by Peter Squire
If you think our federal Members of Parliament (MPs) work a regular 9 to 5 job like many Canadians, think again! Two political action representatives from WinnipegREALTORS® team — who came to Ottawa to meet their constituent MPs for potential assigned meetings on Monday or Tuesday — held an impromptu meeting with Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux at an Ottawa shopping centre food court on Sunday afternoon. This is not a typical time to meet, but it shows you how busy MPs really are. The fact that we met with him on Sunday freed up his time to deal with the other pressing matters he has to contend with as parliamentary secretary (Leader of the Government in the House). You can only imagine how busy it was for Mr. Lamoureux with the NAFTA deal being signed late Sunday.
These scheduled meetings were all part of what the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) calls Political Action Committee (PAC) Days. It is a time once a year when REALTORS® from across our vast and diverse country convene in Ottawa to meet with their MPs. They come with a common purpose — to ask MPs to get behind CREA proposals which are well thought out, evidence-based, and important to Canadians.
CREA is one of Canada’s largest single-industry associations, with a membership of more than 125,000 real estate brokers, agents and salespeople working with provincial real estate associations and real estate boards.
Brandon Realtor Michael Barrett, who serves this year as CREA’s chair of the Federal Affairs Committee, welcomed over 300 delegates to the three-day event. Here is what he had to say in his welcome address to fellow PAC reps:
“In virtually every town and city, Realtors are well known as business owners and community builders who are actively involved in making our communities stronger, and supporting important causes and charities with our time, money and passion. When we gather together as a profession, we show that we are also critical drivers of the Canadian economy, responsible for over $31 billion in economic activity each year. When our industry does well, so does Canada. Most importantly, so do Canadians.
“Under the theme protecting homeownership, two recommendations were put forward this year to present to MPs in meetings with their constituent Realtor. The first one is all about helping Canadians reach their goals, and one that has always been near and dear to them is homeownership. The first recommendation targets first-time buyers who are especially challenged by more stringent mortgage requirement rules, and in Manitoba’s case, receive no exemption on the significant land transfer tax they are required to pay as part of their closing costs when buying a home.
“Many housing markets across the country, including Winnipeg’s, are being negatively impacted by the federal government stress test. On a year-to-date basis, sales activity has declined in 2018 versus 2017 in 75 local markets with sales down more than 10% in 50 local markets. Winnipeg’s September monthly result shows a decreased 12% in comparison to September 2017 and are down nearly 7% year-to-date.
“Another point in this regard is in a report by Mortgage Professionals Canada from July 2018 estimates — approximately 100,000 Canadians have been prevented from buying a home since late 2016 because of new federal mortgage rules.
“WinnipegREALTORS® submitted a strong position paper to the federal government when they asked for input on development of their national housing strategy, and it made it very clear all housing markets are local and the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not work. Of course, it did not realize, like many others, to what extent the collateral damage would be on housing markets that did not need federal government intervention in cooling off an overheated market.
“Realtors will continue to press for change to the current mortgage requirement regime, as they feel the intention of the federal government and regulators such as OSFI was never to deny thousands of Canadians the opportunity to own a home when there was no justification to do so.”