Housing top priority in NDP, Green platforms

NDP promises 114,000 low-cost rental and co-operative housing units over 10 years
'We’ve got to address the housing issue' – NDP Leader John Horgan

An NDP government would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, hike corporate taxes on profits by 1%, build 114,000 affordable and rental housing units over 10 years, give students who graduate university $1,000, scrap bridge tolls, implement $10-per-day daycare and provide renters with a $400 rebate.

It would also increase capital spending by $7 billion over three years.

NDP Leader John Horgan said an NDP government would deliver a $108 million surplus in its first budget year.

The first budget would have $717 million in new spending. That would be partly covered by eating into the Liberal government’s projected surplus of $295 million. The NDP said an additional $530 million would come from increased revenues and savings to produce a $108 million surplus.

One immediate source of funds would be the Liberal government’s $500 million prosperity fund, which the NDP would raid and cancel.

In announcing his party’s platform April 13, Horgan said housing costs would be an NDP government’s biggest concern.

“We’ve got to address the housing issue,” Horgan said. “It’s our top priority when we come into this campaign.”

To address concerns of renters, Horgan said an NDP government would give all renters a $400 rebate and would revamp the Residential Tenancy Act to tighten rent controls and prevent “renovictions.”

According to a recent Insights West poll, the most important election issues for B.C. voters are housing, poverty/homelessness, health care and the economy/jobs, in that order.

For business groups, the top concerns are transportation, housing and affordable living, according to a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) survey.

So, how do the three main parties’ platforms stack up in terms of addressing those issues?

While the costs of many of the major planks in the Green and Liberal platforms have been estimated, those of many of the NDP’s planks have not.

For example, the NDP plans to build 114,000 rental, co-operative and low-cost housing units over 10 years and scrap bridge tolls, but does not provide a forecast of revenue losses and gains.

On housing, the Green party and NDP have the most comprehensive platforms.

The Green plan includes:

•a new sliding scale for the property transfer tax, starting at 0% for homes of $200,000 or less, rising to 12% on properties valued at $3 million;

•doubling the foreign-buyer tax to 30% from the current 15% and extending it across B.C.;

•a capital gains tax on principal residences valued over $750,000;

•$750 million annually to build 4,000 affordable housing units per year;

•$100 million annually to retrofit and renovate existing affordable housing stock; and

•tax measures to discourage speculation and flipping.

The Liberals have the most comprehensive plan for transportation, including $3.2 billion over three years for things like the George Massey Tunnel replacement and four-laning the Trans-Canada Highway from Kamloops to Alberta.

The GVBOT has raised concerns about the NDP’s promise to scrap bridge tolls.

“It is unclear how the NDP’s policy commitment to eliminate tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges would fit into a comprehensive mobility pricing strategy for Metro Vancouver,” it states in its election dashboard.

On child care, the NDP has the most aggressive plan. It is promising daycare for $10 per day for families with incomes of $40,000 or less, and $7 per day for part-time care.

As for specific industries, the NDP platform focuses on promoting the forestry and high-tech sectors. The NDP vows to “use every tool” in its tool box to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

It also targets the fish farm industry, promising to keep fish farms out of wild salmon migration paths and provide incentives to the industry to move to land-based systems.

On shipbuilding, the NDP platform suggests that BC Ferries shut out local shipyards when it commissioned the building of new LNG-powered ferries.

“And, when building new ferries, British Columbia shipyards have been excluded, with thousands of good jobs sent overseas,” the platform states. “We will allow B.C. shipyards to bid competitively on every new ferry built.”

In fact, local shipyards were not excluded from bidding. Seaspan initially put in a bid to build the new ferries, but then withdrew because it did not have the capacity, thanks to all the work it has with a multibillion-dollar, multi-year federal shipbuilding program.

Here are some highlights of the three party platforms on key areas.

Housing

NDP: Build 114,000 affordable rental, non-profit and co-op housing units over 10 years; $400 credit for all renters in B.C. (not costed); close loopholes in Residential Tenancy Act to ensure rent controls and prevent renovictions; implement speculators tax.

Greens: New sliding-scale property transfer tax, from 0% to 12%; double the foreign-buyer tax to 30%; commit $750 million annually to build affordable housing.

Liberals: Continue with 15% foreign-buyers tax and first-time homebuyers loan (up to $37,000) for down payment.

Child care

NDP: $10 per day universal daycare.

Greens: Free daycare, or $500 per month for stay-at-home parents for children under three (cost to government: $495 million in 2017-18, $1.3 billion in 2020-21).

Liberals: 2,000 new child-care spaces in 2017-18 ($20 million) and 13,000 by 2020 ($352 million); $120 million annually for child-care subsidy.

Carbon Taxes

NDP: Frozen at $30 until 2021, with rebates once it begins increasing.

Greens: Increase carbon tax $10 annually; extend tax to fugitive emissions in gas sector, starting at $10 per tonne.

Liberals: Carbon tax frozen at $30 per tonne to 2021; maintain revenue neutrality.

Transportation

NDP: Scrap bridge tolls; roll back ferry fare increases by 15% on smaller routes; freeze rates on major routes; commit to 40% funding for public transit infrastructure; develop new TransLink governance model.

Greens: Platform on transportation not released.

Liberals: $3.2 billion over three years for George Massey Tunnel replacement and other road infrastructure, four-laning highway from Kamloops to Alberta; $2.2 billion for transit investments; new ride-sharing policies and tax credits. 

nbennett@biv.com

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