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MP-Report

Affordable housing option

Community housing offers an affordable option for many Canadians and has been the backbone of Canada’s response to housing challenges for more than 60 years.

That is why Canada’s first National Housing Strategy (NHS) is ensuring that Canada’s community housing stock remains affordable and in good repair well into the future.

Some of these affordable housing units rely on subsidies through operating agreements with the federal government, many of which were set to expire leaving low income tenants vulnerable.

We have three federally administered housing co-ops in Kelowna that provide 58 units for residents.

Now, through the National Housing Strategy, the federal government will invest $500 million over 10 years in the Federal Community Housing Initiative to help preserve the affordability of these units.  

This is in addition to $4.3 billion for a new Canada Community Housing Initiative (to be cost-matched by the provinces and territories) to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing,

Subsidies will continue on a transitional basis in order to maintain affordability of federal units and stabilize operations of community housing providers.

It will also allow time for housing providers to transition to a new Phase II rental support program beginning in April 2020. 

For community and affordable housing in need of repair that is not federally-administered, the National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide low-cost loans and/or financial contributions to support and develop mixed-income, mixed-tenure, mixed-use affordable housing.  

With an emphasis on energy efficient, improved accessibility for people with disabilities, and social inclusiveness, the Fund is prioritizing projects that support partnerships between governments, non-profits, private sector, and others to make federal investment go further.

It also covers a broad range of housing needs, from shelters to affordable homeownership.

Regarding homelessness, our local community entity the Central Okanagan Foundation recently received a substantial commitment from our government to support our communities’ efforts to prevent and reduce homelessness, part of our national goal of reducing chronic homelessness by 50% by 2027–2028. 

As of April 1, 2019, Kelowna-Lake Country is receiving more than $4.8 million over five years to address our local homelessness challenges.

Additionally, our government has also put aside funding through the Veterans Emergency Fund to provide immediate financial help to any veteran who is in crisis. 

The fund will help ensure that veteran homelessness becomes rare and doesn’t reoccur and that all those who served our country have a safe place to call home.

More details on the components of our National Housing Strategy and the Veterans Emergency Fund can be found at www.canada.ca.

Secure, affordable housing is essential but for too long our municipalities have been without the resources they need to adequately plan for and address critical shortages in affordable housing. 

By making key strategic investments in community housing through our ten-year, $40-billion National Housing Strategy, and partnering with the province, our municipalities, and local non-profit and private sectors, we will be better positioned to tackle the affordable housing shortfall and have a direct and positive impact on our community.



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Budget invests in Canadians

In the fall of 2015, unemployment was stubbornly high, wages were stagnant, and consumer confidence was in decline.

Today, the picture is much different. 

  • We have a government that is focused on investing and strengthening the middle class and a Canadian economy that has rebounded: 
  • 825,000 Canadians have been lifted out of poverty
  • 900,000 new jobs have been created resulting in the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years
  • wages are rising while income and small business taxes are lower
  • Canada’s debt to GDP ratio continues to track downward ensuring the long-term fiscal sustainability of Canada’s economy.

Budget 2019 builds on these efforts with a focus on affordability and improving the lives of low and middle-income Canadians. 

Here are just a few of the initiatives that will help people in our community:

Budget 2019 provides a new option to help get people into their first home with the introduction of the First-Time Home Buyer Incentive, and an expanded withdrawal limit under the First Time Home Buyers Plan. 

To place younger Canadians in a better position to save, Budget 2019 lessens the burden of student loans with a reduction in interest payments and an expansion of the Student Work Placement Program so that more students will be able to work in their field while obtaining an education.

For those workers looking to upgrade their training, Budget 2019 creates the Canada Training Benefit which includes a new, non-taxable Canada Training Credit to help with the cost of training fees, and a new EI Training Support Benefit to provide income support when an individual requires time off work.

For seniors living on fixed incomes, Budget 2019 reduces the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) claw back, extending it to self-employment income, and providing an exemption on up to $15,000 of annual employment income.

And to ensure that no senior is forced to make a choice between heating, food or medication, Budget 2019 creates the Canadian Drug Agency as part of the steps we are taking towards a national pharmacare plan.

Budget 2019 also addresses concerns about the security of workplace pensions, making insolvency proceedings fairer, giving courts greater ability to review executive payouts leading up to insolvency.

It also protects Canadians’ hard-earned benefits by clarifying in federal pension law that if a plan is wound-up, it must still provide the same pension benefits as when it was ongoing.

To lower Canadians' energy costs Budget 2019 creates a partnership with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to increase energy efficiency in residential, commercial and multi-use buildings, and introduces a new incentive for buying electric battery or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

For municipalities, Budget 2019 provides a one-time top up to double support through the Gas Tax Fund. From roads, to wastewater, to disaster mitigation to recreational infrastructure, doubling the Gas Tax puts our municipalities in the driver’s seat to fund necessary local projects.

In other sectors, both tourism and agriculture and agri-food are getting a boost through the Canadian Experiences Fund and a Western Canada Growth Strategy.

Full details of the budget can be found at www.budget.gc.ca.

The outlook for global growth has become more uncertain, but Canada’s economy is expected to strengthen as Canada’s trade strength. 

Our plan supports strong business investments with new tax incentives to encourage businesses to accelerate investment in capital.

I am aware that not all constituents are comfortable with our government running deficits, albeit modest. But austerity, as the IMF has warned, runs the risk of stalling the economy by increasing inequality and instability, and undermining growth. 

The time to invest in Canadians is now, when we have the fiscal capacity, in the things that matter most: good jobs, strong communities, a clean environment, and better opportunities for future generations.

And as Minister Morneau said in his budget speech:

“we’re going to make these investments to grow our economy for the long term — while we bring the books back towards balance.”



Canadians have low taxes

Canadians continue to have one of the lowest tax burdens

Some of our very first steps as a government were to lower taxes on middle-income Canadians and to redesign a more generous, tax free Canada Child Benefit (CCB) that is income tested to ensure it is focused on those who need it the most. 

Today, a typical middle-class family of four receives on average of about $2,000 more each year to help with the cost of raising children, saving for the future and contributing to the economy for the benefit of everyone.

It also means that Canadians continue to have one of the lowest tax burdens in the OECD.

An average, two-income household with two children now keeps nearly 85 per cent of their gross income, once the Canada Child Benefit is factored in, the lowest rate among G7 member countries.

For single-parent households with two children, or for families with two children where only one parent is working, the benefits are even more significant with those families keeping more than 98 per cent of what they earn. 

Why then does the opposition continue to repeat the claim that the average middle-class family is paying more in taxes?

As I have pointed out in this column before it is a claim borrowed from a Fraser Institute report that focused on the elimination of certain tax credits but failed to consider benefits like the CCB.

As noted by Rhys Kesselman, Canada Research Chair in Public Finance at Simon Fraser University:

“the combination of three provisions in 2015 inherited from the Conservative government (the Family Tax Cut, the child tax credit, and the Universal Child Care Benefit) were all replaced by the Liberal government in 2016 with the Canada Child Benefit, which distributed $2 billion more to families than the provisions that they replaced.”

Additionally, according to the Fraser Institute itself, it was families making over $150,000 who drew the biggest tax advantage under the previous Conservative Government’s Family Tax Cut, a tax cut that also yielded no benefits for single parents.

Not only does the CCB benefit all types of families, including single parent families, it is of greatest benefit to households with the lowest household income.

The CCB also ensures more financial support is provided to families up front, so they have the means to cover the costs of raising children, including the costs of fitness and arts programs, and saving for their education. 

In our riding, approximately 17,400 children are benefiting from the more generous CCB each month.

As we get closer to the election, dubious claims of higher taxes on average Canadians at the hands of this government will no doubt be repeated. 

But taxes remain low and targeted investments are working: the Canadian economy has been operating near capacity for over a year with the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the G7, job growth has been strong, the unemployment rate is at a 42-year low, and wages are rising.

While reductive political headlines and binary choices might force us to choose sides, they do not reflect the reality that more Canadians are better off now than they were only a few short years ago.



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Send veterans a valentine

Canada Summer Jobs Deadline and Recognition for Veterans

Employers considering using the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) have until Jan. 25 to apply.

Following feedback from stakeholders last year, the government has also made the process easier.

Everything can be submitted online through the Government Grants and Contributions Online Service where employers can complete the application at their leisure and track its status once it has been submitted.

The government has also expanded eligibility to:

  • include all youth between the ages of 15-30 who are legally entitled to work in Canada – not just students
  • updated the eligibility criteria to set out more clearly what is and isn’t eligible for funding;
  • ensured better job matching by posting all positions on jobbank.gc.ca and the app to help match young people with employers.

CSJ funding is available for not-for-profit organizations and public and private sector employers with 50 or fewer employees. 

Non-profit organizations can receive up to 100 per cent of the provincial/territorial minimum hourly wage, as well as employment-related costs, while public-sector employers and small businesses can receive up to
50 per cent of the provincial/territorial minimum hourly wage.

In the last three years, with additional funding, our government has worked with local employers to double the number of CSJ jobs available in Kelowna-Lake Country.  

As many of you have expressed, it is a mutually beneficial experience, and I hope you will once again choose to participate to help our young people gain the skills and the confidence needed to find meaningful employment in today’s labour force.

More information on CSJ can be found at Canada.ca/Canada-summer-jobs, or by calling 1-800-935-5555.

Veterans

As we welcome our new minister of Veterans Affairs, Jody Wilson-Raybould, our government’s work to support Veterans continues.

Responding to a call for action by Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and the Veterans Ombudsman, our government has introduced the Veteran’s Service Card, which will be distributed to former and releasing Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members who completed basic training and have been honorably released.

The new Veteran’s Service Card provides a tangible symbol of recognition for former members, encouraging an enduring affiliation with the CAF and ensuring linkages to VAC support programs as members transition to post-service life.

The new Veteran’s Service Card will be distributed in stages depending on when veterans were released from the Canadian Armed Forces.

More information can be found at canada.ca/veterans-service-card

Once again, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is inviting Canadian schools, individuals and organizations to show their appreciation for Canadian Veterans by making valentines for Vets.

This program began in 1989 when columnist Ann Landers encouraged her readers to send valentines to veterans.

Since 1996, VAC has distributed the hand-made valentines to veterans in long-term care facilities across the country in recognition of the enduring service our veterans have provided to our country. 

More information on ways to participate in this program can be found at veterans.gc.ca.



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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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