Barrie-Innisfil All Candidates Debate
Affordable housing, small businesses, marijuana legalization, the opioid crisis, and red tape for small businesses were the main focuses at the Barrie-Innisfil Candidates Debate on October 8, 2019.
The Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce, Simcoe County Home Builders Association and the Barrie and District Association of REALTORS® (BDAR) co-hosted this event which saw Realtors®, members of the public, and local business owners in attendance.
Candidates in attendance were:
Lisa-Marie Wilson, with the Liberal Party, was unable to attend.
Each panellist asked a question for the candidate to respond to in turn, then an open debate occurred on a related question. BDAR Member Fleurette Knaggs was on the panel and asked candidates the following question.
“One way we measure community prosperity is through housing. There is a shortage of affordable housing in our region – and across Canada. How do you propose to increase the supply of affordable housing in our market?”
The responses started off with Robinson, who noted that it isn’t through grants that housing becomes affordable, but when people pay lower income tax, they can put money into housing.
“The People’s Party believes that when we help people have more disposable income, it will allow them to be able to put money towards buying their first home. It’s not so much that you have grants and such, but because you don’t have as high an income tax bracket that everyone will do with the People’s Party, that you will have more money to put towards your housing.”
Robinson noted that supply wasn’t the issue. “When there is more of a demand for housing, you always see builders getting new subdivisions ready.”
Reinio referenced the high cost of renting or buying in Barrie.
“I don’t know how anybody gets into the housing market to buy or rent these days,” Reinio said. He noted that the NDP plans on instituting a 15% foreign buyers’ tax across the country, which he said has worked in British Columbia to reduce housing costs.
“We will also be providing a rent subsidy for people,” he added. “For people who pay more than 30 per cent of your income on rent, you qualify to get a $5,000 rebate annually. If you are paying 40 to 50 % of your income on rent, you are not making ends meet. We will provide subsidy to help you save money and get you into the housing market.”
Reinio added that it’s a good idea to make mortgages payable over 30 years as it makes payments more manageable. He added that he feels supply is an issue, and the NDP plan to build 500,000 new homes over the next 10 year. With the expected population in Barrie, Reinio added that the climate needs to be considered and develop higher-density housing and walkable communities.
Brassard noted that housing affordability is a responsibility of all levels of government as is creating an environment for affordable housing investments.
“One of the major issues right now with regards to affordable housing is supply," Brassard said, noting that there are innovative models that exist to address this such as co-owning a home and micro-housing. He added that zoning is a municipal concern, but the "federal government can play a role with regards to the investments that are required for affordable housing."
Brassard noted that the Conservative plan is a result of discussions with Realtors® and home builders across Canada. The Conservative Party is “focused on fixing the stress test”, which was initially planned to deal with the housing situation in Vancouver and Toronto, but it had also impacted markets where it didn’t matter as much, Brassard said.
He noted that a contributing factor to Canadians accessing housing is the costs associated with buying a home, such as development charges. “The municipal cost, with respect to development charges, can eat up roughly half of the price of the house. That’s obviously a municipal and provincial issue to deal with but in partnership, we can deal with that.”
He added that the 30 -year mortgage is important for first time home buyers to help them be able to afford their first home.
North said that the Green Party wants to legislate housing as a human right.
“When we have 300,000 homeless people in this country, we have to have a housing-first strategy,” she said. The Green Party plans to appoint a Minister of Housing and develop a housing strategy that focuses on the unique needs of different areas of Canada.
“We also want to refocus the core mandate of CMHC to support affordable, non-market and coop housing as opposed to supporting lenders in de-risking investments in housing ownership.
North noted that it is a fallacy that there is a shortage of supply in Canada. There may be a jurisdictional shortage, but across Canada, there are almost 1.4 million empty houses, she said.
In regard to making it easier to borrow for housing, North said: “Greens do not believe the de-risking the ability to get loans is a good plan.” She added that there are strong regulations in place to protect people from being “house rich and cash poor.”
When questioned about how to assist small businesses in our community, all candidates agreed that these were key to keep money in the local economy and help increase jobs—that small businesses were the backbone of the community.
North addressed the Green platform aims to assist small businesses to thrive by lowering taxes, such as payroll taxes. Robinson added that the People’s Party won’t subsidize larger corporation.
Reinio and Brassard both noted that lowering red tape and regulations would help with worker retention but added that attracting businesses from outside of Canada could help ensure the supply of workers and further stimulating the economy.
“One thing that is important is to assign a minister reporting directly to the Prime Minister to lead red-tape reduction,” Brassard said. “It’s red tape that is bogging down businesses not just here in Barrie and Innisfil but right across the country, and we have to make sure we help those businesses succeed, flourish, employee and grow as well.”
Reinio added, “The other concern that small businesses have shared with us is the lack of workers – there is a shortage of workers . We need to put in place programs to train workers and retain workers and attract new workers."
Brassard said: “The other part of that is making sure the universities and colleges have programs where that employment is going to be. Immigration becomes important because we have a retiring population. We need a skilled set of immigrants coming to this country to backfill those positions becoming vacant is critical to the economic sustainability of our small businesses and the country as well."
All candidates agreed that cannabis legalization would continue, and when asked about the opioid crisis, treatment was one of the main discussion points.
Brassard noted that the opioid crisis impacts the whole country and that health treatments are the best solution.
Reinio noted last year 87 people in the region died from opioids, and that the government should listen to the experts at the Health Unit to provide support, and supervised consumption sites. Both he and North said that treatment options with evidence-based research supporting addiction approaches are best.
The People’s Party doesn’t have an official stance, but Robinson said that they do want to support people with opioid addictions.
Many other topics were touched upon in this debate, including pipelines, climate change, trade and international relations.
Election day is October 21, 2019 – have your voice heard, get out and vote!