OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pledged Thursday to pursue a coast-to-coast energy corridor, achieve Canadian oil independence by 2030 and adjust mortgage-lending rules with the aim of making home-buying more affordable.
With the federal election less than six months away, Scheer used a speech Thursday in Toronto to share new elements of his economic pitch to voters.
The opposition leader told a lunch-time business crowd that a Scheer government would work to establish a dedicated route where it would be easier to approve major new energy projects — from pipelines to power lines.
“With a single corridor, we could minimize environmental impacts, lower the costs of environmental assessments, increase certainty for investors, and, most importantly, get these critical projects built,” Scheer said to the Economic Club of Canada.
Planning and consulting for the right-of-way would be done up front, sparing industry of the complicated process of submitting proposals for new projects, he said. And, he added, the corridor would be designed in full consultation with provinces and Indigenous communities.
Scheer’s address was the second in a series of five speeches he is using to introduce major Conservative policies ahead of the October election. In a foreign policy speech last week, he promised to move the Canadian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Future speeches are scheduled to discuss immigration, intergovernmental relations in Canada, and the environment and climate change.
On crude oil, Scheer promised Thursday to work towards a Canada that no longer needs foreign oil — and is instead “fuelled exclusively by Canadians by 2030.”
Oil imports from countries like Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia have supported regimes that “abuse human rights and take virtually no steps to protect the environment,” he said.
“The fact is Canada has more than enough oil — not only to displace imports from the aforementioned rogue states — but to put an end to all foreign oil imports once and for all,” he said.
Scheer also touched on a housing-related vow that could have a significant impact on the economy and financial stability. Without providing much detail, he said he would change tough mortgage-lending rules introduced in recent years.
The policies were designed to cool sizzling housing markets in Toronto and Vancouver, and slow further build-up of household debt loads already at record levels.
“I will re-work the mortgage stress test the Liberals brought in a couple of years ago that have pushed the dream of home ownership out of the reach of so many Canadians across this country,” Scheer said.
“When it comes to housing, we can’t just talk about the demand side…. We have to talk about finding new ways to get more supply on the market. So, I will work with provinces and municipalities to knock down regulatory barriers that discourage new home construction so more homes can come on the market to lower prices.”
The tightened mortgage rules, brought in by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, mandated would-be borrowers to undergo a stress test to determine whether they could still make payments if faced with higher interest rates or less income.
Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz has frequently credited stricter mortgage policies — the federal measures and those implemented by other levels of government — for helping ease the vulnerabilities related to high household debt and risky, speculative behaviour in some real-estate markets.
Scheer also said if the Conservatives win the next election, he’ll kill the so-called infrastructure bank the Liberals created to entice private-sector investment in public construction projects. The Liberals have committed $35 billion towards the infrastructure bank in federal funding and backstops.
“Aside from being a money-sucking administrative nightmare, the Canada Infrastructure Bank is a $35-billion boondoggle waiting to happen — with taxpayers assuming all the risk while corporate investors make all the profit,” he said.
Scheer also vowed to preserve Ottawa’s existing child benefit plan, create a “CETA accelerator” to help Canada reap the full benefits of its trade deal with Europe and reiterated an earlier promise to scrap the controversial federal carbon tax.
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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press