Election 2021.

North Island-Powell River All Candidates Debate: Housing

Candidates asked myriad questions about housing in riding

  • Sep. 20, 2021 12:00 a.m.

During the all candidates debate held last week by the Campbell River and District Chamber of Commerce, housing was one of the main topics of discussion.

The full video of the debate is available on the chamber’s YouTube page.

Six of the seven candidates took part in the debate, with the People’s Party of Canada candidate declining the invitation to participate. The video started with an introductory statement from all of the candidates before moving into a series of questions concerning housing.

During their introductions, the candidates all had a chance to tell voters who they are, a general overview of their policies and to show why they deserve a vote. Generally, each of the candidates felt it was clear Canada is facing tough times ahead, and that challenging the status quo was the best way to do that. However, where they differed was how exactly that would be done.

“This is not the world I grew up in,” said Stacey Gastis, the Maverick Party candidate. “It’s a different world right now.”

The majority of the debate focused on housing, an issue that has touched every community in the North Island-Powell River riding. Questions looked at increasing funds for more non-market housing units, ensuring housing for people with complex care needs, streamlining approvals for more housing supply (new projects) and incentives for addressing climate change with retrofits.

While many of the answers to how we can increase housing were to build more housing units, some candidates noted that the solution may not be as easy as increasing market stock.

“We don’t deny people healthcare because they don’t have money, and yet we deny people housing because they don’t have money,” said Marxist-Leninist candidate Carla Neal, adding that housing is “not something that should be limited on ability to pay.”

Jennifer Grenz of the Liberal Party of Canada had a similar idea, saying that housing was spread across all levels of government, but that we need to look at “how we build resilient and thriving communities so that people can afford their homes and actually be able to have long-term stable employment.”

Some felt the solution would be to look outside of the normal way of doing things and come up with new solutions, including, as Green Party candidate Jessica Wegg said, moving to more communal housing options.

“Are we going to be benefiting developers, realtors and landlords… while the rest of us still suffer? Or is this a process that’s actually going to benefit people who need housing?” she said.

When asked about streamlining approvals for new housing projects, Conservative candidate Shelley Downey said that “builders and developers go where they’re welcome,” adding that it’s “incumbent on municipalities” with official community plans and zoning bylaws to help bring housing units forward. She also added that cutting the red tape was important.

“Young people are struggling to find somewhere to live. They’ve got a lot of student debt to pay down,” said NDP Candidate Rachel Blaney. “They just need something to live in so they can save up for their dreams to buy… The federal government has to step up and be a part of that.”

The threat of the climate crisis is looming over all of the election issues, and housing is no exception. Part of that solution could be to provide incentives for retrofitting homes so they are more environmentally friendly. Many candidates saw this as a way to ensure good jobs are available in the region, as retrofitting homes will take work.

“We can create so many jobs by doing this,” said Green Party Candidate Jessica Wegg, adding that there’s a “lot of opportunity that is exciting and will help people and create jobs.”

More from the debate will be available in the coming days.

RELATED: North Island-Powell River Candidate Q and A: Housing

North Island-Powell River candidates debate the issues

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