The following is submitted by the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce

The Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce membership identified five questions for provincial election candidates.

1. What strategies will you be putting forward to address the housing crisis in Haliburton County?

2. The County’s labour shortage and non-participation of many who could be upskilled to fill roles is a major concern for businesses. What will you do to address this issue?

3. Haliburton County relies heavily on our tourist economy. With inflation and the rising cost of gas, how will you ensure this industry is not negatively impacted?


4. What is your plan to improve upon high speed, affordable internet access within the County?

5. This is an exceptional time requiring exceptional measures. With this understanding are there plans to remove red tape, barriers, and reduce costs to ensure strong economic development in the County? Is there a strategy to incentivize the development of “primary home” and market rent accommodations?

Here are their edited responses for newspaper size constraints. 

Laurie Scott, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario

1. At the end of the day, the biggest issue fueling the housing crisis is not enough homes. Our PC team introduced legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to help build new homes. We are fixing barriers to building new homes while protecting the environment, the Greenbelt, and agricultural lands. Our housing supply plan helped over 100,000 new homes start construction last year, the highest in more than 30 years. We continue to work with municipalities to reduce barriers to build different types of residential housing.

2. Encouraging apprenticeships, jobs in the skilled trades and allowing colleges to grant 3-year degrees. We are working with our local employment organizations and Fleming College to help connect more people with good jobs and upgrade their skills. In April, we announced over $1.6 million for three projects at Fleming College and Trent University to help get recent graduates into the labour market, and support local employers to fill skilled job vacancies. Fleming is also part of a $5-million dollar SkillsAdvance Ontario project to help 150 job seekers and 300 employed workers gain the skills and work experience they need to find jobs or advance their careers in wood product manufacturing and producing. We also created the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit to help workers retrain, improve their skills, or prepare for a career shift.

3. We are implementing a long-term plan to address the housing crisis, informed by the Housing Affordability Task Force’s recommendations and temporarily cutting the gas tax by 5.7 cents per litre and the fuel tax by 5.3 cents per litre for six months, beginning July 1, 2022. We continue to support households with the Ontario Electricity Rebate for residential customers, small businesses and farms and are proposing to provide an additional $300 in Personal Income Tax (PIT) relief, on average, to about 1.1 million taxpayers by enhancing the Low-income Individuals and Families Tax Credit. We also introduced the Ontario Staycation Tax Credit that allows residents to get back up to 20 per cent on their eligible accommodation expenses for leisure stays in the province this year.

4. As a part of the 2021 budget, our PC team is making an historic investment of $2.8 billion for broadband infrastructure, ensuring every region in our province has access to reliable broadband services by 2025. On top of previous investments, this increases our total investment to nearly $4 billion. This builds on the Cell Gap Project announced last spring with a provincial investment of $71 million to improve cellular service in Eastern Ontario with 300 new telecommunication sites to be built and over 300 existing sites upgraded across the region over the next five years.

5. Our PC team has a plan to help keep costs down by increasing housing supply, making it less expensive to drive, and providing targeted tax relief. We’re eliminating and refunding licence plate renewal fees for passenger vehicles, light-duty trucks, motorcycles and mopeds, and as mentioned temporarily cutting the gas tax and fuel tax. Also the previously referenced income tax relief; lowering child care fees for parents and securing a fair deal for Ontario by signing a $13.2 billion agreement with the federal government in an important step towards achieving an average of $10-a-day child care by September 2025.

Barbara Doyle, Ontario New Democratic Party

1. The NDP has a Homes in Ontario Program that will provide a 10 per cent stake in the homes to help buyers qualify for the down payment and reduce mortgage costs. 

This all goes along with our general affordability measures: raising minimum wage, supports for small businesses, $10/day childcare, pharmacare, dental care and mental health brought under OHIP, and bringing down the price of gasoline. Working together, it all leads to stable housing markets for homes that our community can afford. 

2. Our Green New Democratic Deal will create one million jobs, and transition the economy to an equitable, just and green future. By building on regional strengths, our innovation hub strategy will foster new skilled trades and economic opportunities in local areas. The NDP are making important investments in post-secondary education and workforce development to prepare for the in-demand jobs of the innovation economy. 

An NDP government will work with manufacturers to develop a manufacturing and labour force strategy for the province, while also supporting small and medium-sized businesses and non-profits for government procurement and our Buy Ontario program. 

An NDP government will raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour. We will remove the minimum wage exemptions that allow students to be paid less than every other worker in the province.

3. Increasing funding to these sectors is proven to increase the economic benefit to the communities around them. 

We would extend the Staycation Tax Credit but this is only helpful for those that can afford the immediate cost of the vacation. Reducing costs on everyday items such as child care, health care, and education will provide more disposable income that families can use to travel across Ontario. 

We will also address the price of gas. The NDP will give the Ontario Energy Board a mandate to monitor the price across Ontario to reduce price volatility and unfair regional price differences but will also regulate the retail price and wholesale mark-up of petroleum products. 

4. The NDP is committed to ensuring that Broadband is made available across Ontario, with priority to rural areas like ours. This is also directly linked to supporting our agriculture industry and food supply chain networks. Real time access to markets and processing is essential in today’s agri-economy. 

5. Municipalities know what types of housing they need to meet the needs of their communities while also providing room to grow. This may mean addressing current zoning to now allow for tiny homes, basement apartments, duplexes and triplexes or townhome developments. Density can be rethought, and innovation happens. Looking at how the province and local government can work together to build affordable market and non-market housing, eliminating the wait lists for subsidized housing, while at the same time providing room for growth for larger houses is not an either/or proposition. It can all be done at the same time. We can have social supports while also addressing high end needs as well. What we can’t do is build only high-end subdivisions while ignoring the local housing crisis and growing waitlists.

We must ensure larger investments in local hospitals, dedicated doctor recruitment programs, investing in local schools, taking the profit out of long-term care and ensuring more beds and new builds that are smaller, more home-like and better staffed. Looking at the core community supports, along with housing developments, create a community infrastructure to support more growth. 

Tom Regina, Green Party of Ontario

1. Green policy is to build 182,000 new permanently affordable community rental homes over the next decade, including 60,000 permanent supportive homes. Greens would mandate inclusionary zoning and require a minimum of 20 per cent affordable units in all housing projects above a certain size. Greens will create a seed fund for co-operative housing through direct funding and mortgage support.

Greens will partner with the federal government under the National Housing Strategy to renew 260,000 community rental homes over the next decade. Greens will partner with non-profits, co-ops and community land trusts to use public land for permanently affordable rental housing and attainable homeownership options through low-cost long-term leases. Greens will consult on and develop a down payment support program to help low and middle-income first-time home buyers. To help pay for these programs, Greens will implement a multiple property speculation tax on people and corporations who own more than two houses or condominium units in Ontario. The tax will begin at 20 per cent on the third home and increase with each additional property owned. Greens will work with all levels of government and housing experts to develop regulations to ease the financialization of both our affordable rental stock and single-family homes.

2. An affordable housing strategy is required to allow young families and workers to find a place in our community. Creating more, truly affordable housing will enable willing workers, professionals and entrepreneurs to find a place for themselves in our community.

3. Greens support increased staycation tax credit to include dining in restaurants. Greens will improve opportunities for small, local businesses and non-profits to win public contracts through targets and by decreasing current financial and informational barriers. Greens will allow Ontario’s craft spirits, brewers and wine producers to open independent, off-site stores; allow boutique wine, craft beer and artisan spirit retail outlets: improve the distribution network to work for small businesses; and allow access for hospitality to purchase from these suppliers at a wholesale price of up to 20 per cent.

4. The Green Party is committed to connecting people with better broadband. Greens will make broadband internet an essential service and roll out highspeed access across the province. Greens will use regulations to level the playing field for small, local internet service providers and support provincial funding for programs to study best practices for tele-working as a climate-friendly alternative to commuting.

5. Greens would like to create more pathways to home ownership, for example, allowing single family dwellings to be divided into multiple condominium units to create more attainable home ownership opportunities within existing neighbourhoods. Similarly, Greens will increase incentives and streamline the application process for first-time homeowners to add affordable rental units to their primary residence to help pay down their mortgage.

Gene Balfour, Ontario Libertarian Party

1. One dimension is the ability to pay for housing with after-tax earnings. Fact: The average Canadian pays more than 53 per cent of annual income to governments at every level; this has risen from 38 per cent since 1961. Excessive taxation clearly affects ability to pay. Excessive regulations in the housing sector are another root cause. The red tape and constraints that these burdens impose on builders and property owners adds greatly to both the cost as well as the time it takes to meet the demand for affordable housing by residents. Libertarians advocate for Less Government in order to unshackle all of the resources needed to make goals like affordable housing possible for everyone. Our approach is to pare back all unnecessary laws and regulations while ensuring the right balance for public safety. 

2. If elected, I would take great pride and satisfaction in using my expertise to help the County formulate a plan to eliminate the current labour shortages. No other political candidate can bring as much productive value to this issue as I can. However, like most issues, some of the problems arise from counterproductive government regulations. Like housing, these unnecessary constraints can only be repealed through the efforts of many appropriately-motivated and qualified MPPs in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.

3. Take complete ownership of the issue at the County level and create your own strategy to mitigate these risks. Engage local stakeholders who have “skin in the game” so that you will have better control and buy-in of all needed resources. I recommend that the County’s tourism stakeholders employ the use of SWOT for each tourist season. This will ensure that they employ a proven and disciplined approach to make the industry more resilient to the changing circumstances that will inevitably evolve.

4. Become better informed about the existing plans for rolling out these services within the County. I am aware that the federal and provincial governments have already committed sizeable expenditures to accelerate the rollout of fibre-optic cable across Eastern Ontario where current access is poor. Addressing any problem begins with understanding its details and then becoming an informed facilitator to achieve the intended goals. Like all large projects, the schedule for this rollout has already been established.  If the implementation schedule is not satisfactory to your residents, then this is something that can be addressed through negotiations or by other means. Of course, StarNet is already available for residents who are not prepared to wait for the promised fibre-optic cable services. Prices are another matter. I do not favour government subsidies and prefer to investigate more creative ways to address these costs. I generally have little confidence in receiving timely and cost-effective ‘help’ from government institutions or promises made by Big Government politicians.

5.  I have been an Advocate for Less Government since 2007 when I first discovered Libertarianism and the Austrian ‘school’ of Economics. My commitment to reducing governments’ size, cost and scope of authority has been long-lasting and unwavering. In my view, the pendulum has swung too far in favour of concentrating power in government institutions. Our public sector is overly bureaucratic, excessively controlling, and far too expensive. Libertarians have been trying to hold back the pendulum from causing further harm. We hope to inspire our citizens to demand that it reverse direction.

Kerstin Kelly, Ontario Party

1. Simply put, the supply of homes is too low and demand for homes is too high, and, on both fronts, our current politicians are mostly to blame for this crisis.

The solution is not government funding funnelled to new homeowners. As recent history shows, when government money is made available, the market responds with proportional increases to home prices.

One of the Ontario Housing affordability Task Force objectives is to build 1.5 million new homes within the next 10 years. For the province to confirm the available land supply to accomplish this objective, we need to remove red tape and excessive legislation restricting single-family zoning in Ontario’s most housing-deprived areas. Property owners must be given more freedom to construct larger multi-unit residential buildings, and to add tiny houses to their properties, while we protect agricultural land.  It should not take six to 18 months to get building permits. We would advocate for establishing an Ontario-focused purchasing ban on foreign investors on residential homes and vacant land, as well as, striking up a money-laundering task force charged with rooting out corruption and instituting needed regulatory changes related to real estate sales and purchases. The Landlord Tenant Board of Ontario has created a crisis by making it impossible for good landlords to get rid of bad tenants, so now they are reluctant to take anyone else in.  This needs to be corrected, so people once again open up their homes to rentals. 
The most effective way to enhance building will be to get government and regulations out of the way, cut the red tape and use sound non-obstructive planning. To make it easier for first time house buyers to get into the market, allowing affordable tiny homes and multiplexes. The conversion of appropriate underused and unused commercial properties to create more homes is an excellent example of cutting the red tape and stimulating home building. We need the community to use innovative and creative solutions and get out of the way of allowing solutions to happen. 

2. We must encourage and value trades in schools. We would lower the cost of tuition for those post-secondary programs leading to careers with the most labour market demand. Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans will also be made more easily available to students accessing those high demand programs and make it virtually free for qualified applicants to train in the skilled trades.  

Currently the Ontario government, or more precisely our province’s taxpayers, cover nearly half–about 46 per cent–of a post-secondary student’s program costs. That funding is not allocated by job market need: a student in a program proven to have few related job prospects after graduation can access the same levels of government funding as others (while their levels of funding are the same, their levels of defaulting on repayment is significantly higher). An Ontario Party Government will incentivize students to funnel into those post-secondary programs for which there is the most labour market demand and greatest opportunity for personal career success. Immigration should also be targeted to those persons bringing those in demand skills. Retraining the unemployed into skilled trades as part of the requirement to accept unemployment payments, and ODSP where possible, may also be an area to explore. 

There are 9 Essential Skills:

1. Reading

2. Writing

3. Document Use

4. Numeracy

5. Computer Use

6. Thinking

7. Oral Communication

8. Working with Others

9. Continuous Learning

These skills are not presently the primary focus in our schools, and we need school reform, where students learn times tables, printing and writing again. Library programs, Toastmasters, and creative and innovative coaching mentorship and education programs should be encouraged to provide these necessary skills.

3. We must remove all mandates, ineffective restrictions to business, lower taxes, less regulations and red tape to allow our creative entrepreneurs to innovate and to thrive. There is no sound reason that we do not have cheap energy and lower taxes. CERB, UBI etc. all have the negative impact of keeping people from working and driving prices up. Excess taxes and legislation drive prices up and this must be curtailed. 

4. Haliburton has many challenges with its highlands, rocks etc., making it difficult to promise high-speed and affordable internet access, but satellite internet is coming rapidly, and many private companies are competing to provide service. Making it profitable for them over such long distances and low density has been a barrier and high taxation, preventing them from keeping their profits has been a deterrent to providing service. Removing red tape and providing tax incentives would be some of the steps we could consider to promote rural service, to those in need. 

5. There are plans to remove red tape, barriers and reduce costs to ensure strong economic development in Haliburton. There is a strategy to enable homes and rental facilities to be built.  Removing all mandates and making a better plan is the core of the Ontario Party Platform.

Don McBey, Liberal Party of Ontario

1. The Ontario Liberals will double the pace of home building until 1.5 million residential units have been constructed, 138,000 of which will be deeply affordable. We will tax owners of empty development-ready land to create incentives for new housing starts. We will end the blind bidding process which drives up house prices.

2. We will train and hire more healthcare professionals and repeal Bill 124 to attract currently qualified professionals back into healthcare and education. We will double OSAP and eliminate interest on provincial student loans. We will double the existing skills grant for apprenticeships and skilled trades. We will increase the minimum wage to $16 dollars an hour starting in 2023 and from there we will create a structure of regional living wages across the province. All workers will receive 10 paid sick days and access to portable dental, drug, and mental healthcare benefits at an affordable cost. The Liberals will also provide $10 dollar-a-day childcare with flexibility to accommodate irregular schedules and shift work. We will raise the minimum PSW wage to $25-an-hour and cover tuition costs for medical and nursing students who will work in rural and remote communities. We will also create 25,000 green jobs and 2,000 internships for high school graduates in green sectors.

3. We will restore funding for the arts, music, and cultural sectors. We will invest $25 million a year in these sectors starting in 2023-24, and also invest $5 million for the Indigenous Culture Fund, which was scrapped by the Conservatives in 2019.  For rural Ontario, we will be making community transportation grants permanent. We will waive two years’ corporate tax for small businesses whose revenues were devastated by the Ford shutdowns, on a sliding scale up to 100 per cent. We will also be supporting restaurants by eliminating the HST on prepared food under $20.

4. The Ontario Liberal Party has committed to connecting all Ontarians with high speed, affordable wireless internet before 2025.   

5. By reintroducing rent control, we will put more money into the hands of prospective home buyers and reduce speculation in the housing market. We will work with municipalities to end exclusionary zoning policies and allow the building of homes with up to three units and three stories as well as secondary and laneway suites. We will also create an Ontario Home Building Corporation to cut red tape in the home building process and provide $300 million in incentives to municipalities to expedite the housing approval process. We will unlock more land for homes by expanding the Brownfields Tax Incentive program to provide tax relief for the conversion of underutilized commercial space into homes. We will create a digital platform for development applications.

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