ELECTION Q&A: Shari Lukens

Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke: candidate offers her thoughts on a range of key election issues

Canada’s youth unemployment rate is at 13 per cent, what would your party do to help more young Canadians find work?

The Conservatives’ top priorities continue to be creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. We are working to connect Canadians, including young Canadians, with available jobs through various supports for apprentices, encouraging greater employer participation in skills training decisions and developing better labour market information. Enhancing access to post-secondary education enables more Canadians to acquire or upgrade their skills, contributing to a more productive and skilled labour force.

Economic Action Plan 2015 provided investments to enhance access to post-secondary education by removing financial barriers – $184 million over four years to allow eligibility for low- and middle-income Canada Student Grants for short-duration programs, and $119 million, starting in 2016-17, to reduce the expected parental contribution under the Canada Student Loans Program needs assessment process.

What should Canada’s role be in dealing with international refugees?

The Government of Canada acts quickly and appropriately to requests for assistance from countries facing disasters, conflicts, or acute food insecurity.

Canada’s response is the result of close co-operation among Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development humanitarian officers, Canadians in the field, representatives of other governments and international and Canadian humanitarian partners, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations World Food Programme.

In response to the Syria crisis, Canada has agreed to resettle 11,300 Syrian refugees by the end of 2017 and 23,000 Iraqi refugees by the end of 2015. Canada has also committed to resettle 5,000 refugees who are now in Turkey by 2018. As of Sept. 1, 2015, more than 3,500 refugees from Syria and the region have been admitted to Canada.

Since January 2012, Canada has committed $503.5 million in international humanitarian assistance funding in response to the Syria crisis. The recently created Syria Emergency Relief Fund will match every eligible dollar donated by individual Canadians to registered Canadian charities in response to the impact of the conflict, up to $100 million, until Dec. 31.

What would your party do to ensure Canada’s seniors are able to live comfortably in their retirement?

Canada’s seniors have saved and worked their entire lives, and I believe they know best how to make financial decisions about their futures and their retirement. Seniors at all income levels are benefitting from tax cuts and enhanced benefits introduced by the Conservative government. For example, tax-free savings accounts have provided 2.7 million seniors with a secure and flexible savings option that protects their money from being eroded by taxes; pension income splitting is providing significant tax relief to over one million senior couples; increases to Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits are helping Canada’s most vulnerable seniors, and increases to the Age Credit and the Pension Income Credit are providing significant tax relief to eligible seniors.

As a result of these measures, about 400,000 seniors have been removed from the tax rolls.

A re-elected Conservative government will establish a $2,000 Single Seniors Tax Credit that will extend additional annual tax relief to nearly 1.6 million single and widowed seniors in Canada who have pension income. When combined with the existing $2,000 Pension Income Credit that is claimed by 4.6 million seniors already, this new measure will double the tax relief available to single seniors annually, beginning January 2017.

How would your party address the need to strengthen Canada’s infrastructure and what project would you say is the highest priority for your riding?

The economic success of Canada, and of the riding of Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke, depends greatly on the strength of our communities. Infrastructure projects benefit residents, families, businesses and visitors, while generating economic growth and creating jobs.

Our government’s commitment to infrastructure represents $80 billion over the next 10 years. It is the largest, and longest, federal infrastructure plan in Canada’s history.

It is important to note that since 2006, Canada has consistently led G7 countries in infrastructure funding as a rate of GDP. This is in stark contrast with the Liberal years. I am committed to investing in public infrastructure to reduce commuting times for families, enhance our economic productivity, and encourage job creation and economic growth.

What do you believe is the most important election issue for your riding and why?

I believe it is the economy; that is what I hear from the people and it is our number one priority. Canada’s economy is still fragile, but with a $5 billion surplus so far this year, we’re pursuing a low-tax, balanced budget plan to protect Canadian jobs and growth in the face of global uncertainty.

The Conservative government has taken steps to lower taxes on Canadian businesses, expand Canada’s trade network, support skills training, reform our immigration system and make major investments in infrastructure and innovation. These include:

• lowering taxes on families and Canadian businesses, including most recently the largest tax cut for small- and medium sized businesses in over a quarter century;

• providing support to Canadians completing apprenticeships and establishing the Canada Job Grant to ensure skills-training will lead to future employment;

• launching the longest and largest investment plan for public infrastructure in Canada’s history;

• helping firms invest in new technologies and research and development through targeted tax relief and funding partnerships with universities and colleges.

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