Five questions in five minutes for Canada’s Prime Minister
By Casey Edge
With a federal election this fall, the VRBA’s Casey Edge wants answers from the top
By Casey Edge
Canada’s national election is scheduled for October 21, 2019. It’s the only time voters can hold their Members of Parliament accountable.
When politicians venture out and subject themselves to voter scrutiny, their appearances are usually carefully orchestrated and scripted — none more so than the public appearances by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Appearance” is an appropriate word for Canada’s PM, who lately seems to struggle with appearing to do anything right. That said, most elected officials are challenged with the issue of appearances going into an election. And Canadian Contractor is, after all, a magazine dedicated to building homes, not political careers.
With that in mind, I was offered this challenge by the editors:
If you had the Prime Minister’s attention for five minutes, what would you ask him?
I have compiled my five questions to be answered in five minutes – one question per minute. What would your five questions be? They must be questions, not rants. If you must rant, be strategic and pose each as a question, as I have not-so-subtly done below.
1. Prime Minister: We both agree that more must be done to assist housing affordability. The federal government introduced a GST New Home Rebate in 1990 and promised to index it to inflation. This promise was broken, and now inflation has eroded the rebate to the point where the maximum allowable purchase of $450,000 is less than the average price of a home in Canada at $494,978. In the interests of affordability and the credibility of the rebate program, isn’t it time to keep the original promise and index the rebate to inflation?
2. Australia recently announced the scrapping of their mortgage stress test, realizing that interest rates are “likely to remain at historically low levels for some time.” Australia will allow their banks to set their own minimum assessment rates, which will assist young families to purchase a home. Considering the housing market is moderating and interest rate increases are unlikely this year, isn’t it time to also moderate Canada’s stress test?
3. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the federal government subsidized the installation in homes of asbestos insulation, such as Zonolite, through the Canadian Home Insulation Program (CHIP). Asbestos is also found in vinyl tile, siding, and other building materials. Consumers and contractors relied on the government to ensure these products were safe, which turned out not to be the case. Will the government now accept some responsibility and assist Canadians with the costly removal of these hazardous materials through a renovation tax credit?
4. Municipalities are the responsibility of the provinces. However, Ottawa offers significant infrastructure grants to local governments. Some of these municipalities obstruct housing through slow permits issuance processes and rezoning refusals. Will you link such infrastructure grants to more responsible and efficient development processes and housing starts?
5. Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick and several other provinces and territories signed an agreement to harmonize their building codes through consensus and a national framework in the interests of more uniform health and safety and improved energy efficiency. Yet British Columbia has established its own Step Code for energy efficiency, which undermines this consensus agreement while deviating significantly from the existing national code. This speaks to the issue of enforcing national agreements in the interests of all Canadians, similar to B.C’s position on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Perhaps you have heard of the phrase, “the tail wagging the dog.”
So, Prime Minister, my final question is this: If you really want to have an impact on housing’s Green House Gasses (GHG’s), how about launching a retrofit tax credit for the older homes among Canada’s 14 million dwellings? After all, those older homes are far “leakier”, with exponentially more air changes per hour than new homes.
Prime Minister, I understand you might not be familiar with some of these issues. However, you have plenty of time to get up to speed by October 21. And if you need any assistance, all you need to know about the challenges facing Canada’s contractors and housing is contained in Canadian Contractor magazine.
(NOTE: Please use our comment section below to ask your own questions of our Prime Minster, or email in confidence to: email@example.com)
Casey Edge is CEO of the Victoria Residential Builders Association and a passionate advocate for the home building industry in Canada.