Government Relations volunteers Zoom on!

Top left (clockwise from left): BCREA Government Liaison Days presenters Darlene Hyde (CEO), Trevor Hargreaves (VP, GR/Stakeholder Engagement), Norma Miller (Senior Policy Analyst), and Mark Sakai (Policy Analyst). Top right (clockwise from left): Volunteers Joel Schacter, Manny Deol, and Gurtej Gill; MLAs Pam Alexis and Bob D’Eith; volunteer Herman Sandhu; and Minister of Labour Harry Bains. Bottom (clockwise from left): MLA Mike Starchuk; volunteer Sid Sidhu; MLA Rachna Singh; and volunteers Jeff Chadha, Candy Ashdown, and Narinder Bains.

After more than a year of meetings and events conducted through a small screen, including the sponsorship of 10 virtual meetings for last year’s Provincial Election, the Board’s Government Relations (GR) committee is eagerly awaiting the day when in-person activities can resume. Until then, they’re Zooming along with enthusiasm and passion, starting with advocacy work virtually during BCREA’s yearly Government Liaison Days conference in May.

Chris Savage, the new Chair of the GR committee and a six-year veteran volunteer, set the tone for his new team in a statement underscoring the importance of government relations, especially during a global pandemic. In part, his statement reads:

We, as REALTORS®, don’t always consider why we should think about government relations. To put it simply, the government is a significant player in our industry, and whether we realize it or not, it is important to take note. Governments invest in communities, and industries; they create policies that help businesses, homeowners, and support workers – but they are not perfect. So, they require industries to let them know what is needed, and what is not. That is the reason why we engage in government relations…

One of the most immediate challenges to all levels of government at this time is economic recovery. When engaging with the government we need to be aware, and mindful of the government’s agenda, motivations, and constraints – and make sure to acknowledge these aspects at every opportunity.

At the same time, we still have many important and pressing issues to attend to as part of this year’s regular GR committee agenda. I am looking forward to working on finding solutions with all the committee members, and our counterparts at BCREA, CREA, and other real estate boards.

Chris understands that GR is a marathon, not a sprint. Year after year, members put the GR committee as their top – if not their only – choice, when it comes to volunteering at the Board. The Board’s officers strive to appoint the right balance of members to the GR committee, some new, some experienced, and many who know the seven FVREB communities well.

This year’s GR committee includes Chris Savage (Chair), Candy Ashdown, Narinder Bains, Jeff Chadha, Shen Po Chen, Manny Deol, Jesse Gill, Gurtej Gill, Sharon Greysen, Tore Jacobsen, Colleen O’Keefe, Herman Sandhu, Joel Schacter, Sid Sidhu, and Charles Wiebe.

Throughout their term, the volunteers are called upon to build relationships with the three levels of government, chambers of commerce, and the Surrey Board of Trade. They also attend committee meetings. This is a busy committee, and the volunteers usually need to dive right in as soon as they are appointed, starting with BCREA’s yearly advocacy conference.

On May 4 and 5, the Fraser Valley Realtors joined over 80 Realtors across the province in live Zoom sessions organized by BCREA as part of the Government Liaison Days conference. In a “normal” year, they would be in Victoria to hear from representatives of BCREA, political experts, the provincial government, media, and others as they talk politics. Armed with detailed background information and tips and tricks for a successful meeting, the volunteers go to work in teams to meet with local MLAs in the legislature.

Given the continuing impact of COVID-19, our volunteers met with 14 of our 16 local MLAs in the month of May via Zoom. They met with:

  • Pam Alexis (MLA, Abbotsford-Mission)
  • Harry Bains (Minister of Labour & MLA, Surrey-Newton)
  • Bruce Banman (MLA, Abbotsford-South)
  • Jagrup Brar (MLA, Surrey-Fleetwood)
  • Stephanie Cadieux (MLA, Surrey-South)
  • Bob D’Eith (MLA, Maple Ridge-Mission)
  • Mike de Jong (MLA, Abbotsford-West)
  • Megan Dykeman (MLA, Langley-East)
  • Trevor Halford (MLA, Surrey-White Rock)
  • Andrew Mercier (MLA, Langley)
  • Bruce Ralston (Minister of Energy, Mines & Low Carbon Innovation & MLA, Surrey-Whalley)
  • Jinny Sims (MLA, Surrey-Panorama)
  • Rachna Singh (MLA, Surrey-Green Timbers)
  • Mike Starchuk (MLA, Surrey-Cloverdale)

BCREA asked volunteers to engage with the MLAs on Energy Efficiency and Homes and Improving Housing Supply. FVREB’s messages to the provincial government included:

Energy Efficiency and Homes:

  • Consult with real estate sector stakeholders and homeowners before requiring energy assessments on existing homes.
  • Ensure that an energy assessment tool is available to owners of all existing homes.
  • Coordinate an energy assessment tool with existing programs.

Improving Housing Supply:

  • Empower Official Community Plans (OCPs) to reduce unnecessary public hearings.
  • Leverage transportation funding and OCPs to encourage local governments to increase gentle densification.

Read more on the recommendations here.

These messages were driven in part by Premier John Horgan’s 2020 mandate letter to the Ministry of Finance requiring Realtors “to provide energy efficiency information on listed homes to incent energy-saving upgrades and let purchasers know what energy bills they will face.” The ministry is in the early stages of determining what this means, and it is unclear how this will affect Realtors. BCREA felt it would be timely to share the profession’s concerns before the government developed a policy or passed legislation on the issue.

The second topic on Improving Housing Supply reinforces to government that the key to improving housing affordability is not introducing or increasing taxes; rather it’s by increasing housing supply, as referenced in the government’s own Development Approval Process Review (DAPR) report. The DAPR report provides a roadmap to the government to address challenges and identify opportunities to improve local government development approval processes.

Responses to our outreach have ranged from positive to neutral. The housing supply issue resonated most with our MLAs, who agreed that there are opportunities to reduce red tape and streamline development approval processes. A few of them felt the responsibility to do so resides with the municipalities themselves.

In the coming months, the Board’s GR committee will follow up with all the local MLAs to continue the dialogue and build on relationships with the municipal and federal governments. CREA is also planning to hold their annual Political Action Committee Days conference in October – here’s hoping some of the upcoming meetings and events will be in person!

Source: FVREB Communications