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Housing a top issue in Burnaby South as NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh seeks seat


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BURNABY, B.C. — Even for the federal leader of the New Democratic Party, finding rental housing in Metro Vancouver is no easy feat.

Jagmeet Singh began calling landlords last year as he prepared to move across the country from Brampton, Ont., to run in a byelection in Burnaby South.

“I’d say, ‘OK, let me check with my wife.’ I’d get back a day later and the place would be gone,” Singh said. “The market’s really hard out here. If it’s hard for me, I can only imagine how hard it is for so many people.”

Housing is shaping up to be a defining issue in the byelection, set for Feb. 25, and in the federal election later this year. In Burnaby, renters have been kicked out of older apartments to make way for luxury condos, and sky-high prices are shutting millennials out of the market.

Singh proposed measures this week to build 500,000 new affordable units over the next decade, challenging the Liberal government to start by removing federal tax on the construction of such units. Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government’s mortgage stress test has already cooled overheated markets and it’s working on initiatives to help young people buy homes.

On a recent sunny Saturday, Singh knocked on doors inside a co-operative housing complex that is several decades old. The government needs to invest immediately in co-operative and non-market housing and use tax tools to tackle speculation, he said.

“The federal government used to be in the business of investing in housing, hasn’t been for decades, and it’s something we’ve got to get back into doing,” said Singh.

As for his own search, the 40-year-old politician eventually asked a real estate agent to help. He and his wife now rent the top floor of a house, with a view of snow-capped mountains, above another couple living downstairs.

Liberal candidate Richard T. Lee, a former provincial legislator, said he’s lived in Burnaby for three decades and it’s an attractive place to live so demand has outpaced supply. The government has introduced a 10-year national housing strategy, he said, worth $40 billion when investments from provinces, cities and non-profits are factored in.

The plan aims to cut homelessness in half, build 100,000 new units across Canada and repair aging affordable housing, Lee said.

“I believe that some of those investments will come to Burnaby South as well,” he said.

Lee jumped into the race after the Liberals’ first candidate, Karen Wang, resigned after a controversial online post saying she was the “only” Chinese candidate while Singh was “of Indian descent.”

The riding is profoundly diverse, with more than half of residents born outside Canada. About three-quarters of those immigrants are from Asia and the top source countries are China, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Lee said he’s not concerned about continuing to face questions about Wang. He’s focused on door-knocking, speaking with residents and working with volunteers who are coming to his office “constantly,” he said.

“I believe we can win this election,” Lee said.

A recent municipal election in Burnaby revealed just how important housing in the city, especially among younger voters, said Mario Canseco, president of the Vancouver-based polling firm Research Co.

Long-time mayor Derek Corrigan was ousted, in part, over what was seen as his weak response to so-called demovictions, or renters being evicted from affordable low-rise buildings so pricey condo towers could be built, said Canseco.

Millennials are also having a tough time transitioning from renters to owners, he added. The benchmark price for all housing in Burnaby is close to $1 million despite recent softening in the market.

“If Singh can connect on the housing file, and talk about specific issues that are going to motivate younger voters, that is going to be crucial,” Canseco said.

The New Democrats narrowly beat the Liberals in the riding in the 2015 election by about 550 votes. The Conservatives placed third, losing by about 3,600 votes.

Conservative candidate Jay Shin said his plan to make housing more affordable is to create policies that establish high-paying jobs and allow workers to keep more of their hard-earned money.

“The NDP and Liberals are proposing that they tax their way to affordable housing, which hasn’t worked and is not going to work,” said Shin, a lawyer.

“We need to make sure young people have the opportunity to pursue their dreams, work in the areas they want to and stay local. For that we need to ensure we have continued investment happening in Burnaby.”

— Follow @ellekane on Twitter.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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Ontario doctor alleged to have killed 4 people around same date in 2021: documents

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HAWKESBURY, Ont. — Court documents allege an eastern Ontario doctor killed four people around the same date in 2021.

Dr. Brian Nadler was initially charged with first-degree murder last year in the death of 89-year-old Albert Poidinger at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.

At the time, police said they were investigating the doctor in connection with several other deaths at the hospital.

Ontario Provincial Police laid three additional charges of first-degree murder against Nadler on Wednesday, in the deaths of 80-year-old Claire Briere, 79-year-old Lorraine Lalande and 93-year-old Judith Lungulescu. But they declined to provide details on the new charges, including when and where the three died.

Court documents allege Poidinger was killed on March 25, 2021, and the three others “on or about” that date.

The documents say Briere, Lalande and Lungulescu also died in Hawkesbury, Ont.

Nadler’s lawyers have said their client maintains his innocence.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Brian Greenspan, David Humphrey and Naomi Lutes said Nadler provided “excellent palliative care” to the four patients, who they said died from COVID-19.

The doctor was released on bail in July of last year, and his lawyers said he was released again under the same conditions after his arrest this week.

Those conditions include that Nadler remain in Canada, reside at an approved address and notify police of any address change. He is also forbidden from practising medicine and from communicating with employees, patients and relatives of patients at the Hawkesbury hospital.

The case is set to return to court on Sept. 7.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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MPs plan visit to Taiwan this fall if trip budget approved

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By Marie Woolf in Ottawa

A committee of Canadian MPs is seeking budget approval to make a trade trip to Taiwan this fall despite fears that the plan risks escalating tensions with China.

The House of Commons international trade committee is planning to visit Taiwan and Singapore, although the Commons has not yet approved the committee’s budget for the trip.

New Democrat MP and committee member Brian Masse says Canadians “must support other democracies that have fought for their rights and freedoms.”

“A fall trip across Asia to improve trade relationships, which would include a visit to Taiwan, has been in discussion at the standing committee on international trade,” Masse said.

“Although the trip is still in the planning stages, the NDP is very supportive of developing stronger Canada-Taiwan relations and taking this opportunity to improve our trade relationship with Taiwan.”

Conservative MP and committee vice-chair Randy Hoback said MPs on a Canada-Taiwan parliamentary “friendship group” used to go to Taiwan around twice a year before COVID-19 restricted travel.

Hoback has previously visited the island, which is located around 100 miles off the coast of southeastern China, with the group.

But the Tory MP said he would want to consult Global Affairs Canada before making the trip now. “There’s no intent on my part to antagonize China,” he said.

Earlier this month, China condemned a trip to Taiwan by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

China regards the island of Taiwan as its territory and Beijing imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation to her visit and held military drills around Taiwan.

During Pelosi’s visit, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly urged China to de-escalate tensions, saying legislators often make international visits and they should not be used to justify China’s decision to stage military drills.

Emily Williams, a spokeswoman for Joly, said Wednesday that “Parliamentary associations and friendship groups travel regularly and we respect their independence.”

“Canada continues to have strong and growing trade and people-to-people ties with Taiwan,” she said. “As stated in the G7 foreign ministers’ statement on the Taiwan Strait, Canada is committed to maintaining the rules that have ensured peace and stability for decades, including across the Indo-Pacific region.”

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada said it would give the Parliamentary committee “full support” for a visit that would “facilitate further dialogues” on issues including trade and investment, education and technology.

“By visiting Taiwan and connecting with Taiwanese legislators, Canadian Senators and MPs will gain a better understanding of Taiwan’s development, its role in the region, cross-Strait relations and other latest political and economic developments,” a spokeswoman said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

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