PAC Days: CREA raises alarms as tougher mortgage rules loom

Representatives from the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) again took their place at CREA’s annual Political Action Committee (PAC) Days. During a three-day conference held in Ottawa from October 15 to 17, attendees participated in meetings with federal Members of Parliament (MP) and were treated to presentations by a wide range of impressive and diverse speakers.

As was clear from last year’s conference, CREA continues to be committed to lobbying for government policies to make home ownership more accessible to Canadians. The Board was well-represented and prepared to deliver CREA’s message with an energetic contingent of its own.

Our team was led by President Gopal Sahota and President-Elect John Barbisan, with reinforcements from Director and Government Relations (GR) Committee Chair Brian Rock, Director and GR volunteer Ray Werger, and GR volunteers Val Berg, June Busch, Joel Schacter and AlNoor Teja. FVREB CEO Rob Philipp and Communications Coordinator Debbie Jay completed the 2017 FVREB PAC team.

FVREB took the opportunity to speak directly with federal MPs, including seven from the Fraser Valley:

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

Together with over 360 REALTORS® from across Canada, representatives from the Fraser Valley Board joined CREA in asking the federal government to:

  • extend the Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) to make it possible for Canadians going through significant life changes (death of a spouse, marital breakdown, job relocation or the decision to accommodate an elderly family member in their home) to withdraw funds from their RRSPs in order to maintain home ownership
  • expand the HBP to allow parents to withdraw some of their RRSP funds to help their children purchase their first home and reimburse the parents in the future
  • not extend the stress test to uninsured mortgages until the market has had time to absorb and adjust to the impact of interest rate increases, and the previously announced tightening measures
  • work with CREA on the government’s proposed tax reforms
  • provide either the requirement or guidance for property disclosure and remediation standards for the cultivation of non-medical cannabis in residences when cannabis use is legalized in July 2018

Overall, the MPs appeared interested in understanding Realtors’ concerns about the proposed stress test on uninsured mortgages and proposed tax reforms. They were also supportive of Realtors’ recommendations on the Home Buyers’ Plan. However, the MPs pointed out that they could also appreciate the federal government’s intentions behind its proposed changes.

CREA’s Vice President of Government and Public Relations Randall McCauley said, “Thanks to the ongoing efforts of Realtors across Canada, CREA has earned unparalleled access to the Canadian government on key issues, such as tax reform.”

When Realtors attending PAC Days were not meeting with MPs, they were tuning into lively speakers tackling topics from money-laundering to Canada-US relations, and from backroom politics to life in the parliamentary trenches of government.

David Gergen, a political analyst who has served as an advisor for US presidents, (from Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton) and whose face is familiar to CNN viewers, spoke about “The US Election: A Look Back and A Look Ahead.” Gergen’s presentation provided two parallel perspectives concerning American security under the current White House administration. On the one hand he said President Trump’s capacity to trigger a cataclysmic nuclear war is real, but so too is the caution and common sense strategy of insiders who would constrain such a colossal act — an observation that was both unsettling and comforting to some in the audience.

Other guest speakers included CTV’s “Power Play” host Don Martin, and the managing editor of CBC’s “Parliamentary Bureau,” Rob Russo.  Among the return guest speakers were lawyer and prominent political consultant Warren Kinsella, political columnist Chantal Hébert of the Toronto Star, political commentator and strategist Kathleen Monk, and Nik Nanos, President and CEO of Nanos Research.

The politicians among the presenters reflected the diverse perspectives of all three national parties. A tri-partisan panel spoke of their second year as members of the 42nd Parliament and its challenges — which the panelists feel are exciting but also exhausting.

Gary Doer, ex-NDP premier of Manitoba and former ambassador to the US, gave a talk entitled, “Beyond the Tweets” which addressed Canada’s relationship with the US and the uncertain future of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Doer assured the audience the Canadian negotiating team on that file is extremely prepared.

Andrew Scheer, recently named head of the Conservative Party of Canada and leader of the Official Opposition, criticised the federal Liberals by saying their policies are not helping middle class Canadians.

Joe Jordan, a former Liberal MP and Parliamentary Secretary who now works as a senior associate at Bluesky Strategy Group, acknowledged that the efforts that CREA and other real estate organizations made in resisting aspects of the Liberal Finance Minister’s tax reforms were effective.

As 2018 approaches, CREA will continue to voice the concerns of Realtors across the country, and the Board’s GR Committee volunteers will be building on their relationships with local MPs.

Their efforts are helped by the REALTOR® Action Network (RAN) –the online interactive platform that connects Realtors and their Boards with CREA’s federal affairs program.  Realtors can sign up to get emails about CREA’s activities and engage with MPs directly when CREA needs support to press Realtor issues.