REALTORS® entreat feds to broaden opportunities for Canadian homebuyers

10 FVREB representatives, including President Charles Wiebe joined about 350 REALTORS® from across Canada at CREA’s 2016 Political Action Committee (PAC) Days conference and Quality of Life Symposium from October 16 to 18.

The Ottawa conference that is traditionally held in the spring debuted as a fall event this year to align more closely with the government’s pre-budget season, when policymakers are putting ink to paper.

PAC Days had an impressive line-up of influential speakers, including American author and famed Washington Post reporter, Bob Woodward; lawyer and prominent Canadian political consultant Warren Kinsella; political journalists Chantal Hébert of the Toronto Star and Kady O’Malley of the Ottawa Citizen; Nik Nanos, President and CEO of Nanos Research; and the high-powered political commentator and strategist Kathleen Monk.

Also on the menu were knowledge experts addressing everything from insider politics on Parliament Hill to social media, housing strategies, energy efficiency to the national economy.

FVREB President Charles Wiebe was invited to speak on a panel during the Quality of Life Symposium with representatives from BCREA and the Ontario Real Estate Association to discuss land transfer taxes and their impact on housing markets. Charles shared his frustration with the new 15 per cent Metro Vancouver foreign buyers’ tax on behalf of our Board.

“We didn’t take issue with the provincial government on whether there should be a tax on foreign buyers,” noted Wiebe in his comments to the audience of Canadian Realtors. “But we did have a problem with the fact that the tax applied to contracts that had already been signed.”

CREA has been vocalizing their concerns regarding Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s recent introduction of new mortgage rules requiring larger down payments. These rules actually came into effect during the conference. Political leaders are aware of the public’s concern about housing markets in Vancouver and Toronto where the ratio of home prices to income is higher than ever and real estate prices have peaked to historic levels. The move to tighten mortgage rules was intended to dampen Canadians’ rising household debt.

CREA’s position is that potentially shutting out sectors of the Canadian population from home ownership with tighter mortgage rules will have a negative impact on the general economy. CREA says every home sale in 2016 is expected to generate over $52,000 in spin-off spending that translates into jobs.

CREA representatives were again asking the federal government to update the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to ensure that it continues to help Canadians looking to buy a home.  The HBP allows first time and other eligible home buyers to borrow up to $25,000 from their RRSP savings for a down payment on the purchase of a home.

CREA asked the federal government to index the withdrawal from RRSP to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to match inflation, so that the HBP will hold the value for homebuyers in the future. In the short term, it was suggested that the HBP be adjusted by $2,500 in 2017 at an estimated cost of $7.5 million.

To keep pace with inflation, a subsequent $2,500 adjustment in 2021 at an estimated cost of $7.5 million to the federal government was recommended.

In order to make the HBP available to more people, CREA advocated that changes be made to allow Canadians to maintain home ownership after life altering events such as job relocation, the death of a spouse, a decision to accommodate an elderly family member or a marital breakdown.

“The highlight of the conference for me as a first-timer was being able to discuss issues with our MP’s with a unified voice,” says Rene Sandhu, of the FVREB Government Relations Committee,“ and also meeting and discussing the state of our industry, and the issues and concerns with other government relations volunteers from across Canada.”

A former MP and cabinet minister advised conference goers that Parliamentarians do share camaraderie and will support each other across party lines if they believe a policy has sufficient merit and voter support. He also said it is important to understand the government’s position on issues that Realtors may not agree with, reminding Realtors that the priorities of the real estate industry are not necessarily the same as that of an MP who has many other issues to address and people to see on a daily basis.

The Fraser Valley representatives attending this year’s PAC Days and Quality of Life Symposium were: Charles Wiebe, President; Gopal Sahota, President-Elect; John Barbisan, Vice President and Government Relation (GR) committee volunteers Narotam Verma, Darcy Reddicopp, Joel Schacter, June Busch and Rene Sandhu. Board staff included Rob Philipp, CEO and Debbie Jay, Communications Coordinator.

190 MP meetings were scheduled over the three days, giving the participants the opportunity to talk directly with federal MPs. Our group from the Fraser Valley met with eight out of nine local MPs and/or their staff. Meetings were held with:

  • Ed Fast (MP, Abbotsford)
  • John Aldag (MP, Cloverdale-Langley City)
  • Dianne Watts’ (MP, South Surrey-White Rock) staff
  • Ken Hardie (MP, Fleetwood-Port Kells)
  • Mark Warawa (MP, Langley-Aldergrove)
  • Jati Sidhu (MP, Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon)
  • Sukh Dhaliwal (MP, Surrey Newton)
  • Randeep Sarai, (MP, Surrey Centre)

Tweet from Randeep Sarai, MP, Surrey Centre:


Left to Right: June Busch, FVREB GR Committee Member; Randeep Sarai, MP Surrey Centre; John Barbisan, FVREB Vice President and Debbie Jay, FVREB Communications Coordinator

Back in the Fraser Valley, the GR volunteers will be following up with federal Minister Carla Qualtrough (MP, Delta and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities) who was not available for a meeting during this year’s conference in Ottawa. They will also continue to meet with elected officials and staff at all three levels of government on behalf of members.

Tip: Join CREA’s REALTOR® Action Network if you’d like to receive the latest information on federal affairs and be invited to participate in Call to Action campaigns involving our MPs. Log in using your REALTOR Link® user name and password.