Sarah Simpson and Don Descoteau
Green candidate Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi takes to heart her party’s platform ideal that a country need not sacrifice environmental values for investments in the country’s economy.
While the economic priorities in the Cowichan-Malahat-Langford riding may differ from one end to the other, the Green Party’s economic stimulus plan can benefit them all, she said.
“It’s about taking big, bold steps to get people working and meet two needs at once,” she explained. “It’s about working with the infrastructure and the retrofitting of business, hospitals and schools. It’s an immediate way to get people working and it is also addressing the loss of energy,” she said, referring to the heating inefficiencies of aging buildings.
While some people believe the Greens espouse shutting down the Alberta oil sands and shrinking the resource industry, Hunt-Jinnouchi said, the party recognizes the importance of those jobs to the national economy. At the same time, the Greens hope to see Canada reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, stop exporting dirty coal and focus more on renewable technologies as a way to create new and replacement jobs.
“The overarching theme is to diversify,” the Langford resident said. “It’s become abundantly clear that our B.C. premier and our prime minister have a singular focus, and that is oil and gas.”
She suggested that more attention be paid to small business in B.C. and federally, which contributes more by percentage to the country’s gross domestic product. “It’s really a matter of shifting priorities,” she said.
For candidate Alistair MacGregor and the NDP, the environment and economy are also intertwined.
“I think for the last 10 years that we’ve been told that we can have either the economy or the environment,” he said. “I don’t believe in that false choice. I think the real economic opportunity lies in the environmental sustainability future.”
The NDP recently laid out its fiscal plan and living within its means is the plan. “We want to break the deficit spending cycle we’ve seen in recent years under the current government and diversify our economy a little bit more,” he said, noting having all the country’s eggs in the oil industry basket isn’t the best way to go.
An affordable $15 a day child care plan is also one of the party’s two major policy planks.
“It’s not only a good social policy, it’s good economics, because currently the work-life conflict that’s experienced by employees with pre-school children costs the Canadian business community about $4 billion a year.”
MacGregor said the NDP also wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour in the hopes of inspiring provinces to do the same. “That will not only raise people out of poverty, but allow them to spend that extra money on the local economy; it will reduce the need for government services as well.”
The NDP doesn’t plan to touch personal income tax rates, instead it looks to help small businesspeople by reducing their taxes from 11 to 9 per cent. The corporate tax rate, however, would rise from 15 to 17 per cent. “The 17-per-cent rate will still be below the overall average that existed under the 10 years of the Harper government.”
The Conservatives don’t speak much of the environment when it comes to economy, but candidate Martin Barker said his party’s fiscal strides have kept Canada strong during Harper’s run in office.
“The Conservative government has been a strong manager of the Canadian economy. In 2008 the world experienced the worst recession since the ‘30s. We have focused on keeping taxes low for individuals and competitive for business,” he said.
“With our sound management, the economy has generated 1.3 million jobs,” he added, noting that the Conservatives have already committed to creating another 1.3 million jobs by 2020.
“Despite global economic uncertainty, the Conservatives have balanced the budget one year ahead of schedule and are currently running a $5.2-billion surplus in the current fiscal year.”
Barker cited relief for families and seniors, as well, with income splitting, universal child care benefits, doubling of child-activity and child-care tax deductions, and specialized tax breaks for seniors among the Conservatives’ latest efforts.
Transfers to health care are now at record highs, investment in First Nations is up 33 per cent this year and the budget for veterans is up 13 per cent, Barker said. “A balanced budget ensures that all these measures and successes will continue.”
He noted his party is also the only one to promise no new taxes, and said the GST has been cut from seven per cent to five, “a move which reduced the cost of literally everything.”
All the other parties are promising increased taxes and significantly higher spending, Barker said.
“Mr. Trudeau criticized deficit spending when it was necessary, and is now planning deficit spending when it is not needed. Mr. Mulcair is claiming he will run balanced budgets despite billions of dollars of new spending promises. The NDP need to be clear on how they will pay for these promises.”
Liberal Party candidate Luke Krayenhoff said Cowichan-Malahat-Langford is a “riding in transition.” He referred to the shifting of emphasis on the forest industry and its related resource-based businesses and into other areas, such as high technology.
“If you look at the glory days of forestry, there were 5,500 IWA jobs. Now we’re down to about 500 and we’re exporting raw logs out of Crofton every month,” he said. “We need to figure out what’s best for the forest industry, but it’s clear this is a riding in transition. We can’t rely on the forest industry to carry us any longer.”
He called high-tech the biggest area of new job growth. “We’ve got a huge high-tech community on the South Island to draw from.” Canada’s tax regime, with respect to tech firms, has allowed companies to experiment with new technologies, he said, and as such grow their businesses.
One of the major planks in the Liberals’ platform for creating sustainable job growth is to invest heavily in infrastructure projects, he said. In August, leader Justin Trudeau committed to nearly doubling infrastructure spending over the next decade to almost $125 billion.
Krayenhoff doesn’t see government dictating what kind of industries will lead the way in an area, rather he sees it as providing the supports, such as a good tax system, to unleash the private sector.
“In the depths of the recession, people were despairing that the economy will never come back. But people will always be innovative, and as long as there’s infrastructure in place to allow people with new ideas and new technologies to move forward with confidence,” he said, Canada’s economy will never be down for long.
For Alastair Haythornthwaite, Marxist-Leninist candidate, the fundamental question for the Canadian economy is “Who decides?”
“The Marxist-Leninist Party and I believe (that) workers must decide and run the economy in their interests, the interests of the overwhelming majority of Canadians,” he said. “I will uphold public right over monopoly right with decisions about the economy made in Canada, not in the boardrooms of Wall Street.”
Haythornthwaite said domestic manufacturing is his party’s priority. “Our resources must be processed in Canada into products to fill our domestic needs. Public assets will no longer be sold to ‘friends’ at fire sale prices, but instead, public assets will be expanded and improved to better serve the needs of Canadians.”