Debate about the economy dominated an early morning breakfast forum between federal candidates on Wednesday (Oct. 16).
Eleven of the 13 local candidates from Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola were present at the event.
A question regarding the mortgage stress test, a financial bar home buyers must pass to be approved for a mortgage, had two candidates in a back-and-forth argument.
Liberal candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country Stephen Fuhr said his party has no plans to eliminate the test.
“We’re trying to help people get into homes; we’re not trying to get Canadians access to homes they can’t afford,” he said.
“We have done a number of things to help Canadians get into houses — more than I have time to explain. The bottom line is: these policies are to help people keep more of their own money.”
Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola’s Conservative candidate Dan Albas countered, saying the stress test is causing snags in the system that hinder the real estate market as a whole.
“When you have a family that’s stuck in a rental in an apartment, where they’re paying more in rent than they would in a starter home, there’s a problem,” said Albas.
Albas continued, saying this results in an issue that causes the “whole market to freeze,” where families that should be in starter homes can’t afford to move up due to the stress test and those homes remain unsold.
Fuhr retorted, calling the economy the most significant component affecting the real estate market in the Okanagan. He said under Conservative governments, the economy was “flatter than a pancake” from 2008 through 2015 — years after the recession ended.
“These guys couldn’t grow the economy,” he said, motioning towards Albas.
“They can’t. And now, they are going to pull $53 billion out of the economy. Who can grow the economy? Who can’t? That’s the biggest single factor that will affect this problem.”
Candidates for the two front-running parties again found themselves at odds against while discussing their respective platforms about the budget.
“We can’t spend more than what we have,” said Kelowna-Lake Country Conservative candidate Tracy Gray, adding that her party will get back to balanced budgets within five years.
Gray said that involves cuts, not around core services, but instead cutting frivolous spending on unnecessary projects. As an example, Gray said a Conservative government wouldn’t send money to China to help them build roads.
Fuhr was quick to discredit the Conservative Party’s fiscal efforts saying 16 of the last 18 Conservative budgets were deficits.
Deficit spending is required, according to Fuhr, due to the ever-progressing technologies that bring new challenges to the economy.
“Digital economy, artificial intelligence, automation — we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for that. That requires investment. I would say we can’t afford not to invest in those things,” he said.
Fuhr said to look at Ontario’s spending cuts under its provincial Conservative government, as much of the same should be expected under the federal Conservatives.
“That’s exactly what you’ll get from a Scheer government if they get hold of Canada,” Fuhr said.
Gray said Ontario’s situation was caused by irresponsible Liberal governments, saying that Conservatives needed to “fix the house.”