Roderick Benns recently interviewed the PPC, Conservative, Liberal, Green, and NDP candidates for Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Brock riding to help voters make an informed decision leading up to the election in October. In our fifth and final installment is Jamie Schmale of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Benns: Can you highlight a policy of your party that will lead to increased employment and increased average income in our riding?
Schmale: The cost of living is top of mind to many voters in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock and across this country. Two thirds of Canadians feel that they either can’t pay their bills – or feel that they have nothing left over at the end of the month. Almost half of all Canadian households report being less than $200 a month away from insolvency at month’s end. Fuel, food, home heating, and debt – everything keeps getting more expensive.
The previous Conservative government led Canada through the global recession with the smallest debt and deficit and best median income growth of any G7 nation. And we emerged with one million new jobs. In contrast, the Trudeau Liberals continue to spend outside their means and as a result they continue to tax us more.
We must remember that supporting an industry; whether it is agriculture, tourism, oil and gas or manufacturing, doesn’t just create jobs in one part of the country. By boosting sector growth we foster job creation along the supply chain, right across this country.
We need to open up inter-provincial trade, which has the potential to add $90 billion to the Canadian GDP. As long as we continue to cede investment and jobs to our biggest economic competitors, Canadians will continue to struggle. Energy independent Canada would create jobs and investment here at home and not in other countries.
Not only do we need to cut red tape in order to make it easier for Canadians to open up a business, but we also need to rebuild trust in our international partners and open up trade deals to find new customers for Canadian goods. By repairing the damaged relationships Trudeau and his Liberals have caused with our key trading partners, and by launching a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement accelerator, we can ensure that Canadians are getting the full benefits of our existing trade deal with Europe.
Benns: Do you believe in climate change science? How is your party dealing with climate change?
Schmale: We should all be concerned about climate change and consider the kind of planet we will leave to future generations. The Conservatives have a real plan to protect our environment which is built on three guiding principles: green technology, not taxes; a cleaner and greener natural environment; and taking the climate change fight global. Our plan is the most comprehensive environmental platform ever put forward by a political party in Canada.
I am proud to share that the Conservative Party has committed to reintroducing the Lake Simcoe Clean-up Fund. Eight communities span the 3,300 km2 watershed. More than 400,000 people rely on the lake for drinking water and make their livelihood in its watershed. Additionally, from 2007-2012:
- Over 72 000 native trees/shrubs/grasses were planted in the watershed to stabilize shorelines and reduce phosphorus runoff.
- Over 20 000 metres of fencing was installed to restrict approximately 1 300 livestock from water courses.
- Over 5 000 kilometres of stream/lake bank were stabilized.
- Storm water pond retrofits were implemented in several municipalities.
The Conservative Party will also introduce the Green Homes Tax Credit, a two-year plan that will encourage Canadians to improve their homes with emissions-reducing technologies. In 2017, emissions from buildings accounted for 12% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the Conservative plan, it will not be free to pollute – and unlike the Liberal scheme, there will be no sweetheart deals for anybody. Emitters who exceed our limits will be required to invest in technology that will lower emissions to fight climate change. We would encourage private sector innovation to help fight climate change, because governments don’t innovate, individuals do. Businesses do.
When you place a sector of the economy in the hands of government you essentially slam the door on the spark of innovation. When governments “innovate”, they often give money to people who present the government with what it is they already want. Innovation can’t be predicted. You can`t predict through government planning who, what and where a great idea is going to come from. I’ve seen state-of-the-art technology come from Canadian green tech companies – when you present a problem, a free and open market will find a solution.
Benns: What’s the future of CPP in your mind, a system under a great deal of stress right now and quite frankly, something that now delivers an inadequate amount of money to seniors to live on?
Schmale: The cost of living for Seniors in Canada has become a significant burden that our aging population has had to carry on their shoulders. The Liberal government has created a cost-of-living crisis for seniors with their Carbon Tax, making everyday essentials like gas, home heating, and groceries more expensive. Seniors built the country we enjoy today – and they deserve much better than to be made to choose between heating their home and buying groceries.
The Canada Pension Plan, while something many Canadians rely on, also has its drawbacks. I’m sure the majority of people would not invest their money in this system if they knew how it actually works – or had a choice. For example, how many people would choose a retirement product that would eliminate every penny you put into the system (except for the death benefit) should you die single or have a spouse already collecting the maximum amount?
Let’s be honest, many of us would like to pass on our investments to the person of our choice should we pass on. In fact, there are many groups of people who are kept from climbing the ladder of opportunity and from accumulating wealth that could no doubt help their situation.
How many people have you witnessed work their entire life, saving away with the CPP only to die before collecting? In turn, that money, instead of going to their spouse, children grandchildren, etc., pay school tuition, buy a home or start a business, it goes back into government coffers.
I have met with many who feel disadvantaged by the CPP, and unfortunately this disproportionately negatively affects elderly aged females. In many cases, they happen to be the ones who live longer, and upon the passing of their spouse/partner find themselves struggling to get by as the cost of living (hydro, groceries, home heating), continues to rise faster than the cost of living increases on their pension.
Benns: Pharmacare will be a key issue in the next election. Dr. Hoskin’s report clearly favours a single payer system – what’s your preference and why?
Schmale: I don’t believe the most efficient solution to this problem is to establish a new bureaucracy. Instead, I think we should get to the root of this issue and encourage provinces to work together with better bulk buying initiatives, so that we can take bigger steps towards helping those struggling with accessing affordable prescription medications.
I believe that we need to bring forward solutions that address the priorities of Canadians, and policies that put people before government. Conservatives believe that every Canadian should have reasonable access to the healthcare they need, and that some Canadians struggle to pay for or access prescription medications.
However, the evidence shows that this is not a problem for the vast majority of Canadians. In fact, according to a 2017 report by the Conference Board of Canada, 98% of Canadians either already have or are eligible for private or public drug coverage.
The Liberals have been promising a pharmacare plan for decades and have clearly made no progress on this issue. What is clear though, is that the Liberals would have to drastically raise taxes in order to implement what Dr. Hoskins’ Report recommends.
Benns: How will you try to practice inclusive politics and move us away from the intensely partisan? Can you give me an example?
Schmale: Often when votes are held, many pieces of legislation pass with multi-party support. The problem is, conflict within politics is what makes news – and that’s what ends up in news outlets and on social media. At the end of the day, the vast majority of elected officials do get along and often are seen outside of work hours talking about everyday life.
Benns: Do you believe that abortion should be freely available and publicly funded? Why?
Schmale: Canadians can have absolute confidence that after an election in October, a Conservative government will not reopen debate on whether to regulate abortion. This can be found in the Conservative Party’s online Policy Declaration document, in Section 70, Page 27.
Benns: Do you believe we should have election reform to replace our first past the post system, keeping in mind that it was your party that reneged on this promise?
Schmale: I personally believe that the current electoral system we have in Canada – parliamentary democracy – has served our country well for more than 150 years. Although the results of our elections may not please everyone, Canadians know that our electoral system is recognized as one of the most fair and legitimate systems around the world. For the same reason that politicians aren’t allowed to choose their own electoral boundaries, politicians should also not be allowed to decide which electoral system suits them best.
As we saw after Justin Trudeau unilaterally tried to change our electoral system, a government cannot make a fundamental change to the way Canadians elect their federal representatives without bringing that change forward in a referendum. I believe that when a government wants to change the rules of democracy, every Canadian should get a say – and this fundamental change can’t be dominated by one party’s political interests.
In the riding of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, I held a constituency referendum, whereby voting-age constituents could return a mail out to my office casting their ‘vote’ on whether or not there should be a referendum on this very issue. Many of the constituents in our area shared that they believe the Liberal Government should allow a referendum, to empower Canadians to make this decision for themselves.
Benns: Should Canada institute a Basic Income for every citizen? Why/why not?
Schmale: Income redistribution is not the answer. A combination of low taxation and support for entrepreneurs and small businesses will provide Canadians the jobs they deserve and stimulate our economy.
I believe that a significant part of the solution to poverty lies in the free market. Where government’s role is to encourage economic growth and support Canadians with the right tools, skills, and business opportunities to fully participate and to lift themselves out of poverty.
As such, we should not focus on income inequality but on wealth creating policies like reducing taxes for all Canadians, reducing red tape and freeing up the labour market, fostering entrepreneurial opportunities for lower and middle income Canadians and ensuring there are no hindrances to the free movement of goods and services. Low inflation, free trade, and low business taxes also have a positive correlation to how much employment is created by growth. As I have said many times before, the more money people have to spend on their priorities and less in the hands of government, the better off people will be.
Benns: The lack of affordable housing and attainable housing (not just social housing) is an important issue in this riding. Do you believe there should be a federal housing strategy?
Schmale: If new supply isn’t generated as demand grows, housing prices will not organically lower and unfortunately without ongoing involvement from the private sector, government won’t be able to solve this problem on its own. A Conservative government will work with provinces and municipalities to knock down regulatory barriers that discourage new home construction so more homes can come to the market to lower prices.
We will also rework the mortgage stress test the Liberals brought in a couple of years ago that pushed the dream of home-ownership out of the reach for many Canadians across this country, so more Canadians can have the freedom to shop for better rates.
Benns: What’s most on your mind specific to this riding that we may not have covered yet?
Schmale: What I’m hearing from constituents is a serious concern for the lack of infrastructure development, poor access to internet and cellular service, and the overall affordability crisis across rural Ontario.
I have advocated on behalf of the VIA Rail Quebec City-Ottawa-Peterborough-Toronto relief line. A dedicated rail line is vital to improving the health of the local economy, connecting commuters to major employment centers, and reducing the environmental impact of motor vehicles. This means more money being spent on a project that our community knows is a vital necessity to improving our daily lives. I have fought tirelessly to see a relief line become a reality, and despite delay from the current government, this will remain a top focus going forward.
Despite the municipalities and current provincial government stepping forward with funding to kick start improvements to rural connectivity, the Liberal government has dragged their feet and have yet to make a commitment for critical broadband and cellular service improvements for the majority Eastern Ontario. Not only would this help connect families, friends, and businesses, but would also help to save lives by ensuring cellular access to emergency services in remote areas and improving public safety by connecting all first responders on a dedicated network.
These issues along with many others tie into the overarching challenge of affordability. Not only is it becoming increasingly expensive to fuel your car, but the cost of heating your home, and certainly the cost of rent, continues to increase. Gasoline, groceries, home heating, real estate and debt – everything continues to become expensive. After 10 years of steady wage growth under the previous government, including a 12% average wage increase for women, earnings across Canada have stagnated since 2015. These are issues that we take very seriously – and I hear them day in and day out from concerned constituents.