New Pathway – Ukrainian News.
Ted J. Opitz, CD is a Canadian politician and a retired Canadian Forces Lieutenant-Colonel who represented the Toronto riding of Etobicoke Centre as a member of the Conservative Party of Canada in the House of Commons from 2011 to 2015. This federal election cycle, he is running as the Conservative candidate in the same riding. New Pathway – Ukrainian News interviewed Opitz to find about his current program and priorities.
What are the major points of your program for this election?
Our Canadian program is centered around making life more affordable for Canadians. Average families are taxed through the roof – I am getting this at the doors talking to people every day. Statistics show that almost half of Canadian households are about $200 away from insolvency and that is absolutely scary. People are overwhelmed by their debts and are trying to save for their retirement. A Conservative government will live within its means. Under Andrew Scheer’s leadership, any new spending not already budgeted must be paid for from savings within the government. Put another way, if you decide to take a family holiday, your roof repair has to wait. You can’t do both. Your bank account is not a bottomless pit, and neither is the taxpayer’s pocket. This approach will not affect the Canada Child Benefit, seniors’ benefits, or transfers to provinces. They are already budgeted for the long term and we are committed to them. Drastic spending cuts aren’t necessary to balance the budget. Simply taking a responsible, measured approach to spending growth will go a long way. And that is what the Conservatives will do.
One of the major problems for the Canadian economy is low growth rates. What would your government do to increase economic growth?
In the first place you need to get your debt under control to have some resources to put in other places. We gave the current Liberal government a surplus after some very difficult times getting through the recession. However, they just blew past it and now we are $20 billion in deficit. The Liberals added about $71 billion to the national debt compared to their promise in the last election. Justin Trudeau promised Canadians in 2015 that he would balance the budget by 2019 and he failed. The problem becomes that there is no path back to balance, we are going to be paying ridiculous amounts of interest on this debt. The share for each Canadian family of that colossal $705 billion debt is more than $50,000 per household. The cost of servicing that debt will rise 40% to $34 billion in just a few years, almost the same as the federal government spends on health care. The parliamentary budget officer estimated that the debt they’ve raised so far will not be able to be balanced until 2040 unless some measures are taken to do that. That’s how I explain it to people at the doors, sometimes debt is important, when you buy a house for example. But it’s your intent to pay it back in your lifetime, you don’t want your children to pay back your debts. The government is not far different in that sense.
What are your tax initiatives?
We are going to scrap the carbon tax. Carbon tax is not an environmental plan, it’s a cash grab. It does nothing for the environment, yet it leaves people with less money in their pockets. It’s a tax grab that goes into general revenues. It is passed to the cost of everything that is transported using gasoline. We will also remove GST from the cost of energy, that’s a staple for a living in the winter time, we should not be taxing that. We are going to make parental benefits tax-free. Parents should put that money toward buying a car seat or a new snowsuit for the baby, not the government.
You are a former military officer. What does Canada need to do in the military sphere?
We’ve always needed a strong military. There’s been some decline in military numbers and we need to keep our numbers and strength up. We are not the biggest military in the world but we are exceptionally well trained and respected. And we need to continue being able to participate in global initiatives like the ones we are participating in, in the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine. The threats of tomorrow are far more likely to come through our electronic devices than by land, sea, or air. Canada must be ready to counter these threats. We must modernize cyber procurement in Canada, and better align the capabilities of our industry to meet global demand.
What do you think a new Conservative government would do in terms of international and trade relations, particularly with the U.S.?
We have to get along with the U.S., period. It doesn’t matter who the U.S. president is. This relationship has been clearly damaged, our government would work very hard to repair it, there will be a total rethink. Prime Minister Trudeau on many occasions has put his partisan political goals ahead of national goals and managing of that relationship with the U.S. That shouldn’t happen because at the end of the day what’s getting compromised is our Canadian jobs and economy. We can’t lecture the Americans on what they need to do. The Conservative approach to the Americans will be to seriously and strongly defend our interests, and to make the case for strengthened partnership among free democracies.
Would a new government change anything in Canada’s relations with Ukraine?
We as a government have provided a lot of help for Ukraine from the very beginning of the Russian aggression in 2014. As you know, I, along with other Conservatives and Andrew Scheer in particular, am banned from Russia. At the very beginning, Ukraine had four to five thousand people who were ready to fight. Ukraine has done an absolute miracle – now, 250 thousand comprise its hugely professional armed forces along with 130 thousand battle-hardened reserves. We need to supply Ukraine with lethal defensive weapons that were supposed to be going to the Middle East and are now sitting in our surplus. Conservative MP James Bezan has advocated very strongly for this. As far as Operation UNIFIER, I was one of those who helped set it up. It’s a very effective program but we need to expand it in terms of training missions. I would also look at specialized training for senior Military Training Officers (MTOs). I would bring senior MTOs and officers to Canada for advanced operational and Canadian forces college courses like the Joint Command and Staff Program and the National Security Program. That level of professionalization is the next step for them.
So, you would like to supply more weapons to Ukraine. What do you think about Minister of defense Harjit Sajjan’s position that before Ukraine and Canada can deepen their defence cooperation further, Ukraine needs to continue its military reform and continue building its defence institutions?
I think Ukraine in the last more than five years has absolutely transformed its armed forces and made them highly professional. Sure, they need some help along the way in terms of creating a NATO-type structure within the military. By the way, we can teach them structure and foundations but what we can’t teach Ukrainian soldiers is courage. It’s a military that needs to be supported and I think we should send them those defensive weapons.
What are other opportunities to develop Canada-Ukraine relations?
I want Ukraine, which is near and dear to my heart, to achieve a Euro-Atlantic future it deserves. I would like to see trade opportunities between Canada and Ukraine to develop, especially in IT, aerospace and high-tech where Ukraine is very strong. Once we build the East-West energy corridor in Canada as Andrew Scheer has envisioned, that will provide the ability for Canadian energy to get to Europe and Ukraine in particular, lessening its dependency on Russian energy.