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MP-Report

A place to call home

During the past year, the federal government has worked closely with the provinces and territories and engaged broadly with Canadians, municipalities, Indigenous organizations, community organizations and the private sector on the development of a National Housing Strategy.

On Nov. 22, the new National Housing Strategy was unveiled.

Funded through new and existing programs, the Strategy ensures many more Canadians will have access to adequate and affordable housing by reducing the financial stress of rising accommodation rates, helping communities renovate their housing stock, and providing more stable housing to persons who are homeless. 

Priority will be given to the most vulnerable Canadians including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.  

Housing needs vary greatly by community. In Kelowna-Lake Country, affordable housing is challenged by a rising population, high rental rates and home prices, and a lack of affordable housing options.

The strategy will help our community in a number of ways: the proposed federal/provincial Canada Housing Benefit will provide affordability support directly to families and individuals including those:

  • living in social housing
  • on a social housing wait-list
  • housed in the private market, but struggling to make ends meet.

Additionally, through partnerships with the province, our municipalities, our non-profits, co-operatives and the private-sector, the new National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide contributions and low interest loans to repair existing rental housing and build new affordable housing.

The fund is also expected to create more shelter spaces for survivors of violence; transitional and supportive housing for those in need, and will help to make homeownership more affordable for modest income earners.

In the meantime, current housing needs are being addressed through a number of funding arrangements including the Canada BC Affordable Housing Agreement ,and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which currently provides $2.7 million over five years to support local homelessness initiatives in Kelowna-Lake Country.

Additionally, in Budget 2016, the government committed $2.2 billion to give more Canadians access to more affordable housing.

Budget 2016 also provided funding for low-cost loans and new financing tools to encourage municipalities, housing developers and non-profit housing providers to develop more affordable rental housing units.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has characterized the new National Housing Strategy as a breakthrough for cities and communities, saying that it demonstrates the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than 20 years.

Municipalities appreciate long-term support as it helps them plan their own long-term solutions and I’m looking forward to working with Mayors Colin Basran and James Baker, and the community, to identify our greatest need and ensure Kelowna-Lake Country benefits as much as it can from available funding.

Our government recognizes it has a responsibility to Canadians to work with all levels of government to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing, build a more modern and sustainable community housing system, and keep housing affordable for low-income households.

1.7 million Canadians are in some form of housing need and the National Housing Strategy will go a long way to addressing one of the most fundamental needs and basic rights of our citizens – a place to call home. 



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Good news update

Fall economic statement bears good news

The government has released its fall economic statement and the news is positive:

  • Canadian economic growth has accelerated sharply, growth is becoming more balanced across sectors and regions, our net debt to GDP continues to decline and because of growing consumer confidence, local economies are thriving. 

Here at home recent statistics from the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission indicate that household income has risen, labour force participation and housing starts are up, unemployment is low, more business licenses have been approved, and record breaking numbers in passenger traffic at Kelowna International continue to bring visitors to the Okanagan.

Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s latest financial report confirms that “current fiscal policy in Canada is sustainable over the long term” and relative to the size of the economy, “total government net debt is projected to remain below its current level over the long term.” 

As the economic statement noted, household consumption has been the main contributor to economic growth over the past year underpinned by solid employment gains, low interest rates, improving consumer confidence and, since July 2016, the support of the Canada Child Benefit to families.

In fact, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz credited the Liberal government's Canada Child Benefit program as a reason for the country's strengthening economy, calling it "highly stimulative."

In the past few months, I’ve been frank in my criticism about the way the government explained its objectives during the recent consultation on tax proposals. 

But as the minister noted in his economic statement to the House, feedback from those who attended our townhall in Kelowna and other entrepreneurs, professionals, and hardworking small business people drove him to get things right.

Our government has responded with a set of modified tax proposals that will ensure small business owners are respected. 

The government is fulfilling its commitment to lower the tax on small business, from 11 per cent in 2015 to nine per cent by 2019.

In addition, the government has also announced that it will not be moving forward with proposals to limit the multiplication of the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption, which was of concern to many of our farmers and families who were planning on handing down their business to the next generation.

Finally, the government has made amendments to its consideration of passive investment to provide business owners the flexibility afforded from savings accumulated in the corporation.

It is also ensuring these measures are provided in a manner that does not encourage wealthy individuals to have unlimited tax assisted savings over and above the RRSP and TFSA limits available to everyone else.

The modified proposals also ensure incentives are maintained for venture capital and angel investors.

Canada’s economy is growing faster than it has in more than a decade. By investing in Canadians, the economy is thriving and Canada continues to have the best fiscal position among G7 countries.

This includes cutting taxes for nine million middle class Canadians, introducing a new Canada Child Benefit, and strengthening the Canada Pension Plan so that future generations of workers can retire with dignity.

You have my assurance that I will continue to advocate strongly for our community and I thank all of you who have taken the time to contact me to help bring our community’s concerns to the attention of our government.



Benefits of fair taxation

Letter to the constituents of Kelowna-Lake Country

A Fraser Institute study suggested 81 per cent of middle-income families in Canada are paying more in taxes now than they were before the last election.

Those who have read the Sept. 26 report will, however, note an essential absence in the calculations — the impact of transfer payments from the federal government to those same families, most notably through benefits like the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which has a positive effect on a family’s bottom line. 

As noted by Rhys Kesselman, Canada Research Chair in Public Finance at Simon Fraser University, in an interview with Global News: 

“A dollar in your pocket from benefit improvements is worth as much as a dollar lost in taxes. And in key areas, the benefit increases exceed the additional taxes for middle-income families.”

Federal transfers such as the CCB, old age security, employment insurance, Veterans’ allowances, and student grants have long been the way Canadian governments — both Liberal and Conservative —successfully narrowed the income inequality gap and supported families in middle and lower income tax brackets.

The tax-free CCB, for instance, has provided significant financial support to lower and middle income families, without discriminating between single-parent or dual-parent families as income splitting for families did.

In Kelowna-Lake Country, the CCB has provided $5.4 million in payments to more than 10,000 local families, supporting 17,750 children.                                                                                                                                           

Such benefits are in addition to the government lowering the middle income tax rate and continuing to provide tax credits which include the GST tax credit and the working income tax benefit.  

Failing to calculate lower tax rates, benefits, and tax credits into the equation may play well into a tax and spend narrative, but it does not accurately reflect the tax reductions afforded Canadians through the tax system.  

As our new Governor General, Julie Payette, noted in her first speech to Parliament on Oct. 2:

"with our brains and our smarts, and our altruistic capability, we can indeed do a lot of good. And it’s our duty to some extent to help improve the lives of people in our community; to diminish the gap in the inequities here and elsewhere."

Our government has made it a priority to ensure the tax system does not unfairly advantage wealthy Canadians over middle and lower income families. 

A fair tax system not only diminishes the income inequality gap, it supports much needed new investment in affordable housing, post-secondary education, healthcare and an improved CPP. 

By supporting programs that benefit the majority of Canadians, we reinforce the values of equality and opportunity, and can continue to build the compassionate and peaceful society which we have all worked hard to achieve. 

It is a mandate that the vast number of Canadians voted for in the last election.

With regard to the business tax proposals that are on many of your minds, I can assure you our community has been heard on this issue.

This has been clearly demonstrated by the significant shift in tone by the government and you have my assurance that I will continue to work with my colleagues to advocate for legislation that supports small business entrepreneurs.



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Border bill a good one

More to gain than lose with C-23

An effective border is one that supports the efficient movement of goods and people.

In 2015, Canada exported over $400 billion worth of goods and $50 billion in services to the United States, while tourism activities accounted directly for $35.5 billion of Canada’s GDP and over 600,000 jobs.

Every day, over 400,000 travellers cross the Canada-U.S. border.

With that in mind, in 2015, Canadian and American governments agreed to provide for the preclearance in each country of travelers and goods bound for the other country. In Canada, the agreement will be enacted through Bill C-23, which was introduced in the House of Commons last June and is now being debated in Parliament.

Prior to establishing preclearance crossings, Canadian travellers had only one option: to be processed at ports of entry by U.S. security, in the United States, under U.S. law.

Today, with preclearance, Canadians are cleared by U.S. border security, in Canada, under Canadian law, which includes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Both Liberal and Conservative parties have indicated they will support the legislation while the NDP and the Green Party have indicated they will not, citing concerns that C-23 gives U.S. border security more powers.

C-23 however makes clear the limits on those powers. For instance, U.S. preclearance officers in Canada will not have the power to arrest or charge travellers, nor do they have primary jurisdiction to conduct searches.

In the rare instance where American officers may proceed to conduct a search, they are subject to the same legal, human rights and constitutional safeguards as would apply to Canadian officers.

C-23 also recognizes the right of Canadians to withdraw from preclearance. To avoid illicit "probing" of preclearance sites by those who are trying to detect weak points or deficiencies, American officials will be legally entitled to question travellers to establish identification and the reason for their withdrawal.

Finally, as the agreement is reciprocal, the same provisions are being made to allow Canadian preclearance officers to conduct preclearance in the same manner in the US.

With the advantages of preclearance, Canadian travellers heading to the U.S. have more to gain than lose. In my view, C-23 strikes the appropriate balance between security concerns and individual rights while offering Canadians a way to clear U.S. customs in their own country under the protection of Canadian law.

By moving travellers through customs in a safe and efficient manner, and by maintaining each country’s sovereign authority to regulate access by setting and enforcing our own rules, Canada and the United

States will continue to benefit from sharing the longest, most open and successful international boundary in history.

I invite my constituents to view Bill C-23 at www.parl.gc.ca and to follow the debate in the House of Commons. If you continue to have concerns, I encourage you to write to me. Constituents can reach me by contacting our constituency office at [email protected] or by calling 250 470-5075.



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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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