NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh paid a visit to Ottawa Centre on Tuesday for the second time in nearly as many days.
After meeting up Saturday to launch her local campaign, NDP candidate Emilie Taman and Singh reunited on Tuesday morning to talk housing affordability in the riding they hope to win back from the Liberals. CPAC streamed the event online.
“I’m out hearing from people on the doorsteps every single day about the challenges they’re facing in Ottawa Centre when it comes to the high price of housing,” Taman said. “I’m hearing a lot of frustration about politicians who say all the right things, and then fail to follow through. And that’s where I think Jagmeet Singh is really different. He’s talking about how to really make life better for people in Ottawa and across Canada.”
Ottawa Centre is a logical place to promote a housing campaign pledge: it covers the urban core of a city where the average prices for residential properties were up 12 per cent in August compared with last year. Ottawa’s rental market vacancy rate, last calculated by CMHC in October 2018, was only 1.6 per cent, and the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment was more than $1,300.
“When it comes to Ottawa Centre … it is hard to get elected at any order of government without acknowledging that affordable housing is a priority, because it’s a priority for residents in the area,” said Ray Sullivan, executive director of the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, a non-profit housing provider whose property served as the backdrop to Tuesday’s event.
“We’ve seen good steps from the federal government in the past several years. There’s more to do,” Sullivan said.
The NDP has promised to create 500,000 affordable housing units across the country in 10 years if it forms government. On Tuesday, Singh was less clear about how an NDP government would find the money to accomplish this.
“We would make different choices. We would make housing a priority … and we’re going to have a lot more to say, a lot more announcements around how we’re going to do this.” He did mention closing tax loopholes and boosting taxes on the super-rich.
Asked how she, if elected, would work to ensure Ottawa Centre benefits from this platform promise, Taman said she sees opportunity to push for affordable housing at developments planned for Tunney’s Pasture and LeBreton Flats.
“We have federal land, and we have an established need in our community, and so I just think it would be such a wasted opportunity if we end up building million-dollar condos where we could be building a vibrant, mixed-income community with the social infrastructure needed to sustain it.”
She also said the federal government could look at local partnerships with non-profit housing providers and municipalities.
“There’s only so much the federal government can do — the federal government doesn’t control zoning, or development applications in Ottawa — so we have to grab on to the things that we can do, and act with the urgency that I think this crisis demands.”
As for how she would address housing challenges in Ottawa Centre if her party does not form government and she’s elected as an opposition MP, Taman brought up her background in advocacy work.
“I’m confident that I can make the case as well as anyone else, and that’s what I would do.”
Beyond being an appropriate location for a housing speech, Ottawa Centre was also a strategic choice for an appearance by the NDP leader.
After electing a New Democrat — Ed Broadbent and then Paul Dewar — in four consecutive elections, Ottawa Centre constituents voted in Liberal Catherine McKenna last election.
Asked what makes him believe the riding is winnable, Singh replied, “We’ve got a great candidate.”
He avoided criticizing McKenna, Taman’s obvious competitor, and instead returned to his argument that the Liberal government has let down voters in Ottawa Centre.
“When they look at their lives … after four years of Mr. Trudeau being in government, is it easier to finding housing? Is it easier to pay your bills?”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019