Leaders make housing appeals on day 15 of federal election campaign
OTTAWA – Both Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau made green-focused housing pitches to voters Wednesday, as the federal campaign hit the two-week mark. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also spoke about his housing plans, but with a focus foreign buyers and affordability – two concerns that Scheer and Trudeau have also raised on the trail.
Along with that came knocks on their opponents' proposals. Singh cited federal inaction as a contributing factor to the state of housing unaffordability; Scheer said Canadians couldn't afford the Liberal plan; and Trudeau said his approach is more generous and longer-lasting than the Conservative policies.
Here's what each has proposed.
Specifically a Conservative government would:
- Create a 20 per cent refundable tax credit on their income taxes for green improvements to their home that cost between $1,000 and $20,000. This would be redeemable at tax-time, meaning Canadians would have to pay out of pocket up-front; and
- Remove the GST from home heating costs, saving an estimated $107 per household annually.
The Conservatives say this would allow people to save up to $3,800 on home renovations each year. Among what would qualify under the Conservative plan: new doors and windows, solar panels, insulation, and high-efficiency furnaces.
"There's two components to this announcement. Obviously reducing emissions by reducing energy consumption is a key part of that, but the other key part of that is helping make life more affordable for Canadians," Scheer told reporters on Wednesday. "When Canadians can take advantage of this homes tax credit to make renovations in their home, their own lives will become more affordable as the cost of living is reduced because their energy consumption will go down."
This measure was first announced by Scheer as part of the Conservatives' overall environment plan. The party is also promising to scrap the federal carbon tax, which it says is driving up the cost of Canadians' home energy bills.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer’s costing of this measure pegs it at a total of $1.8 billion by 2021-22.
The Conservatives estimate that this measure would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 9 million tonnes, and say that in 2017 buildings in Canada accounted for 12 per cent or 85 million tonnes of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
On Monday Scheer presented his plans to help Canadians buy homes. They included reviving the practice of allowing first-time homebuyers to take out 30-year mortgages, and removing the "stress test" for renewals. A Conservative government would also probe money laundering in the real estate sector, he said.
Speaking in Richmond, B.C. Trudeau put forward a slate of measures focused on cutting home energy bills while reducing pollution. The measures the Liberals say they'd implement if re-elected include:
- Retrofitting 1.5 million homes over the next five years to become more energy efficient and protected from climate-related weather events like flooding or wildfires;
- Offer free energy audits for homeowners and landlords, as well as interest-free loans, with certain terms, up to $40,000 should they want to go ahead and make eco-friendly changes to their properties;
- Create a net-zero homes grant of up to $5,000 for buyers of new homes that are certified zero-emissions; and
- Put $100 million into skills training focused on workers who specialize in energy audits, retrofits, and net-zero home construction.
The Liberals say the total cost of these measures would be $370 million in 2020-21, rising to $432 million by 2023-24.
Among the types of home improvements that the Liberals say would qualify for the up to $40,000 no-interest loan would be high efficiency water heaters, doors and windows; solar panels; and sump pumps. These loans have to be paid back in 10 years.
"Now people will be able to replace those leaky windows or that old furnace, not only making their home more comfortable and lowering their monthly bills, but also keeping our environment healthy," said Trudeau with a backdrop of Liberal candidates in a backyard setting.
Trudeau also announced that the Liberals would take various steps alongside the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. to help homeowners be prepared for floods, like creating a national flood insurance program; a plan to help with relocation if necessary, for homes that are at risk of repeatedly being vulnerable to climate change related flooding; and a new employment-insurance benefit for people who lose pay after taking time from work to deal with a natural disaster.
"If you've just been through a wildfire or a flood you should be focused on rebuilding your life, not on how to pay for the damage or how to pay the bills after time away from work," Trudeau said. “We also know there are going to be difficult decisions to make, about whether to rebuild and where to rebuild, that’s why we're making sure that communities and homebuyers have information around mapping of flood plains right across the country."
On the second day of the federal campaign Trudeau, who was in Victoria, B.C. at the time promised to expand their first-time home buyer incentive to allow homes valued at up to $789,000 to qualify exclusively in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria; and introduce a national one per cent annual vacancy and speculation tax on residential properties owned by non-resident, non-Canadians.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also made housing-related promises today, as part of his "New Deal" for British Columbia. Focused on trying to clamp down on the high-cost of housing in the province, Singh told reporters in Vancouver that the prospect of buying a home for many people is currently "simply unattainable."
Singh vowed that an NDP government would:
- Immediately create a dedicated RCMP anti-money laundering unit with $20 million in funding, half allocated specifically for B.C.-focused officers;
- Create a national registry to require corporations, trusts and partnerships who own or buy land to disclose who owns them, with the intent of cracking down on hiding profits; and
- Implement a national 15 per cent foreign buyer's tax on the sale of homes to people who aren't Canadian citizens or permanent residents. This measure is aimed at curbing housing speculation and the NDP estimates it would raise around $320 million in the first year that it’s fully implemented.
"Money laundering is a crucial issue here in B.C. It is driving up the cost of housing. People say at least five per cent of the increase in property prices has been attributed to money laundering, it could be a lot more, we need to take it very seriously," Singh said.
In the Green Party platform, for which Leader Elizabeth May released the full costing on Wednesday, the party says if elected it would create a minister of housing with a focus on safe and affordable housing; provide funding building and enhancing energy-efficient housing; make structural change to the CMHC; and allocate one per cent of GST to housing and other municipal infrastructure, at a cost of $9.6 billion.