By Lyonel Doherty
(This is the third story on Wednesday’s all-candidates forum at Frank Venables Theatre.)
Liberal candidate Connie Denesiuk was put on the hot seat when she was asked what the Trudeau government will do to balance the budget when it failed to do so the first time.
She said they sort of inherited the budget from the Conservatives, which prompted groans and laughter from the audience.
Denesiuk noted they have been investing in infrastructure when there was an infrastructure deficit left by the Conservative government.
“What’s the point in handing the next generation a balanced budget if you’re also handing them crumbling infrastructure?”
Denesiuk said Canada has the fastest growing economy in the G7, the lowest unemployment in 40 years, and a million new jobs in the last four years.
Incumbent MP Richard Cannings pointed to provincial New Democrats that have balanced their budgets 40 per cent of the time compared to 33 per cent for Conservatives and 23 per cent for Liberals.
“We have smaller deficits and spend less money. All those things the NDP does better than the Conservatives or Liberals.”
Sean Taylor from the People’s Party of Canada said they will balance the budget in two years.
“Andrew Scheer (Conservative leader) made that promise too and then he backed out saying it was going to take him five.”
Taylor said the People’s Party is the only group committed to be true fiscal conservatives.
Green Party candidate Tara-Lyn Howse said there is a lot of “really nice talk” and promises being made, but noted her party outstripped every other party in an independent analysis on budgeted platforms.
“If you want real numbers, look at the Green Party.”
Denesiuk said 75 per cent of the debt in Canada has been accrued by the Conservative government.
“In one year alone, Harper (former prime minister) accrued $55 billion in debt; that’s twice as much as what’s projected this year.”
But she quoted parliamentary budget officers who suggest that deficits are not a threat to Canada’s financial health.
Conservative candidate Helena Konanz said what is frightening is having a Liberal candidate (Denesiuk) say it’s okay to have this much debt.
“So my question is if Justin Trudeau has four more years, how much will he spend? How much more will we get into debt?”
Howse said the Green Party wants to close offshore tax loopholes and tax big tech giants like Google, Netflix and Amazon who “aren’t paying a single dime to the Canadian economy.” They also want to increase multi-national corporation taxes by 21 per cent, saying these companies should be paying for the resources they are taking from the economy.
Taylor said the People’s Party will abolish $5 billion in corporate welfare, cut foreign aid by $4 billion, and de-fund the CBC to the tune of one billion (this prompted some groans from the audience).
“We’re spending billions of dollars in Africa to fight climate change. I think that money could be better spent here.”
Taylor was asked how his party’s plan for lower immigration numbers will help small businesses who rely on seasonal labour.
The candidate said these workers don’t want to immigrate to Canada.
“They come in, they follow the crops, they do the job, they go home.”
Taylor said the focus is getting foreign workers here to do the job, rather than UN mandates telling Canada that it has to take refugees.
“These illegal immigrants are gumming up the works to interfere with our refugees who really do need help from problem areas.”
Taylor said it’s a dangerous world and Canada does not have the intelligence infrastructure to vet these people properly.
Cannings said farmers and vineyard owners have been struggling to secure workers because of bureaucracy.
“In terms of temporary foreign workers, the NDP believes that if you’re good enough to come and work in Canada, you’re good enough to stay in Canada and have a route to citizenship.”
Howse said it chills her to hear talk about not wanting refugees to enter Canada, citing the year 1939 when 907 Jewish refugees were turned away to sail back to Nazi Germany where most did not survive.
The candidates were asked how they would address the concerns about the removal of agricultural land as a result of the national park proposal.
Konanz said it doesn’t sound fair to have the national park remove land from the Agricultural Land Reserve, especially when many people’s requests have been turned down in the past.
Cannings said the agricultural lands that are in the national park proposed area are being used for ranching, which will continue.
“I think the park will have essentially no impact on agricultural production.”
Denesiuk said they have to look 100 years ahead, noting there has been encroachment (and development) up the mountain.
“I think we need to be bold, to be strong and make sure we protect that land for children a hundred years from now.”
Konanz said the problem is none of the promises from government have been put on paper. “So people are afraid of investing in their businesses or land because the national park representatives and the Liberals have said, ‘don’t worry, it will all work out.’