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HomeMiscellanyClark’s Toronto real estate speech closed to media

Clark’s Toronto real estate speech closed to media

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Bob Mackin

Two things are remarkable about ex-British Columbia Premier Christy Clark’s Feb. 28 speech to the Ontario Real Estate Association. 

First, it was Pink Shirt Day. The Nova Scotia-founded anti-bullying campaign that she championed while she was a CKNW talkshow host and later as the BC Liberal premier. She wore a blue jacket and blue shirt to the conference. 

Clark, sans pink, at a Toronto real estate conference on 2018’s Pink Shirt Day with OREA spokesman Jamie Hofing. (Twitter)

Second, reporters were shut out of the Toronto event. Both her speech and the question and answer session with OREA CEO Tim Hudak, the former Ontario PC leader, were closed to media accredited to cover the conference. 

Better Dwelling and Business Insider contributor Stephen Punwasi Tweeted that it was the “Only [conference] event media will not be able to attend. The era of real estate transparency in [Ontario] is inspiring.”

OREA spokesman Jamie Hofing told theBreaker by phone that “we wanted a candid conversation with Ms. Clark, and to do that, sometimes when media are present, people measure their words.”

Hofing provided theBreaker a copy of Clark’s speaking notes, but said there was no transcript or recording available. He said non-media attendees were not restricted from recording or photographing the speech. Clark’s presentation was titled “How Not to Become Your Own Worst Enemy.”

Hofing said the decision to prohibit reporters from Clark’s keynote session was made jointly by OREA and Clark’s agent, Jeff Jacobson Agency. Hofing refused to disclose the amount Clark was paid to appear at the convention, which was branded REALiTY: The Future is Unreal. The conference is attracting 800 attendees. A three-day pass cost $599.

Clark lost power in July 2017 on a no confidence vote when the Green Party supported the NDP, after Clark’s BC Liberals lost their majority in the May 2017 election. Clark was heavily criticized by opponents and the media for doing too little, too late to tax and regulate the real estate industry amid a housing affordability crisis. Her party was under fire for accepting millions of dollars of donations from real estate and construction companies that were profiting from a deluge of Chinese investment. 

The 1,290-word speech that Hofing provided included many themes that British Columbians had heard before. 

Clark’s script blamed the housing crisis on a shortage of supply, growing population and demand, consumers with double the borrowing power they had in 2000, and millennials “who are greater in number than even the baby boomers – and who are now entering the housing market for the first time – and they aren’t happy.”

Clark introduced a 15% foreign buyers tax in summer 2016 for Metro Vancouver, but exempted condominium presales. Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne copied B.C.’s 15% foreign buyers’ tax in April 2017. Earlier this month, B.C.’s NDP government increased the tax to 20% and expanded it to the Fraser Valley, Central Okanagan and parts of Vancouver Island.

“There is no argument that in some regions it’s a terrible idea,” read Clark’s notes. “What if there was a tax on foreign buyers in Whistler where is exclusively a tourist economy?”

The speech criticized the decision in B.C. to end double-ending of real estate deals because of conflict of interest. 

Clark (left) and OREA’s Tim Hudak (OREA)

“Well what they didn’t appreciate is that in some small communities, there is only one realtor. And that in markets where price growth is the opposite of frothy, the potential for a problem is very low.”

Oddly, Clark’s speaking notes said that “My dream – and the dream of the vast majority of Canadians – is to have a roof over our heads that belongs to us. One that we can invest in and improve.  One that we can use to take the next step up the housing ladder if that’s what we choose. One that our kids can perhaps inherit one day.”

Clark’s name is on the deed for a house near Vancouver city hall that was assessed at $2.273 million. In summer 2016, she moved to a $3.3 million house in Dunbar that has Nevin Sangha listed on the deed. Sangha is the right-hand man to Vancouver Whitecaps’ owner and BC Liberal donor Greg Kerfoot. 

Last spring, Clark, her press secretary and her lawyer all ignored theBreaker’s questions about Clark’s tenancy agreement with Sangha.

Clark quit as both BC Liberal leader and Kelowna MLA last August, after Abbotsford MLA Darryl Plecas dissented at a Penticton caucus retreat. Plecas left the BC Liberal caucus to become the speaker in September.

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