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Q&A with the Sarnia-Lambton candidates

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The Journal asked the four federal candidates seeking to represent Sarnia-Lambton to answer five questions. This week, we present their responses, in alphabetic order.

Marilyn Gladu, Conservative 

1 – Waterfront homes in Sarnia are being torn down and replaced with bigger ones while food bank lines grow. What could your party do to reduce the income gap?

As a person who is on the board of a local church that has a food bank, I will tell you that the secret to getting people out of food bank lines is to get them well-paying jobs. More than that, we as Conservatives believe that families need to be able to keep more of their hard-earned money. That’s why we’ve reduced the federal taxes to the lowest level in 50 years, and have removed over 1 million low-income Canadians and nearly 400,000 seniors from the tax rolls through our tax cuts. Unfortunately, the Liberals and the NDP have opposed these important benefits.

2 – Canadians born in 1963 or later will now have to wait until they’re 67 to collect Old Age Security. Is your party prepared to roll that back?

We made those changes to OAS to make sure it was sustainable for the long term. It’s important to us that the program continues to be there for all Canadians who have paid into it. Ensuring that people who have worked hard of all their lives can retire with dignity is a priority for our Conservative Party. We’ll create a new tax credit for single or widowed seniors, in addition to pension income splitting. The other parties voted against all of our attempts to help seniors including pension splitting, the Tax Free Savings Account, and increases to Guaranteed Income Supplement.

3 –The brain-drain of young people leaving Sarnia-Lambton for higher education and not returning continues unabated. What can we do about that?

We need to create opportunities for our youth by creating well-paying jobs for young people. Both the Liberals and NDP are opposed to responsible resource development, a key industry in our region, that represents numerous livelihoods and has the potential to represent that much more. The Wynne Liberals are withholding support from the Sarnia Advanced Bitumen Energy Refinery (SABER) Project, much like Justin’s Liberals and the NDP who have refused to show their support for projects currently on the table. A re-elected conservative Government will create 1.3 million new jobs by 2020, many of which will be here in Sarnia-Lambton.

4 – Forget your party’s platform, what makes you the best person to represent us in Ottawa?

Through my role as Business Director for a local engineering firm, I’ve already been engaged with many job creation initiatives (including oversize load corridor, SABER project, bio-projects and high tech manufacturing with Lambton College). From 30 years of experience working in the petrochemical industry globally and as a small business owner, I know the importance of a strong economy. As a county resident, I am familiar with the key role that agriculture plays in our local economy. I know that with my past experience I have the right balance of fiscal responsibility and social compassion to take Sarnia-Lambton forward.

5 – You were criticized for not participating in a candidate debate on health care, because, you were quoted as saying, health care is a provincial responsibility. Do you wish now you had attended?

Every campaign has to make choices on how best to maximize the value of their time spent, and knocking on doors is the number one way to reach voters, who appreciate the chance for a quick one-on-one discussion of the issues. I am proud of our Conservative record on health care. We have increased funding for healthcare by 70% over the last 10 years and have committed to continue increasing funding through 2024, compared to the Liberals before us who cut health transfers by 30% when they were government. Canadians know which Party they can count on to produce results.

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Jason McMichael, NDP

1 – Waterfront homes in Sarnia are being torn down and replaced with bigger ones while food bank lines grow. What could your party do to reduce the income gap?

The NDP’s concrete plan to help close the gap includes:

Re-instating the federal minimum wage and progressively raising it to $15 per hour; Eliminating stock option loopholes for wealthy CEOs and investing the savings to increase supports like the Working Income Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement; Boosting the Guaranteed Income Supplement to help lift 200,000 seniors out of poverty; Investing $2.7 billion over four years in affordable housing and homelessness in our communities; Providing incentives for construction of 10,000 affordable and market rental housing units, and Introducing affordable, quality childcare at no more than $15 a day.

2 – Canadians born in 1963 or later will now have to wait until they’re 67 to collect Old Age Security. Is your party prepared to roll that back?

Absolutely. An NDP government will reverse the Conservative cuts and protect and strengthen both public and private pensions. We’ll boost the Guaranteed Income Supplement and expand benefits under the Canada and Quebec pension plans. Just like the last Liberal government, the Conservatives have done nothing to protect private pensions when companies go bankrupt. We’ll improve protections for workplace pensions when companies go bankrupt and make sure employers can’t unilaterally change benefits after an employee has retired.

3 – The brain-drain of young people leaving Sarnia-Lambton for higher education and not returning continues unabated. What can we do about that?

It can be tough for young people to return to a region that, under the Conservatives, has had the highest unemployment rate in the country. The NDP will kickstart manufacturing with our auto sector strategy. We’ll reduce the small business tax rate from 11% to 9% over two years. In partnership with small business, industry, NGOs and government, we will help 40,000 young Canadians get jobs, paid internship or coop placements. We’ll create apprenticeship spaces through federal infrastructure projects and partner with municipalities to do the same. And we’ll crack down on the use of unpaid internships.

4 – Forget your party’s platform, what makes you the best person to represent us in Ottawa?

I’m a life-long Sarnia resident who’s actively involved in our community. In my job as a Canada Customs officer, I’ve worked on the front line of public safety. I’m a director for Bluewater Health Foundation, working to ensure Sarnia–Lambton residents have access to excellent health care and facilities. I also volunteer with Lambton County Developmental Services and Bright’s Grove Public School. As an elected leader in my union, I have learned how to listen to people, to advocate on their behalf and to negotiate solutions. I’m not afraid to defend the interests of my community.

5 – Sarnia’s Labour Day parade was unexpectedly divisive this year after MPP Bob Bailey was “uninvited” to march because he’s a Conservative. As a labour leader, did you support the decision of the Sarnia and District Labour Council?

While I hold the position of second vice-president of the Labour Council, I declared a conflict of interest the moment the issue was raised and I abstained from further involvement in the vote. The labour movement in Sarnia has a long and proud history. With our young people in particular facing the potential of a lifetime in precarious jobs, the need for unions is as great as it ever was. As a longtime labour activist, I spent the day grateful for the activists that came before us, and celebrating with those working hard on behalf of the working class today.

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Dave McPhail, Liberal

1 – Waterfront homes in Sarnia are being torn down and replaced with bigger ones while food bank lines grow. What could your party do to reduce the income gap?

The first thing we will do is create jobs. Our plan is committed to investing in the economy to create the environment for jobs by investing in badly needed infrastructure.

The second thing we are doing is offering a tax cut to middle income individuals and rolling out a new program to invest in families through our Canada Child Benefit. When families have more money in their pockets the economy is healthier and a healthy economy has more jobs and opportunity. A healthier economy, makes a stronger more equitable Canada.

2 – Canadians born in 1963 or later will now have to wait until they’re 67 to collect Old Age Security. Is your party prepared to roll that back?

We will restore the eligibility age for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement to 65 providing an average of $13,000 annually to the lowest income Canadians as they become seniors.

We will immediately increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement for single, lower income seniors by ten percent, providing up to an additional $920 per year. More than one in four single seniors live in low-income as defined by the international after-tax low-income measure. This investment will reach $840 million by 2019, benefiting 1.25 million seniors, including 900,000 single women. We support protecting pension income splitting for seniors.

3 –The brain-drain of young people leaving Sarnia-Lambton for higher education and not returning continues unabated. What can we do about that?

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Young people we speak to want to stay in Sarnia-Lambton. They leave for jobs in other communities we need a government that is committed to investing in Canada and building an environment for growth that will help business grow, and create jobs. We need jobs that are meaningful and suite a wide variety of educational and skill backgrounds. Thomas Muclair and the NDP have made it very clear that they would shut down Canada’s oil sands, making our community less prosperous, meanwhile Stephen Harpers Conservatives continue to ignore the needs of young people.

4 – Forget your party’s platform, what makes you the best person to represent us in Ottawa?

I love Sarnia Lambton, I love Canada and I’ve been an advocate for this community my whole life. I’m going to do what I’ve always done for this community – I’m going to fight to get things done. I have the track record and knowledge to ensure this riding receives the national attention it rightly deserves. I have worked successfully with business, the public sector, labour, and First Nations. With a strong federal partnership, I am confident I can work to secure the economic prosperity of the chemical valley, the agricultural sector and the broader economy of Sarnia–Lambton.

5 – Your leader, Justin Trudeau, intends to run budget deficits for three more years to pay for a massive infrastructure plan. Do you worry about Canada’s federal debt, which has already reached a nearly incomprehensible $612 billion?

The conservative regime has run a deficit almost every year they’ve been in office. We are offering investment in jobs and growth with a modest deficit for three years. Despite that, Canada will maintain one of the best debt/GDP ratios of any country.

We understand our economy, if not in recession, is sluggish at best. We have an infrastructure deficit and interest rates have never been lower. We believe in an ambitious agenda and we plan to invest in it. Unfortunately, when you hear from other parties about balanced budgets, that really is code for doing nothing.

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Peter Smith, Green Party

1 – Waterfront homes in Sarnia are being torn down and replaced with bigger ones while food bank lines grow. What could your party do to reduce the income gap?

There’s nothing wrong with being successful and making money, but we must ask high income Canadians and large corporations to pay a fair share of taxes. Large corporations, for example, pay less than 14% of the total tax burden, yet they are sitting on enough cash to pay off the national debt. We will increase taxes on large corporations and high income earners and use that money to support the less well off. We will implement a $15/hr minimum wage and urge the provinces to follow suit, and phase in a Minimum Livable Income necessary for health, life and dignity.

2 – Canadians born in 1963 or later will now have to wait until they’re 67 to collect Old Age Security. Is your party prepared to roll that back?

The problem is bigger than just when you start receiving Old Age Security. We already have too many seniors living in poverty and having to decide between heating, eating and getting their medication, and that will only get worse as today’s working and middle class wage earners reach retirement age. The Green Party will implement a National Seniors Strategy that will include Pharmacare and an enhanced CPP starting at age 65, together with other measures to help seniors stay in their homes or safe affordable group homes.

3 –The brain-drain of young people leaving Sarnia-Lambton for higher education and not returning continues unabated. What can we do about that?

Firstly we have to make Sarnia-Lambton more attractive to young people. More cultural events, music, street cafes, restaurants, bicycle lanes, pedestrian footpaths, nature trails, improved beach facilities, etc. We have the basics, but we need a plan to make this place really shine. The second is well paying and interesting jobs. We’re losing our old industrial base but we haven’t really moved on, and the jobs aren’t there. Government can provide incentives to create more jobs, or foster research, but really it is up to the community to identify the opportunities. Sarnia-Lambton needs a community development plan.

 4 – Forget your party’s platform, what makes you the best person to represent us in Ottawa?

I am not afraid to stand up for something I believe in, even when it may be in front of a hostile audience. I have known the frustrations of trying to work with government from the industry side and as an advocate for social services. I am frustrated watching government make a series of bad decisions, ignoring science and expert opinion in pursuit of ideology. I know what I’ve been able to achieve in both business and on social issues, and I want to put my skills to work for the benefit of this community.

5 – Sarnia-Lambton’s economy is heavily reliant on oil, yet the Green Party wants a moratorium on oil sands production. How, as our MP, would you reconcile that?

Sarnia-Lambton is not dependent on the oil sands for feedstock. In fact the glut of shale gas and oil, while bad for the oil sands, gives local facilities more options than they had otherwise. Global demand for oil must decline rapidly if we are to meet our target of keeping the average temperature increase below 2 deg.C./century. We still have a few years left to create a new future for this area, and as your MP I would do everything I could to help achieve that, but we won’t succeed by trying to hang on to the past.

 

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