Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau today promised a suite of new measures to help Canadians buy a home at a time when a red-hot housing market has made owning property seem like a distant dream for many young people.
Speaking to reporters in Hamilton, Trudeau said the real estate market is afflicted by “instability” and “uncertainty” and a COVID-fuelled spike has led to soaring prices, bidding wars, rampant speculation and too many vacant properties. He said the situation demands government intervention to help more people acquire their own homes.
The aggressive plan — billions of dollars in new funding, measures to curb the practice of “flipping” homes, efforts to block foreign nationals from buying homes for two years and new regulatory measures to police exploitative real estate agents — comes at a time when Canadians are telling pollsters that housing is one of the issues they care about most.
The three-point program includes commitments to “unlock home ownership” through new government funding, a plan to build more homes to address supply constraints and measures to establish and protect new rights for buyers.
“If you work hard, if you save, that dream of having your own place should be in reach. But for too many people, it just isn’t — and that’s not right,” Trudeau said.
“You shouldn’t have to move far away from your job or school or family to afford your rent. You shouldn’t lose a bidding war on your home to speculators. It’s time for things to change.”
A promise to double tax credit
If the Liberals are re-elected on Sept. 20, Trudeau said, he would introduce a first home savings account which would allow Canadians up to age 40 to save $40,000 toward their first home and withdraw it tax-free when it comes time to buy. Money added to the account would go in tax-free and could be withdrawn without any taxes owing on possible investment gains.
He said a Liberal government would double the first-time home buyers tax credit from $5,000 to $10,000 — an incentive that would help with the many closing costs that come with buying property.
To reduce mortgage costs, a Trudeau-led government would force the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to slash mortgage insurance rates by 25 per cent — a $6,100 savings for the average person. The Liberals are also proposing a sort of “rent-to-own” program, with $1 billion in new funding to “create a pathway for renters in five years or less.”
To help with the supply side of the equation, Trudeau promised to “build, preserve or repair 1.4 million homes in the next four years” by giving cities “new tools to speed up housing construction.” A re-elected Liberal government, he said, would create a $4 billion pool of cash that cities could tap if they help to create “middle-class homes.” The party believes this program — which would crack down on speculators owning vacant land — would make tens of thousands of new homes available in four years.
The party is also promising $2.7 billion over four years to build or repair more affordable homes, money to convert empty office space into housing, a “multigenerational home renovation tax credit” to offset the costs of adding a secondary unit to a home, and more money for Indigenous housing to help First Nations, Métis and Inuit people who live in substandard conditions.
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‘Total price transparency’
Trudeau also promised to rein in abusive real estate practices that have made buying a home an unpleasant experience for many in recent years.
A new federal Home Buyers’ Bill of Rights would ban “blind bidding” — home buyers vying for the same property without knowing how much others are offering. It would establish a legal right to a home inspection, ensure “total price transparency” — so that a would-be buyer knows the history of recent house sale prices — require more disclosure from real estate agents who represent both the buyer and the seller, and demand that banks offer mortgage deferrals for six months to someone who’s lost their job.
Much of what the Liberals propose in this bill of rights falls outside of the traditional limits of federal responsibility. According to the constitutional division of powers, property and civil rights and “all matters of a merely local or private nature” are considered provincial jurisdiction.
A Liberal campaign official, speaking on background, said some of the proposed measures, such as the prohibition on blind bidding, could be enforced through new penalties under the Criminal Code.
The Liberals could also use the federal government’s taxation powers and its authority over underwriting mortgages to push through changes. Some of the other promises would require negotiation.
“The Criminal Code is a vehicle through which the federal government could act on those things,” the official said. “But we have our eyes open to the fact that there will have to be some convening with the provinces, work with the provinces but there’s a lot of space for federal leadership.”
Matching a promise made by the Conservatives, a Liberal government would also ban new foreign ownership of Canadian homes for the next two years — a measure meant to put the brakes on rampant housing speculation driven by offshore money.
In addition to the ban, Trudeau said he would expand the upcoming tax on vacant housing owned by non-resident and non-Canadians to include foreign-owned vacant land in large urban areas.
The Liberals also would impose an “anti-flipping tax” on residential properties, which would require that properties either be held for at least 12 months or face burdensome taxes.
Asked today if the new measures amount to an admission that the existing national housing strategy has not delivered as promised, Trudeau said that while the government’s 2017 plan helped to expand the pool of affordable housing for thousands of people and cut down on chronic homelessness, it’s obvious more needs to be done.
WATCH | Trudeau promises help for home buyers:
“Let’s remember, in 2017, as we launched that national housing strategy, we were starting from a standing start because for the previous ten years a Conservative government decided the federal government had no role to play in housing. That’s wrong,” Trudeau said. “But absolutely, there is more to do — much more to do.”
Trudeau took a swipe at Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s housing plan, which commits to building one million new homes over three years while easing mortgage requirements and making more federal land available for development.
Trudeau said the Conservatives will “do what they always do, give the biggest breaks to the wealthiest few” — a reference to O’Toole’s platform commitment to create incentives for Canadians who invest in rental housing by making tweaks to the capital gains tax regime.
The Conservatives maintain the housing “crisis” is driven by a shortage of supply and say programs that encourage people and companies to build more rental units will help alleviate the problem.
“Erin O’Toole would give your landlord a tax break on selling the building and do nothing for you. At the end of the day, this is about you,” Trudeau said.
“We can’t afford Erin O’Toole approach on housing, just like we can’t afford his plan to rip up our commitment on $10-a-day child care or on vaccinations.”
Conservatives, NDP say Liberal housing policy has failed
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, O’Toole said he won’t take lessons from Trudeau on housing.
“Mr. Trudeau’s had six years and he’s failed. The housing crisis has exploded in the last three, four years under his leadership,” O’Toole said. “After six years of inaction, more hollow words today is not what Canadians deserve. They deserve a plan.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was equally critical, saying the situation has only gotten worse in the last six years under Trudeau.
“Housing has become more expensive. Renting has become more expensive. We can’t handle another four years of this,” Singh said at a campaign stop in Mississauga, Ont., where he announced a plan to nationalize Revera, the country’s largest for-profit long-term care home operator.
The NDP’s housing platform is focused on renters. The party maintains that the Liberals have “neglected” Canadians who don’t own a home and existing programs are “too small to make a real difference for most Canadians.”
An NDP government would streamline funding applications for co-ops, social and non-profit housing while waiving the federal portion of the GST/HST on the construction of new affordable rental units in order to boost supply. Singh has said a government led by him would free up federal lands for these sort of projects, turning unused and under-used properties into “vibrant new communities.”
For homebuyers, the NDP would reintroduce 30-year terms for insured mortgages on entry-level homes. Like the Liberals, the NDP also would double the home buyers’ tax credit to give people about $1,500 to help with closing costs. They also promise to slap a 20 per cent foreign buyers’ tax on homes sold to people who aren’t Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
Citi hires Milovanovic from Goldman to head Americas financials M&A group
Citigroup Inc is hiring Steve Milovanovic to head its investment banking unit which focuses on mergers and acquisitions by financial institutions in the Americas, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Milovanovic will join from Goldman Sachs Group, where he was co-head of M&A for the financial institution’s group (FIG) in the Americas, said the memo, the contents of which were confirmed by a Citigroup spokesperson.
“Steve’s experience, judgment and client relationships will further strengthen Citi’s strategic advisory capabilities,” the memo said, noting that Milovanovic will be based in New York.
Milovanovic, who has also worked at Credit Suisse Group in his banking career, has more than 20 years of dealmaking experience, with a focus on financial services.
(Reporting by Chibuike Oguh in New York; Writing by David French; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
GM extends EV Bolt production halt to mid-October
WASHINGTON (Reuters) –General Motors Co said on Thursday it will extend a shutdown of a Michigan assembly plant to mid-October following a new recall of its Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles over battery issues after 12 reported fires.
The largest U.S. automaker said the extension of the production halt at its Orion Assembly plant will go through at least Oct. 15. GM also said it was cutting production at six other North American assembly plants because of the ongoing semiconductor chips shortage.
GM said it will not resume Bolt production or sales until it is satisfied that the recall remedy will address the fire risk issue. It said Thursday it had reports of 12 fires and three injuries.
GM shares were largely unchanged in late trading.
GM in August widened its recall of the Bolt to more than 140,000 vehicles to replace battery modules, at a cost now estimated at $1.8 billion. The automaker said it would seek reimbursement from battery supplier LG.
It is not clear how long it will take GM to obtain replacement battery modules for recalled vehicles and whether it will have diagnostic software that will allow it to certify some modules do not need replacing.
GM said the additional three-week production halt at its Bolt plant comes as it continues “to work with our supplier to update manufacturing processes.”
Earlier this month GM was forced to halt production at most North American assembly plants temporarily because of the chips shortage.
The new production cuts include a Lansing, Michigan, plant that builds the Chevrolet Traverse and the Buick Enclave.
GM is also cutting production of SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox, Blazer and GMC Terrain at plants in Mexico and Canada. It will also make further production cuts at Michigan and Kansas plants that make Chevrolet Camaro and Malibu cars.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday it plans a Sept. 23 White House meeting with automakers and others “to discuss the ongoing global chip shortage, the impact the Delta variant has had on global semiconductor supply chains and the industry’s progress toward improving transparency.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)
Controversial question in English debate may have galvanized Bloc voters – CBC.ca
At a bowling alley in Montreal’s east end on a weekday afternoon, Réal Desrochers is playing in his weekly league and also considering his choices in next week’s federal election.
Desrochers had been planning to vote Liberal, but a key moment in last Thursday’s English-language leaders’ debate galvanized identity sentiments in Quebec and spurred him to change his mind and choose the Bloc Québécois led by Yves-François Blanchet.
“For me, it’s because the Bloc will balance the situation in Ottawa,” Desrochers said. “I know he won’t form a government, but he will defend Quebec [in Parliament].”
Desrochers called the moment “a direct attack on Quebec, and I don’t like it.”
Last Thursday, at the beginning of the English leaders’ debate, moderator Shachi Kurl asked Blanchet why he supported bills 21 and 96 — respectively, Quebec’s secularism law and its proposed new law to protect the French language.
“You denied that Quebec has problems with racism yet you defend legislation such as bills 96 and 21, which marginalize religious minorities, anglophones and allophones,” asked Kurl.
“Quebec is recognized as a distinct society, but for those outside the province, please help them understand why your party also supports these discriminatory laws.”
Blanchet shot back, saying, “The question seems to imply the answer you want.”
“Those laws are not about discrimination. They are about the values of Quebec,” he said.
WATCH | Quebec premier criticizes debate question on secularism law:
The exchange had the effect of reviving an old wound, leaving Quebecers feeling disrespected and misunderstood by the rest of Canada, according to several experts interviewed by CBC.
It created a situation in which a debate that is typically almost ignored in Quebec may have changed the game for the federal election on the ground.
A bounce for the Bloc
The Bloc Québécois has risen from its slump in the polls back to a level of popularity similar to what it enjoyed during the 2019 election, in which it experienced a dramatic comeback, winning 32 seats after being reduced to 10 in the previous election.
According to a Léger poll published earlier this week, the party went from 27 per cent to 30 per cent of voter support in the province after the English debate.
“It ignited Quebec’s identity sentiments,” said Guy Lachapelle, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal.
“Quebecers are sick of Quebec-bashing in general.… I think there is a misunderstanding of the major issues and debates in Quebec.”
WATCH | Quebec columnists explain why the English debate angered some Quebecers:
Lachapelle doubts the increase in Bloc support will make a huge difference in which party ends up forming a government, though it minimizes the Liberals’ and Conservatives’ already slim chances of forming a majority and reduces the NDP’s chances of making gains in the province to almost nil.
For Christian Bourque, executive vice-president at Léger, though, that small bounce — accompanied by the Liberals surpassing the Conservatives in the polls this week despite an endorsement of Erin O’Toole by Premier François Legault — could lead to surprises Monday night.
“We’re all in these sort of dominoes because the race is so tight,” Bourque said.
There are about 15 three-way races between the Bloc, Liberals and Conservatives, he said.
“Since 2011, Quebec is, around Canada, probably the region where we have the most strategic voters, who will change alliance depending on how they feel the race is going,” Bourque said.
Lise Thériault says she has voted for the NDP since the so-called orange wave in 2011, but this time, she went to an advance poll to vote for the Bloc the day after the English debate.
“Telling me, at 70 years old, that I’m a racist because I want to be proud of my French language? Non, ça marche pas ça. It doesn’t work,” Thériault said, switching easily between English and French.
“I was insulted, and Monsieur Blanchet did a good job. I’m behind him 100 per cent.”
Lachapelle says many Quebecers had a similar reaction. He, too, thinks English-speaking Canadians are misinformed about the nuances of Quebec issues.
“We typically have a pretty good idea of what’s happening in other provinces in Quebec, but the reverse is not always true,” he said.
Thériault lives in the Montreal riding of Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, the NDP’s last seat in the province, held by incumbent Alexandre Boulerice for the past 10 years. She said that this year, she was proud to vote for the Bloc’s 21-year-old candidate, Shophika Vaithyanathasarma.
In an interview with CBC this week, Vaithyanathasarma said her own feelings about Bill 21 are complicated.
She supports the bill but is concerned that there is not enough diversity of candidates and politicians who are part of the conversation about it.
“That’s one of the reasons I’m involving myself in politics: none of the people who are talking about the bill are racialized,” Vaithyanathasarma said. “I seriously think we have to listen to the citizens that are concerned.”
Vaithyanathasarma, whose parents immigrated from Sri Lanka, says minorities should not be excluded from the discussion.
“That is one of the biggest mistakes we could make,” she said, smiling.
Mireille Paquet, who holds the research chair on the politics of immigration at Concordia University, told As It Happens the question served Blanchet because “it allowed for Blanchet to speak as if he was representing all of Quebecers, and as if Quebecers were all united around these pieces of legislation.”
Premier Legault’s controversial gambit
The conversation about the debate has overshadowed another significant development in the federal race in the province.
Hours before the English debate, Legault took a public stance against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, saying Quebecers should “beware of three parties: the Liberal Party, the NDP and the Green Party.”
Legault was irked by those parties’ intentions to intervene in health-care matters, which are under provincial jurisdiction, and said, “For the Quebec nation, Mr. O’Toole’s approach is a good one.”
WATCH | Liberals react to Legault’s endorsement of O’Toole:
But Lachapelle, the Concordia professor, says Legault’s endorsement could backfire. Many Quebecers have grumbled about being told who to vote for. The Conservatives have lost some ground in Quebec since the endorsement and are now polling at 18.4 per cent, according to 338Canada founder Philippe Fournier.
The voters of Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec party are generally split between voting Bloc, Liberal and Conservative at the federal level. Legault’s gamble may have alienated a good portion of them, Lachappelle said.
“Legault risks losing a certain amount of his base, especially if the Conservatives win and don’t deliver [on their promises to Quebec].”
Still, as the dust settles following the debate and its controversy, the polls suggest that Quebecers may end up voting along the same lines as they did in 2019.
“I’m under the impression we’re going to have a similar result as the last election,” he said.
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