Conservative MPs say affordability key issue identified in Vernon meeting

Aug 11, 2023 | 2:05 PM

Mel Arnold, MP for Shuswap-North Okanagan, hosted Michelle Ferreri, MP for Peterborough-Kawartha and shadow minister for children, families and social development, for a stakeholder meeting at the Schubert Centre Friday, August 11 (photo by Liam Verster / Vernon Matters)

Two Conservative members of parliament sat down with stakeholders to discuss local issues in Vernon Friday, August 11.

Mel Arnold, MP for Shuswap-North Okanagan, hosted Michelle Ferreri, MP for Peterborough-Kawartha and critic for families, children and social development, to meet with 15 representatives from 13 relevant organizations from throughout the area.

“[We discussed] what’s working, what’s not working, what can we do better, what policy could be improved in the way of serving some of Canada’s most vulnerable population, and that’s children, people with addictions, people with disabilities. And we had some great discussions, and had great input from the people that were here,” Arnold said following the meeting.

The names of the organizations involved in the meeting were not disclosed and the meeting was not open to the general public or media.

Ferreri said, from one side of Canada to the other, including in Vernon and the Okanagan, affordability has been a key underlying issue causing citizens to suffer.

“The cost of living, people can’t afford to live. Housing is a massive issue. We heard today from a lot of these people, the face of homelessness is one of the biggest changes they’ve seen: families living in hotels,” Ferreri stated.

“There’s just a lot of suffering and I’d say that’s one of the biggest common things I’ve seen.”

Arnold added there “is not a one department solution,” saying service providers and municipal, provincial and federal governments will need to work together and be transparent and collaborative to ensure the work to address the issues is efficiently done.

The shadow minister stated there is currently no housing solution, and there’s a mental health crisis affecting both children and their parents.

On the affordable housing issue, the MPs stated there were select actions that could be taken.

“There needs to be incentives, and for the private sector, there needs to be a reason to build,” Arnold said, adding “How can we make it feasible for private investors to build those low income houses if possible, or else government is going to have to do that, and we know government is probably less efficient at anything than the private sector.”

Ferreri alluded to immigration affecting housing prices, saying “if you have more people coming into the country, you have more people but less houses are being built, which we know is happening, you’re going to get a massive backlog.”

She also stated, specifically in her riding, municipal permit times are affecting development of affordable, supportive and market housing.

“If there’s a service standard to municipalities — and we heard a great saying today ‘needs based planning’ — if you’re doing that kind of funding assessment, if dollars are being tied directly to how many houses are being built, that’s going to give you more houses,” Ferreri remarked.

Arnold added another idea brought forward in the meeting was having a sort of “blue seal” program so people moving from one province to another would have their credentials in their specific fields be recognized.

The Conservative MP’s also said stakeholders expressed concerns with the long wait times for addiction recovery programs, mental health services, and child care in the area.

“I would say there’s no detox, it’s a massive issue, and you have children in mental health crisis,” Ferreri said.

“You have massive wait lists for child care facilities, you have children with special needs that need care. It’s not there.”

She added these issues are connected to the cost of living crisis.

“If you can’t afford to feed your family, you’re worried about the pay cheque, that is ultimately impacting your ability to be a parent, and all of these things are being downloaded to our children. So the most compassionate thing we can do as leaders is be fiscally responsible, make life more affordable.”

Ferreri added “you are at a pinnacle of crises right now” and that the systems are “broken and need fixing” and again stated the solutions involve “permitting, directly tying funds to results, standardizing licensing, accountability, efficiencies, [and] streamlining things.”

by Liam Verster

Conservative MPs say affordability key issue identified in Vernon meeting | Vernon Matters