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Perth-Wellington candidates faced large number of questions

by David Meyer

ALMA - With five political candidates on the dais, it might have seemed impossible they would agree on anything - but one consensus did emerge here on April 19.

All of them agreed the Alma Optimists’ new hall is beautiful and a job well done. They made mention of it several times prior to the debate and during it. But when the first question was asked last week for the candidates in the Perth-Wellington federal riding, that consensus disappeared.

A crowd of over 80 people listened as the candidates replied to a question about a delay in income splitting until the budget is balanced.

Conservative Gary Schellenberger said the delay is to get the deficit under control. His party plans deficit reductions for four years, at 25% a year until 2014, and then will introduce income splitting.

Green Party candidate John Cowling said his party favours doing it immediately.

Liberal Bob McTavish said it is a good idea but won’t happen because the country is a long way from a balanced budget - and Stephen Harper squandered a $13-billion Liberal surplus.

Christian Heritage Party candidate Irma DeVries favours income splitting, but her party would abolish income tax and support a consumption tax.

NDP candidate Ellen Pappenburg said her party has always had balanced budgets “no matter where they were in government” but Conservatives favour large companies that take jobs to other countries.

Someone asked what candidates thought about voters who do not like the party leader but want to support a good local candidate.

McTavish said that is difficult. He said the way he sees it in the future, parliament is run by its 308 MPs.

Cowling said in Canada’s system, people vote for candidates and not parties. His party favours proportional representation voting.

DeVries said it is time to break up the prime minister’s powers, such as the ability to make patronage appointments.

Schellenberger was blunt. “Anyone who votes for Gary Schellenberger votes for Stephen Harper.”

Someone asked how to justify tax cuts.

Schellenberger said Canada has one of the lowest tax rates on corporations in the world and, as a result of cuts over the last five years, corporations such as Tim Hortons head offices have returned to Canada. He said the cuts “will create more jobs.”

DeVries said there should be no tax cuts for corporations.

Pappenburg said if corporations get tax breaks, it is people who have to compensate for that lost cash. She said big companies got tax breaks and still moved jobs out of Canada.

Cowling said subsidies to oil companies in Canada are over $1-billion “yet they are the most profitable in the world.” His party would remove those subsidies “immediately.”

McTavish said tax reductions started under former Prime Minister Paul Martin, and they did make a difference for companies then. He said instead of working in the past few years, that extra tax cash “went straight to the bottom line.” Liberals would hold tax cuts to 2010 levels.

Someone asked how to attract young farmers.

Pappenburg advocated an “orderly market system” and said Canada will have to protect its farmers in trade agreements.

Cowling said the key is to “make farming profitable.”

McTavish said a good risk management system is vital, and the Liberals would consult with farmers and see what they think is best.

DeVries said the average farmer is over 52, and said quota systems need to be managed so young people can afford them. She also likes personal income security accounts, similar to RRSPs, where farmers could save in good years and have cash available in  bad times.

Schellenberger said it is tough when a 150 acre farm in the riding recently sold for $14,000 per acre, and young farmers cannot borrow the money to get started. He sad $2.3-billion in equalization payments are going to Ontario to aid agriculture.

Another question was directed to Schellenberger about veterans and how to help them when they suffer after giving service to Canada.

Schellenberger is the chairman of the veterans affairs committee for parliament. He said there were upgrades for veterans aid before the election. He said in 2006 there was a new Veterans Charter implemented, but, “Parts of it didn’t work very well.” He added the committee is working on issue to help veterans.

DeVries said Canada’s Armed Forces deserve the best equipment and veterans and wounded deserve the best treatment, including counselling for post traumatic stress syndrome.

Pappenburg said veterans have been “left in the lurch. That has to change.” She said Russia did not succeed in Afghanistan, so why does Canada think it can.

Cowling said it was “morally reprehensible” to take away veteran support. “I think it blew up in the Conservative’s faces.”

McTavish agreed with Cowling, but added, “I take Gary at his word great improvements were made in this.”

Someone wanted to know about immigration policies for Canada.

DeVries said it is a big issue, because only one in ten accepted is actually screened. She said the immigration department “is broken.” And she would like to see a moratorium until there are corrections.

Pappenburg said “We are all immigrants - a lot of us.”

She said “Years ago, it was not easy.” Now, she added, “We get people here with skills and we don’t help them” to work in their area of skill. She cited doctors, in particular as a problem.

Cowling said Canada is “doing as well as we can,” and there is no population problem we have to solve.”

He would like to see better language training and sustainable immigration “rather than open the floodgates.”

McTavish said he is unaware of any Liberal platform on immigration.

Schellenberger said when his party came to power, “The backlog was enormous.” He added that last year, 260,000 people immigrated to Canada, one of the biggest groups in the country’s history.

“We are trying to get skilled people, and he added the government is concerned with ‘queue jumpers and human smugglers.”


Vol 44 Issue 17


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