Political action — members met with politicians in Ottawa and at the legislature to discuss important real estate issues

An inspiring speech by John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, was a highlight of a two-day political action session in Ottawa with REALTORS® from across the country. Former Prime Minister Jean Chretien also spoke at this gathering of organized real estate. 
A great story told by Mr. Furlong actually ivolved Chretien. Due to commitments at home, the prime minister had to sleep overnight on the floor of an airplane in order to get to Prague in time to deliver a three-minute speech on behalf of the Canadian Winter Olympic bid organizers. It was a very passionate delivery and helped the Vancouver organizers win the bid for the Winter Olympics by a margin of only three votes.
The Vancouver Olympic Committee  (VANOC) had former Olympian Barbara Ann Scott march into the House of Commons with the Olympic Torch, resulting in all MPs present chanting, “Go Canada Go!” 
Furlong said Canadians — athletes and volunteers — stepped up like never before to make the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games a great success on the international stage.
Other speakers included successful Conservative and NDP candidates in the May 2 election, who spoke about what to expect in the next Parliament. A media panel featured the Toronto Star’s Chantal Hebert, CTV’s Power Play host Don Martin and the Canadian Press Ottawa Bureau Chief Rob Russo. Canada’s longest serving Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, shared his perspective on Parliament and how he managed his multi-faceted job responsibilities.
While MPs were not in session as a result of the recent federal election, REALTORS® will be going back to their respective areas of the country and contacting their MPs to apprise them of issues the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) believes are important to Canadians from a real estate perspective. Two issues that will be brought to their attention is a call for the indexing of the successful Home Buyers’ Plan (HBP) in a way similar to the Tax Free Savings Account (TFSA), as well as a request to stimulate community reinvestment by allowing owners to defer previously written off depreciation (Capital Cost Allowance) on an investment property sale, enabling them to have additional funds to reinvest in another property.
CREA more recently has been explaining to the Finance Minister Michael Flaherty the realities of the housing market, including the effect of the new mortgage finance rules. The government’s new rules resulted in preventing an increase to minimum down payments and unreasonable changes to the maximum amortization period. 
CREA is also calling on the federal government to improve mortgage disclosure. As a direct result of CREA’s efforts, the government has introduced mortgage regulations that require lenders to provide disclosures that in a clear language state consumers’ rights. The federal government followed through with a 2010 budget promise to standardize the disclosure of mortgage prepayment penalties and clarity their calculation.
Prior to the Ottawa meeting, many Manitoba REALTORS® were busy meeting with provincial MLAs. 
The following article was provided by Jennifer Johnson of the Manitoba Real Estate Association
REALTORS® talk Quality of Life
with Manitoba’s political leaders
Members of the Manitoba Real Estate Association (MREA) met at the Manitoba Legislative Building with MLAs, including Premier Greg Selinger, Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen and Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard, for a MREA/MLA reception to share ideas on issues that matter most to the quality of life of all Manitobans.
“It was a great opportunity for our leadership to meet with our members of the legislature to get to know each other in an informal surrounding and exchange ideas,” said Lorne Weiss.
“MREA’s Manitoba Political Action Committee (MPAC) is working hard to ensure government leaders are fully aware of the issues that matter to REALTORS® and the public they work with every day.”
Weiss, the president of MREA, said some of the issues discussed included the complete removal of education taxes from the property tax bill.
”We were also able to discuss the issue with several government officials, and make it clear that REALTORS® support the government in the review and consideration of school board amalgamation,” said Weiss.
Several members of the MPAC committee joined Lorne Weiss and WinnipegREALTORS® president Ralph Fyfe to share concerns about the Land Transfer Tax (LTT), which, since being implemented in 1987 has increased tenfold in cost, while the rise in the average MLS® house price has gone up just three times. At two per cent, this is the highest LTT in Canada, with no indexing of LTT rates applicable to adjust for higher housing prices and no exemption in Manitoba for first-time home buyers.
Weiss also raised the issue that there is a growing problem for homeowners who cannot renew their insurance if they have knob-and-tube wiring. 
As most of homes with knob-and-tube wiring are older (built before 1950), they tend to be more affordable. However, buyers are paying a very high insurance premium — several times greater than the norm — and must commit to change the wiring within 30 to 60 days, which can cost over $10,000. 
Weiss said there is no statistical evidence in Manitoba that knob-and-tube wiring has caused more fires than updated wiring.
The Manitoba Tipi Mitawa Program was also discussed, and REALTORS® thanked the government for their support of the program and for providing $504 000 for phase 2 of this unique MREA initiative that helps First Nations families buy their first homes. 
To date, five families have completed the training portion of the program, while four families are proud new homeowners and four other families continue to search for homes.
The MLA reception is an informal opportunity for members of the Manitoba Real Estate Association to meet with Manitoba MLAs with the hope that it will provide a foundation for future dialogue on issues affecting all Manitobans. It was the fifth year that the reception took place.