billions more annually. Developing efficient, affordable, zero carbon transit choices will improve health outcomes and quality of life while reducing emissions. More local food production, from personal gardens to organic agriculture in small spaces like backyards also improves our health and quality of life while reducing the carbon miles of importing food to Vancouver Island. In the face of the climate emergency, we are flocking to make change by voting with our pocketbooks for EVs and heat pumps, solar panels and retrofits.

Sherri Moore-Arbour: The climate crisis is the most serious challenge facing Canadians, and indeed our planet. The Liberal government has worked quickly to put in place policies, legislation and other levers to mobilize our transition to significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Our commitment to continued action on climate change includes the following areas:

1. An Adaptation Plan to Protect Against the Impacts of Climate Change

2. Cutting Pollution

3. Protecting Nature

4. Green Jobs

5. Tackling Plastic Pollution and Building a Circular Economy

David Busch: Environmental stewardship is not a sacrifice, it is an opportunity and a responsibility. With Trudeau’s carbon tax you pay the tax, you get to pollute. Our environmental plan will help Canadians make positive changes by returning money collected on carbon pricing to the purchaser, who can then save for items such as an electric car or electric bike; home renovations which will lower energy needs such as installing a heat pump or new insulation; buy local food and produce from our great local businesses. 38 million little steps make a big difference and help make life more affordable.

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BPM: What is your view of the provincial and federal measures taken to stop the spread of COVID-19?

Sabina Singh: Canada needs a mandatory vaccination rule for federal employees created in conjunction with unions to ensure fairness across the board. We need a state-of-the-art federally run non-profit vaccine lab and a full pandemic response plan including an early warning system that is reviewed frequently to ensure it stays up to date. We will work together with patients, caregivers, and provincial and territorial governments to develop national standards for home care and long-term care, regulated by the same principles as the Canada Health Act. We will encourage other levels of government to take appropriate measures to protect Canadians from pandemics.

David Hilderman: The response has been overbearing and an assault on Canadian’s 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.

Elizabeth May: As a member of the “COVID-19 parliament,” I think we functioned well as Team Canada. We rolled out an astonishing number of programs and spent a huge amount of money to protect Canadians. In fact, $80 billion in spending was approved unanimously. This means any single MP could have blocked the CERB, CEWS and dozens of other programs. It was not perfect and we kept chasing the gaps and glitches and tried to get them fixed. I think when COVID is over, we need to examine the record and have a full scale review. I think we did a better job at economic questions than public health measures.

Sherri Moore-Arbour: A re-elected Liberal government will:

• Introduce a COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Fund that will be available to support provinces and territories who implement a requirement for proof-of-vaccine credentials in their jurisdiction for non-essential businesses and public spaces;

• Procure enough vaccines so all Canadians can access a free booster shot if they need one; and

• Invest in research to study the long-term health impacts of COVID-19.

• Expand the number of family doctors and primary health teams in rural communities.

• Work to give rural communities greater access to a full suite of health and social services professionals, including dentists, pharmacists, dental hygienists, midwives, social workers, psychologists, teachers, and early childhood educators.

• Help health care professionals set up new practices.

• We will work with provinces and territories with an investment of $9 billion over 5 years to support safer conditions for seniors and improved wages and working conditions for personal support workers.

David Busch: B.C. did good work and set the standard for Canada. The Liberals were too little too late: closing borders and Vancouver Island; wearing masks; having PPE available; supporting local industry; making vaccines available; stopping the fourth wave. The federal government has further failed by calling this election in the fourth wave. Canada survived the first three waves in spite of the Trudeau government thanks to the work of the provincial health officers and the resilience of the Canadian people. We will help workers and businesses get back to work by paying up to 50 per cent of new hire salaries. Our plan: www.conservative.ca/plan/.

Dock Currie: The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on workers, and especially marginalized workers. The supports that have been put in place are insufficient, and in many cases deranged, as in the CEWS which has been diverted into huge dividends for wealthy shareholders. The Communist Party of Canada calls for a more robust EI system, comprehensive paid sick leave, and a nationalized pharmaceutical industry.

Editor’s Note: This file has been updated to include Liberal candidate Sherri Moore-Arbour, who responded after Black Press Media’s press deadline.

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