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FEDERAL ELECTION 2021: Candidates queried (Aug. 2021)

September 8th, 2021 · No Comments

Gleaner asks University-Rosedale hopefuls five key questions

Questions are compiled by the Gleaner editorial board and edited for length and clarity. Election date is September 20, 2021. For more information on voting, please visit elections.ca

Question 1:  In recent years, municipalities across Canada have declared a climate emergency. This summer’s heatwave and forest fires have made that emergency very real for many Canadians. How will your party respond to the climate crisis and the need for immediate action? Specifically, what measures will you advocate for in University-Rosedale and how will you lead locally?

Nicole Robicheau, New Democratic Party:

One reason why I made the jump into politics is that I am tired of seeing and experiencing the devastating effects of climate change while governments stand by and refuse to take action to help those most in need. As a humanitarian worker, I’ve been on the frontlines of climate change, seeing first-hand how natural disasters keep increasing year after year. And no matter where the disaster, it’s always the same people most severely impacted: those already marginalized, living in precarious conditions to begin with. 

A New Democrat government will set a target of reducing Canada’s emissions by at least 50% from 2005 levels by 2030, reaching further wherever possible to account for Canada’s fair share. We will improve where we live and work, because these improvements help reduce carbon pollution, save money, and make life better for everyone. This means retrofitting all buildings in University-Rosedale (and Canada for that matter) by 2050. We will change how Canadians get around, because improving transit and getting our transportation infrastructure right will create jobs, strengthen communities, and reduce our carbon footprint. We will support local transit by permanently doubling the Canada Community-Building Fund and we will develop a public inter-city bus program.  We will power our communities with carbon-free energy, and pursue a clean-energy revolution to power Canada into the future. To do this we will set a target of net carbon-free electricity by 2030, and move to 100% non-emitting electricity by 2040. An NDP government will also end all federal fossil fuel subsidies. Instead of subsidizing the profits of oil companies while they destroy our planet, we’ll use those billions to invest in clean energy, and we’ll place a wealth tax on the ultra-rich as well. Climate justice is economic justice and social justice.

Steven Taylor, Conservative:

Conservatives will fight climate change and protect the environment. We will also meet Canada’s commitments to the Paris accord and reduce emissions by 2030. But unlike Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals who want to do it by tripling their carbon tax and making gas and heating fuel more expensive for everybody, we won’t do it on the backs of hard-working Canadians. Particularly, we will not drive jobs and investment out of the country and thereby hurt the economy we all depend on. 

The most efficient way to reduce our emissions is to use pricing mechanisms. Our market-based plan to combat climate change will therefore study the imposition of a carbon border tariff, to reflect the amount of carbon emissions attributed to goods imported into Canada. Producers in countries with emissions reductions mechanisms that are compatible with our own will be exempt. 

Any serious plan must avoid hurting Canada’s growth, while the worst climate offenders do nothing. The present state of global trade allows some of the world’s worst polluters to become free riders to the detriment of Canadian workers. And carbon pricing should not result in Canadians sending billions of dollars of new tax revenue to the government –  revenue it will be increasingly tempted to spend. 

The Conservative plan brings the provinces together to talk about the next steps in climate action and how we can work together to meet Canada’s goal. This is the plan we put to the provinces as a federal partner and it is the plan that will give Canada the best chance to be a leader in climate action. 

Tim Grant, Green Party:

Mission Possible, our 2019 climate action plan, was judged by Navius Research to be the only plan that would enable Canada to meet its international obligations of a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030.  This CBC-funded study concluded that none of the plans of the other parties came close.  Today, a big reason to be skeptical of the latest promises from the Liberals, NDP and Conservatives to reduce carbon emissions is that they all support new oil and gas pipelines, which will do the opposite. 

Among many measures, Mission Possible called for the following: a bus and rail grid that would provide hourly bus service between communities and deliver passengers to train stations, thus allowing Via Rail to run faster trains and more of them; a national retrofit of all buildings to dramatically improve their energy-efficiency and in the process create millions of jobs across the country; and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.  The Liberals have given $28 billion to fossil-fuel companies since 2018, $10 billion alone since the pandemic began. 

Here in University-Rosedale, I currently chair the NetZero Carbon project of the Harbord Village Residents’ Association.  We are working on an ambitious 10-year project to demonstrate that a single neighbourhood can reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2030 from transportation and home heating.  We hope to meet this goal by making it easier – and cheaper – for residents to replace their cars with electric bikes or cars and to make their houses more energy-efficient and comfortable. Each year, we’re organizing bulk purchases of these products and services and extending the opportunity to participate to 26 other Toronto neighbourhoods.  We are doing this because of the absence of the federal and provincial leadership we need.

Chrystia Freeland, Liberal:

Climate change is real and it is important that Canada meets this moment with urgency and with the understanding that we are currently undertaking the most profound economic shift since the industrial revolution. That is why our Liberal government has put climate policy and the green transformation at the heart of our agenda. Unlike other political parties, we have a real plan to promote clean growth and ensure Canada is at the forefront of the global fight against climate change. Canadians cannot afford anything less than bold leadership on climate.

By 2030, our Liberal plan will have ended plastic pollution and thermal coal exports, and reduced methane emissions from oil and gas companies by 75 per cent compared to their 2012 levels. By 2035, all passenger vehicles sold in Canada will be zero emission, and all Canadians will have access to clean electricity thanks to a net-zero electricity grid. We will also support oil and gas workers across the country as Canada transitions to clean energy, and help train more firefighters to make communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

These commitments will help us meet our ambitious climate targets of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45 per cent by 2030, and build on the work we have accomplished over the past six years. Here in University—Rosedale, this has meant support for the Toronto Ravine Strategy under the $200 million Natural Infrastructure Fund, a program we will double in funding if re-elected; better public transit thanks to our $10 billion investment in the GTA to help TTC streetcars go green and to build line expansions; and more bike lanes with the National Active Transportation Strategy. 

We also made Canada a world leader with the price on pollution, which will go up to $170 per tonne by 2030. It is a powerful driver of our green economy because it incentivizes lower emissions while giving money back to families. And, since 2015, our Liberal government has invested over $100 billion to ensure Canadian families and businesses are able to make the shift toward renewable energies. With green home retrofits, electric charging stations, preserving land and oceans, and the $8 billion Net Zero Accelerator Fund, which helps large industries go green, we have been there to support our country’s essential transition.

2. An overwhelming majority of Canadians support some form of vaccination passport program for access to non-essential services, while most provinces have done nothing to support such a move, forcing many organizations to create their own. Will your party step in to create a national standard?

Tim Grant:

Yes, we would.   Vaccine certificates or passports will help to protect those in the most vulnerable situations and alleviate stress on an already over-burdened health-care system.  Equally important, by reducing the transmission of COVID-19, it will help businesses and schools stay open.

While no one should be forced to get vaccinated, we must require it for those working in essential services, like health care.  Ditto college and university students, and not just those living in residence.   Making vaccination mandatory for those working in institutional settings will reduce anxiety levels and help to keep everyone safe and focussed on what they need to do. 

While not getting vaccinated is a right, it comes with a responsibility to avoid doing harm to others. It is a privilege – not a right – to be able to go to a movie or a concert, or to eat in a restaurant.   To avoid the mixing of the vaccinated with the unvaccinated in these non-essential settings, a vaccine passport must be a requirement for entry into all indoor settings. 

The certificate we need should be standardized for the whole country and available in an electronic format. It must be simple and easy for use. We’ll also need options for people who don’t have smartphones. The focus of the federal and provincial governments has to be to make the rules as clear, simple, and fair as possible.

A pan-Canadian vaccination certificate would be ideal, given the amount of interprovincial travel, and to help overcome a patchwork of different policies from one province to another. 

Those with and without vaccine passports will still face inconveniences in the months ahead, but that is the price of returning to work or studying in a school setting, versus not being able to do either.

Steven Taylor:

Vaccines are the single most important tool in the fight against COVID-19, and our party strongly encourages every Canadian who can to get vaccinated. 

However, unlike our Liberal opponents, Conservatives also respect and support the right of all Canadians to make their own health choices – as long as unvaccinated people accept that with that right comes an obligation to respect the rights of others who chose vaccination. So, those who choose not to be vaccinated must also be prepared to accept additional workplace safety measures. 

Conservatives recognize that provincial governments will continue to set their own public health measures, as is their constitutional right and obligation. Three Canadian provinces have already done so.

Chrystia Freeland:

Our position on vaccines is clear – they are the single most important economic and public health policy. If you are not fully vaccinated and eligible for a vaccine, please book an appointment today. Thanks to our procurement efforts Canada has an abundant supply of vaccines. 

A re-elected Liberal government will absolutely support provinces and territories, including Ontario, looking to implement vaccine requirements for public spaces and non-essential businesses, through a $1 billion COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Fund. And I am proud that we are requiring all Liberal candidates to be vaccinated, and that as a government we are making vaccines mandatory for federal workers, and people travelling on planes, trains, and cruise ships. It is the minimum commitment that anyone seeking to form government should make to their fellow Canadians.

Vaccines are the only way that we will be able to avoid an aggressive and devastating fourth wave. Making sure that all eligible Canadians get vaccinated is the only way to be sure that our children can go back to school in-person and see their friends safely.

Nicole Robicheau:

Canadian families should be able to access vaccine passports as easily as possible. New Democrats have called on the Liberal government to get all provinces to sign on to a vaccine passport, and ensure the passport is in place by Labour Day.

Question 3: The pandemic shone a light on the housing and affordability crisis in Toronto as well as other major cities across Canada. It also exposed the inadequate support we give to the houseless population. How would your party move forward and work to correct these issues? Would you advocate for federal investment in affordable housing – specifically, would you provide federal operational funding to assist TCHC with its capital repairs as well as provide capital for more affordable units?

Tim Grant:

In this election, all of the parties will promise to fund large amounts of affordable housing.  We’re no different.  In 2019, we proposed a ten-year plan to annually build 25,000 units of affordable new housing and rehabilitate another 15,000, such as those maintained by Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).  And we showed in our budget how we would pay for it. 

While that promise remains, I want to answer this question differently.   Since housing is a provincial responsibility, we propose a federal Minister of Housing be appointed to work with the provinces to ensure that annual targets of building and renovating affordable housing units are met. 

We would cancel first-time homeowner grants.  As election promises, they sound great. But they are counter-productive because they drive up housing costs for the very people they were designed to serve.

We also advocate for an additional way to increase the supply of affordable housing. That is to require cities that receive federal funds to mandate that 30 per cent of units in every new condo building be affordable and available for those with special needs.  This would create 30,000 affordable units in Toronto per year.  Beside the benefit of having rich and poor riding the same elevators, it would allow tens of thousands of low-income Torontonians to live closer to their workplaces, thus reducing congestion on the TTC and our roads.   

Housing co-ops and church-led public housing projects are another key part of the solution.  Both have proven to provide better governance than large municipal projects and should be supported with federal funds.  Similarly, many non-profits with programs that support the homeless have achieved excellent results and they too deserve federal funding. 

Finally, we also advocate for cities to receive more than the 10 per cent of all tax dollars, in order to better address homelessness in their midst.

Chrystia Freeland:

We know that the recent and rapid rise in housing prices has made it difficult for Canadian families, very much including people here in our community, to find an affordable place to call home. And we are absolutely committed to helping Torontonians, and all Canadians, achieve their dream of becoming homeowners. That is why housing affordability is a core pillar of our Liberal platform.

We will help young Canadian families become homeowners, by creating a First Home Savings Account (in which Canadians under 40 will be able to save and withdraw up to $40,000 tax free) and by doubling the First-Time Home Buyer’s Tax Credit. We will also build and repair 1.4 million homes over the next four years. And we will continue the important work started in our recent budget to ensure Canadian homes are for families, not passive investment vehicles. We will expand the new tax on vacant housing owned by non-resident, non-Canadians to include vacant land, and we will put in place a two-year ban on foreign ownership of Canadian homes.

And, importantly for our community, we will more than double the current funding of the National Housing Co-investment, which has provided $1.34 billion to Toronto Community Housing Corporation’s (TCHC) aging social housing portfolio. 

This is in addition to the $200 million we invested to build six residential buildings with 916 rental units at Mirvish Village. 366 of these units are provided at rents at or below 30 per cent of the median household income, including 100 units secured at 80 per cent of Average Market Rent for the City of Toronto. We have also put in place the $70 billion National Housing Strategy, and the $2.5 billion Rapid Housing Initiative which has provided the City of Toronto with over $300 million to build affordable housing. We have been working since 2015 to make life more affordable for all Canadian families, including those who live in the Annex, and that is exactly what we will continue to do.

Nicole Robicheau:

A New Democrat government will create at least 500,000 units of quality, affordable housing in the next ten years, with half of that done within five years. This will be achieved with the right mix of effective measures that work in partnership with provinces and municipalities. We will build capacity for social, community, and affordable housing providers, provide rental support for co-ops, and meet environmental energy efficiency goals. In order to kick-start the construction of co-ops, social and non-profit housing, and break the logjam that has prevented these groups from accessing housing funding, we will set up dedicated fast-start funds to streamline the application process and help communities get the expertise and assistance they need to get projects off the ground now, not years from now. We’ll mobilize federal resources and lands for these projects, turning unused and under-used properties into vibrant new communities. New Democrats believe that housing is a human right, and we’ll ensure it’s treated as such.

Steven Taylor:

Conservatives believe all Canadians should have a chance to build the life they dream of and to live on a street with good neighbours. Unfortunately, while housing prices continue to soar to historic highs, Mr.Trudeau’s Liberals are failing to make homes more affordable for Canadians, especially for young, first-time home buyers. It’s a crisis and Mr. Trudeau’s flashy announcements and promises of ever-increasing spending will not fix it. We need a housing plan in Canada that gets homes built and empowers Canadians to be able to own a home in their lifetime. 

A Conservative government will therefore create or free up a million homes in the next three years by releasing as much as 15 per cent of federally-owned buildings into the housing market, placing a two-year moratorium on foreign investors who live outside the country and making changes to the mortgage stress test. We will also be looking at converting office space into housing and to help the equally important rental market, our housing plan will allow developers to defer capital gains taxes – if they reinvest in rental properties.

Question 4: The pandemic has hurt our country’s economy and many of Ontario’s small businesses took the brunt of it. How will your party work to support small businesses as we continue through the COVID-19 pandemic?

Chrystia Freeland:

Small and medium-sized businesses are the cornerstone of Canada’s economy. So, it has been our Liberal government’s priority to help them weather the pandemic and rebound in the recovery. This is a key focus of our recent budget and platform.

When the pandemic hit, we introduced targeted support to help hard-hit businesses and organizations. These include the wage subsidy, which has protected over 2.1 million jobs in Ontario, and the rent subsidy and lockdown support, which have provided over $1.8 billion in support to Ontario businesses. And, while our economy has already started to come roaring back, we know that we must continue to support small business owners and workers as we finish the fight against COVID, and into the recovery.

To jumpstart economic growth, our Liberal government implemented the Canada Recovery Hiring Program which encourages businesses to take on the risk of hiring new workers by helping cover their wages. If we are re-elected, this support will be extended until the end of March. We have also put in place a digital adoption program, which gives micro-grants and zero-interest loans to businesses looking to adopt new technologies. And businesses are now also able to expense up to $1.5 million of their capital investments over the next three years to help them grow. For hard-hit sectors like tourism, hospitality, arts and culture that are still unable to fully reopen, we will provide further targeted support to help them get through the next few months.

We will always be there for those hardest-hit by the pandemic, including through the recovery, to ensure no one is left behind.

Nicole Robicheau:

We know there’s so much more to do to help the small businesses that our communities rely on. That’s why New Democrats pushed the Liberal government to create stronger small business wage and rent subsidy programs than the Liberals had originally planned, and we know these programs saved people’s jobs. We’ll make sure these continue until small businesses are able to fully reopen. To help small businesses get people back to work, we’ll put in place a long-term hiring bonus to pay the employer portion of EI and CPP for new or rehired staff. New Democrats will keep working hard for small businesses to tackle issues that impact their bottom line. As more and more small businesses rely on credit card and virtual transactions, we’ll put an end to gouging by capping high credit card merchant fees at a maximum of 1%.

Steven Taylor:

Small business is the engine of the Canadian economy. There are nearly a million enterprises with fewer than 100 employees and nearly 70 per cent of working Canadians work for them. Together they produce more than 40 per cent of Canada’s wealth. Yet, contra the ‘we’re all in this together’ slogan, small businesses right across Canada has indeed ‘borne the brunt’ of official COVID-19 responses. Often deemed ‘non-essential,’ small businesses were disproportionately shut down, the employees sent home and years of sweat equity destroyed in a few days. Under Mr. Trudeau’s watch, tens of thousands of these businesses closed for good, even as they watched massive competitors like big-box stores and online web-giants stay open, make record profits and pay huge dividends to their shareholders.

Mr. O’Toole’s Conservatives will rebuild the struggling main street. And we will rebuild the streets behind main street where the small industries are, by providing incentives to invest in, rebuild and even start new businesses. 

Our plan to put small business back on its feet includes:

The Main Street Business Loan that would make available loans of up to $200,000 to help small and medium businesses in hospitality, retail, and tourism get back on their feet, with up to 25 per cent forgiven.

The Canada Investment Accelerator tax credit,  a 5 per cent investment tax credit for any capital investment made in 2022 and 2023, with the first $25,000 to be refundable for small business

To make it easier to hire new talent, the Conservative Job Surge Plan will pay up to 50 per cent of the salary of net new hires for six months following the end of CEWS 

The Rebuild Main Street Tax Credit will provide a 25 per cent tax credit on amounts up to $100,000 that Canadians personally invest in a small business over the next two years

Mr. Trudeau’s supposed business-relief programs were too little, too late, and often hard to access. The Conservative plan puts the power of credit, wage support and tax relief behind Canada’s entrepreneurs. And, it will be sufficient, quickly delivered, and easy to access.

Tim Grant:

During the worst of the pandemic, small businesses relied on federal support programs to survive. Similar federal supports will be needed to enable those same businesses to emerge from the pandemic. But this time – to reduce the cost – financial support should no longer be given to large, profitable corporations. 

Several key Green programs would provide less obvious support to small businesses.  Our pharmacare plan will reduce the time lost to sickness by employees. (We propose to pay the provincial share for the first 2 years so a national plan can be implemented right away.) Our proposal for a guaranteed liveable income would increase consumer spending, enable thousands to start new businesses, and bring increased investment to existing, small businesses.  Our national retrofit program will make all buildings more energy-efficient, thus reducing energy costs. 

And of course, a shift away from fossil fuels will create opportunities for hundreds of thousands of innovative new businesses to emerge, whether selling electric bikes or more durable consumer goods.    

We would require successful bidders on federal infrastructure contracts to maximize the spin-off community benefits of such contracts. This will strengthen opportunities for Indigenous, Métis and Inuit-owned businesses, social enterprise, co-operatives and diverse suppliers in nearby communities to benefit from those infrastructure projects. 

Finally, because cities receive only 10 per cent of all the tax dollars collected by all levels of government within their borders, they are too reliant on property and small business taxes.   We are committed to enabling cities to gain charter city status, so that their decisions can’t be overturned by provincial governments and they have the funds they need to fulfill all the responsibilities placed on them, without being so reliant on homeowners and small businesses.  

Question 5: The People’s Republic of China has detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, for over 1,000 days – what is your plan for saving these victims of hostage diplomacy in particular, and more generally, how will you hold Beijing to international norms on human rights?

Nicole Robicheau:

As a humanitarian worker with a background in human rights, I firmly believe all nations should be held to account in terms of upholding human rights, including Canada. A New Democrat government will stand up to China with a strong and coherent strategy to defend Canadian interests at home and abroad. We will work with our allies to lead a robust and coordinated international response to China’s disregard of the rule of law. New Democrats will call out human rights abuses by China, stand with Hong Kong pro-democracy asylum seekers, and provide coordinated support for those facing threats by Chinese entities here in Canada.

Steven Taylor, Conservative:

We must show we’re willing to stand up for our interests, our citizens and our values, sometimes with tough and difficult decisions – like sanctions. What you don’t do is pretend everything is fine, as Mr. Trudeau has done. 

You therefore don’t host the People’s Liberation Army for training exercises in Canada or try to joint-venture a COVID vaccine with Beijing and get dumped in the process, or stay silent as Hong Kong democracy is suppressed and the Muslim Uighur minority is persecuted. And you don’t say that among all the governments of the world, you most admire China’s because it knows how to ‘get things done.’ 

We need to be clear what China does. It is rapidly building up its capacity to make war, and to extend its influence in the South China Sea. It threatens Taiwan. It steals intellectual property, dictates the terms of trade and as in the case of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, kidnaps non-citizens to exert leverage over their countries. In fact, even as Canadian athletes train for next year’s Winter Olympics in China, Mr. O’Toole warns ‘we are approaching a point where it won’t be safe for Canadians, including Olympic athletes, to travel to China.’

China does not act like a partner or a friend. The cases against Spavor and Kovrig are outrageous and contrived. There are no magic solutions and to the degree their detention is related to the case of Huawei executive Meng, detained under a U.S.-Canadian extradition treaty, the solution is not even entirely in our hands. 

However, for the first nine months of their imprisonment, we didn’t even have an ambassador in China, thanks to Mr. Trudeau’s hand-picked, Liberal insider John McCallum. 

So, the first necessity is a serious, professional approach. Inaction, weakness and self-delusion have not worked.

Tim Grant:

Canada needs to take two important steps to confront China for the imprisonment of the two Michaels, the imprisonment of more than one million Uyghurs, and the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong.  The first is to develop a coalition of countries that can apply collective pressure on China to improve its dismal human rights record.  Many other countries also face retaliation by China, so forming a large coalition will not be difficult.  Multilateral efforts have a much greater impact than if countries like Canada act alone. 

The second step is to reduce trade with China and any other country that routinely violates human rights.  While China is our second largest trading partner, they represent only 4 per cent of our imports and 6 per cent of our exports.  It will be easier to reduce our economic dependency on that large country if we succeed in building a coalition of countries willing to stand up to it.  

Much of what we export to China are raw materials.  We’ve long known that more – and higher-paying – jobs would be created if we processed those raw materials into finished and semi-finished products. But we’ve lacked the political leadership to make that happen. To reduce trade with China, we’ll need to re-develop our manufacturing base, which will in turn help to reduce the supply chain problems that have plagued much of our economy since the pandemic began.

China’s abysmal human rights record now provides another incentive to do what we’ve long needed to do.  If we follow both steps, we’ll be a much stronger position to free the two Michaels, and more broadly, force China to start respecting human rights.

Chrystia Freeland:

Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor are two very brave Canadians, who are behaving with incredible decency and incredible courage in very difficult circumstances. I want to assure all Canadians that we will not rest until both Michaels are able to come home. We condemn in the strongest possible terms China’s arbitrary detention and sentencing of the two Michaels. 

In February 2021, we launched the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations, which has been endorsed by 66 countries. We will continue to implement domestic measures to protect Canadians and work closely with our friends, allies, and partners to respond to illegal and unacceptable behaviour by authoritarian states, including China, Russia, and Iran.

-Compiled by Nicole Stoffman

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