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FOCUS: Federal election candidates queried (Oct. 2019)

October 17th, 2019 · No Comments

Gleaner asks hopefuls 5 key questions

Questions compiled by the Gleaner editorial board. Answers are edited for length and clarity. Election date is October 21, 2019. For more information on voting, please visit elections.ca. 

The United Nations and the Parliament of Canada have declared that we are in a climate emergency and a tipping point is near — what is your party’s plan for Canada’s role in preventing a global climate catastrophe? 

Tim Grant, Green Party of Canada (TG):

The Green Party is the only party in Canada with a detailed proposal to meet the international goal of cutting carbon emissions by 60% over the next 11 years, and 100% by 2050. Both Denmark and the UK, with per capita emissions already lower than ours, have committed to this goal. If they can do it, we can too. If we fail, future generations will face the brunt of accelerating climate change.

A key part of our 20-point proposal is the creation of a climate-crisis cabinet that includes representatives of all parties. This cabinet will develop a plan that they can all agree to – that meets the international targets. Once they do, the days of climate change being used as a political football will end. 

Helen-Claire Tingling, Conservative Party of Canada (HCT):

Canadians trusted Justin Trudeau when he said he would protect the environment and lower Canada’s emissions. Instead, all they got was a carbon tax. Not only is Canada failing to hit our Paris Agreement targets, we are getting further and further away. 

We should all be concerned about climate change – about the kind of planet we will leave to future generations. A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment is built on three guiding principles: 

• Green technology, not taxes 

• A cleaner and greener natural environment

• Taking the climate change fight global 

The Conservative plan for the environment, A Real Plan to Protect Our Environment, is the most comprehensive environmental platform ever put forward by a political party in Canada. Under the Conservative plan, it will not be free to pollute – and unlike the Liberal scheme, there will be no sweetheart deals for anybody. 

Technology. Not taxes. An Andrew Scheer-led Conservative government will work to tackle the global fight against climate change while putting more money in the pockets of Canadians so they can get ahead, not just get by. 

Melissa Jean-Baptiste Vajda, New Democratic Party of Canada (MJBV):

I know that the climate crisis is top of mind for people across University-Rosedale. A New Democrat government will put in place ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets that stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Unlike other parties, we will make these targets legally-binding, and create an independent Climate Accountability Office. 

We are committed to stopping big breaks to polluters by ending fossil-fuel subsidies. We will create 300,000 good, green jobs through a historic investment of $15 billion. We will make all new buildings in Canada energy efficient by 2030, and retrofit all existing buildings by 2050. 

And we will ensure Indigenous communities are always full partners by implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

We see gun violence on the increase in Toronto and other urban centres — how does your party plan to tackle this issue?

MJBV:

Too many lives have been lost in Canadian cities to rising gun crime. I pledge to work to keeping illegal handguns off our streets and tackling gun smuggling and organized crime. I believe cities should have the authority to ban handguns, and to help protect our communities, New Democrats will make sure that they have access to funding for anti-gang projects that help deter at-risk youth from joining gangs. 

New Democrats know that building a sense of community safety is not just about the absence of crime. When we focus on increasing social inclusion, promoting public health, ensuring food security, access to education, affordable housing, and increasing youth engagement, we not only provide Canadians with important services, we also reduce the risk of crime. 

HCT:

A Conservative government will take action to make it easier for police to target gang members and put them where they belong – behind bars. Andrew Scheer’s plan will end automatic bail for those accused of gang crime, create tougher sentences for violent gang crime, and make it easier for prosecutors to convict known gangs. 

An Andrew Scheer-led Conservative government will put criminals who use guns behind bars for a long time. Justin Trudeau’s approach to this issue fails to address the real problem — criminals who use guns commit violence. Blanket bans and new rules on those who already obey the law do nothing to keep our streets safer. We will ensure that anyone who has smuggled a gun goes to prison. 

TG:

Our priority is to ensure that illegal handguns are intercepted at the border and kept out of our cities. To do this, we would direct the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to focus its resources on weapons smuggling. To be effective, we’ll need Integrated Border Enforcement Teams made up of officers from the RCMP, CBSA, U.S. Customs, and the U.S. Coast Guard to gather intelligence and arrest gun smugglers. Finally, gun smuggling must be prosecuted as a crime of the highest order rather than as a customs violation. 

Within the country, we would ban handguns and combat weapons, including semi-automatic rifles and assault rifles, and launch a confidential buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

Given the Ford government’s cuts to public health programs administered by Ontario municipalities, will your party intervene or assist in funding these programs directly?

TG:

The federal government can put conditions on federal transfer payments to ensure that public health programs continue at the municipal level. Our pharmacare plan offers another way that the federal government can lead. We propose to cover both the federal and provincial costs of pharmacare for the first two years. This will avoid the delays inherent in negotiating a national plan with 10 provinces and 2 territories — as the Liberals and NDP are proposing — and ensure that pharmacare can begin much earlier. We are confident that, after two years, public support for the program will be so strong that no province will say no to paying its share. 

MJBV:

I believe that we need a health system that covers people from head to toe. I know that right now, too many Canadians don’t have access to medications they need or can’t afford to visit the dentist because of the cost. That’s unacceptable. 

As a New Democrat, I’m committed to a comprehensive, universal, public pharmacare that will save even families that already have insurance more than $500 a year. But we won’t stop there. We’ll work together with provincial partners, health professionals to develop a long-term roadmap to including dental care, eye care, hearing care, mental health care and more in the Canada Health Act.

HCT:

Under a new Conservative government, Canadians will be able to count on stable and predictable health and social program funding. It is critical for Canadians to have confidence that these programs will be there for them when they need them. That’s what the Health and Social Program Guarantee is about. The Health and Social Program Guarantee is a commitment to maintain and increase the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) and the Canada Social Transfer (CST) by at least 3% per year, as is currently mandated in legislation. Andrew Scheer and the Conservatives are going to continue to highlight our positive plan to help Canadians get ahead while reminding voters that Justin Trudeau is not as advertised. 

Transit growth plans in Toronto are off the rails with the City and the Province fighting over the direction of subway expansion — how will your party lead the region out of transit planning/building gridlock?

TG:

Planning gridlock will continue until the City of Toronto can make decisions that the province cannot overrule. Our new deal for cities — also known as charter city status — would provide constitutional protection and a greater share of taxes for cities. Cities in Canada currently receive only 10.3% of all taxes and must constantly ask other levels of government for money. Once cities have charter city status, long-term planning will finally become possible. 

Like our provincial counterparts, federal Greens support road pricing (i.e., road tolls, parking surcharges, etc.) as new sources of revenue to build transit. All drivers have a vested interest in expanded public transit systems and should contribute to the cost.  By doing so, they will benefit from a reduction in traffic congestion. 

MJBV:

Access to reliable, quality public transit is something I hear about from residents in University-Rosedale every day. That’s why I’m excited about our plan to create good jobs, improve air quality, and save commuters money. We’re committed to improving public transit by:

• Modernizing and expanding public transit through permanent, direct funding to municipalities;

• Scaling up green, zero-emission transit projects with buses and electric trains, and working with cities and towns to electrify our transit fleets by 2030;

• Waiving the federal tax on zero-emission vehicles and getting all new vehicles zero-emission by 2040;

• Investing in high-speed rail and expanding rail service options; and,

• Making sure that rural communities have access to the affordable transit options they need, like rail and buses, by re-establishing routes abandoned by Greyhound. 

HCT:

Justin Trudeau thinks he can spend your money better than you can. When he eliminated the Public Transit Tax Credit and took important financial support away from 1.8 million Canadians, he said the credit was just too “complex”. Life is expensive enough without the government costing you more. 

A Conservative government will introduce the Green Public Transit Tax Credit which will provide much-needed relief to transit users and commuters so they can just worry about getting home on time, and not so much on their bottom line. The Credit will be for transit passes that allow for unlimited travel within Canada on local buses, streetcars, subways, commuter trains, and ferries. A Conservative government will live within its means and put more money in your pocket so you can get ahead. 

What’s your perspective on the continuing policy of the Liberals of running deficits to create economic growth?

MJBV:

As New Democrats, we believe in being responsible with taxpayer dollars, and we believe in investing those dollars into services that Canadians need.  

Our New Deal for People will boost economic growth today with immediate investments, and into the future as a result of measures that will expand our labour force, from universal child care to public pharmacare. We also believe that those at the top should pay their fair share: that’s why we will introduce a 1% wealth tax on households making $20 million and more. 

Our country’s finances will be fiscally sustainable under our New Deal, according to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office’s fiscal sustainability measures. By carefully focusing on Canadians’ priorities, our fiscal approach ensures that Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio falls over our 10 year fiscal horizon. 

HCT:

Today, Canadians are under pressure and worried about their future. Their dreams are getting further out of reach. They are looking for help. Trudeau has proven he cannot be trusted to deliver it. If Trudeau is re-elected and given four more years his endless deficits will force him to raise taxes even higher. 

Two thirds of Canadians feel that they either can’t pay their bills – or they feel that they have nothing left over at the end of the month after they do. Almost half of all Canadian households report being less than $200 a month away from insolvency at month’s end. People are barely getting by. And they’re definitely not getting ahead. 

Andrew Scheer has a positive vision for Canada’s economy. A Conservative government will live within our means and leave more money in the pockets of Canadians so they can get ahead. 

TG:

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has committed to returning Canada to budgetary balance in five years. But there have been times, such as during the 2008 financial collapse, when stimulus spending resulting in a deficit was necessary. Corporate and sales tax cuts, fossil fuel subsidies and the government’s recent purchase of a pipeline were avoidable decisions that worsened the current deficit. We know that moving from a carbon to a net-zero economy will require government investments. While the Green Party is proposing some big new expenditures, we’ve also laid out a plan for paying for them. Canadians deserve this honesty from elected officials. 

Despite repeated attempts by the Gleaner, over several weeks, the campaign for Chrystia Freeland did not respond to requests to answer the candidate’s questions by press time.

READ MORE ON THE 2019 FEDERAL ELECTION:

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