(L-R) Moe Sihota, first Indo-Canadian cabinet minister, and Dharbinder Dhaliwal, FVREB Director and Government Relations Chair, at GL Days in Victoria.

Back from PAC and GL Days

by Dharbinder Singh, Director & Chair, Government Relations committee

Hello, my real estate family! It was my pleasure to attend CREA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) Days in Ottawa (September 30 to October 2) and BCREA’s Government Liaison (GL) Days (October 14 to 16) in Victoria as your newly-appointed Government Relations (GR) committee Chair.

There was a lot of learning to be had about the process that occurs when governments make decisions and we have something to say about them. CREA and BCREA set the agenda for the conferences, explained how we could support their efforts, and asked us to apply what we had learned. It felt like a crash course in lobbying and it was very exciting. Essentially, “Here are the issues, this is how you present them to elected officials, now go.”

The GR committee and Board officers were able to deliver our messages (scroll down for details) to four out of nine local MPs and 11 out of 16 MLAs in Ottawa and Victoria. We had one of the largest if not the largest group of representatives at both conferences and both events represented experiences I won’t soon forget.

Someone said, “Government Relations is a marathon, not a sprint.” Although governments don’t always act on what we say, at least not right away, we need to keep meeting with them and keep talking to them about our issues. When we’re not talking to them, others surely will. If we’re not approaching them to discuss topics which have an impact on our clients and our role as Realtors, who will?

Our lobbying efforts are critical. We elect people to make important decisions to run our country, our province and our city but I feel they can always benefit from more input. As Realtors, we’re in the trenches, and have local knowledge and expertise which can help governments understand how their policies, which don’t necessarily fit all markets and situations, affect people in our communities.

Ultimately, we need to continue to be part of the solution. There are always going to be issues that impact us and our clients, and the more we’re aware of what’s going on and the more we’re involved, the better. Let’s stay ahead of the game and not fall behind.

I believe that governments can be more effective in their housing policies through working with Realtors and I appreciate all the efforts of my colleagues on the committee helping to carve that path forward.

Lastly, if you have ever considered volunteering at the Board – whether in government relations or something else – please take the leap. It’s an incredibly rewarding opportunity, and I can tell you first-hand that your involvement makes a difference. See you next year, I hope!

Here is a summary of the topics and issues we covered in Ottawa and Victoria.

This year at PAC Days, we asked our MPs to:

  • Increase the Home Buyers’ Tax Credit (HBTC) from $750 to $2,500 per qualifying home for first-time home buyers such as millennials to help them with their closing costs. The HBTC is an existing program that helps compensate for some of the costs associated with a home purchase.
  • Coordinate housing-related policies between the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI), Finance Canada, the Bank of Canada and Statistics Canada and encourage all levels of government to engage in dialogue to gain a clear understanding of the impact any new measures have on homeowners and home buyers.

At GL Days in Victoria, we asked MLAs to:

  • Work with BCREA and Realtors to improve the public’s confidence in the transparency of real estate transactions. In particular:
    • work with us to determine where the vulnerabilities lie in real estate transactions as the provincial government contemplates more requirements for Realtors and other professionals
    • educate the public on the true volume of money laundering in real estate – even under the improbable assumption that all the proceeds identified in Peter German’s report on money laundering released in June 2018 were used to purchase Metro Vancouver real estate, this represents 0.03 per cent of overall residential sales volume
    • reach out to us to serve as a resource when preparing other major changes
  • Improve tax fairness for homebuyers now and in the future:
    • expand the exemption for the additional 20 per cent foreign buyers’ Property Transfer Tax (PTT) to include everyone with a work permit in BC
    • maintain the current geographical scope and rate of the additional foreign buyers PTT
    • exempt homeowners who pay income tax in Canada from the Speculation tax, regardless of how many homes they own
    • exempt homeowners already subject to the City of Vancouver’s Empty Homes tax from the Speculation tax
    • exempt development properties from the Speculation tax and the additional School tax
    • index the PTT thresholds to an objective housing inflation measure and making adjustments annually
    • increase the First-Time Buyers’ program PTT exemption threshold to $750,000 from $525,000
  • Help small communities and commercial real estate:
    • clarify existing limited dual agency ban exemptions
    • create a new exemption for commercial transactions
    • require developers to employ licensees
    • include more Realtors on Council

The GR volunteers will be following up with the elected officials who were not available for a meeting during PAC and GL Days in the days to come.

Pictures from GL Days 2018

Video of Government Liaison Days from BCREA

Pictures from PAC Days 2018

Summary of PAC Days from CREA in the CREA Cafe