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MP Patrick Weiler tackles immigration, housing and taxes

Weiler, who was elected last year, has first formal talk with Squamish Chamber of Commerce
MP Patrick Weiler during his talk with the Squamish Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 13. Photo: STEVEN CHUA

Immigration, housing and taxes were just some examples of the topics raised with MP Patrick Weiler during his talk with the Squamish Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 13.

During this gathering at the Squamish Adventure Centre theatre, Weiler, who was just elected to represent the Sea to Sky in the House of Commons in October last year, answered questions and concerns from the local business community.

"I think there's many challenges with our current immigration system right now, and, of course, long term, we want to be able to fill jobs with Canadians, but on a short-term basis, a lot of employers are relying on things like the temporary foreign workers program, but that program itself has a lot of challenges," said Weiler.

"It's expensive, it's slow to move and when you do bring someone in it's only for two years."

Weiler said he's been talking to the immigration minister about ways to make changes.

He added that the municipal nominee program, which was announced in January, will allow municipalities and chambers to identify skills that are in short supply. This would create another way for immigrants to enter the country.

There will also be more location-specific labour market data. Previously, the area from Surrey to Whistler was a single catchment zone, which meant it was a struggle to track local numbers.

That will be changing, said Weiler, who noted there will be data specific to the Sea to Sky area, which may help get a better picture of the local workforce.

He also said there needs to be a better way to make use of highly-skilled workers who immigrate here.

"There's too often you see someone who is a highly qualified person in their country come here and they can't practice in that area," said Weiler.

He also acknowledged that affordable housing has been a big challenge in Squamish and the rest of the Sea to Sky.

Weiler said the feds will be increasing the first-time homebuyers' incentive so that homes starting at $800,000 will be eligible. He said this could help make housing more affordable.

However, it was pointed out that houses in Squamish far exceed that price.

"In terms of single-detached homes it's really insufficient, I agree," Weiler said, but added this could help people working to get themselves a condo or townhome.

Chamber of Commerce chair Rob Weys suggested creating tax breaks or credits for employers who rent out units for their employees, because loans and grant processes can take much time.

Weiler said he'd be open to talking about the matter.

He also acknowledged the difficulties that have come with the Liberals' previous efforts to crack down on income splitting with relatives.

"That was made in the eyes of tax fairness," said Weiler. "I know that's a very controversial thing."

However, he said the goal was to make life more affordable for all Canadians.

This story originally appeared here.