Last week, two Conservative leadership candidates, Erin O’Toole and Andrew Scheer, campaigned in Toronto’s Ukrainian community and paid visits to the offices of many Ukrainian Canadian organizations at 145 Evans Ave. in Etobicoke. The New Pathway spoke with both candidates on the policies upon which they are basing their campaigns.
New Pathway: What is your position on Canadian policies related to the Russian aggression in Ukraine?
Erin O’Toole: I have taken a very strong position in my foreign policy platform and you can refer to erinotoole.ca to see it. We have a government that is a month away from renewing the Operation UNIFIER – the Canadian Armed Forces working with Ukrainian military to help them defend their own territory from the Russian aggression. And we don’t even know if the government is going to renew that program. I’m very proud that the Harper government started giving materials and military supplies to help our allies and friends in Ukraine. That needs to continue. As well as the isolation of Putin’s Russia, by such means as the Magnitsky Act. We need to call the [Russian policies] out because right now the world’s attention has drifted away from them. In Eastern Ukraine, there was a dozen deaths just a week ago. We need to make sure the world’s attention stays on this.
New Pathway: What is your economic platform, do you have any particular ideas about cutting taxes?
Erin O’Toole: I certainly want to cut the carbon tax that Justin Trudeau brought in across the country. It’s gonna raise the cost of all goods for the people, particularly for seniors with fixed incomes. It’s also going to lead us to lose jobs here. The Donald Trump administration is not gonna impose a carbon tax. In Ontario we are going to lose many of our manufacturing jobs because Trudeau is making our economy uncompetitive. I’d also like to see tax cuts for small to medium businesses who helped us go through the global recession better than any other country. And I also have a program called Generation Kickstart to help young people who are coming out of college and university, and paying high student loan debts, facing a high cost of rent or housing in Toronto, Vancouver, other cities; and the worst employment in generations. My government will give them tax exemption for the first 3-5 years out of school, making sure that they can get ahead, tackle debt, get out of mom and dad’s basement. And that, combined with job creation, is going to get our economy back on track.
New Pathway: Do you have any plans to cut back on economic regulations?
Erin O’Toole: Yes. We need to take a look at anything that stops companies and businesses from growing and hiring people. Trudeau’s government is trying to put more environmental and other regulations in a way of investment in our country. We can have a healthy environment and we can have safe workplaces without burdening businesses. I just spoke with Ukrainian-Canadian business leaders and they talked about excessive regulation. It hampers our productivity, so I’m gonna see we focus on that. We need to empower our entrepreneurs, not slow them down.
New Pathway: Do you think that Russia’s actions in Ukraine deserve stiffer sanctions on the part of the West?
Andrew Scheer: I would be open to exploring that. The West really needs to work together very strongly and Canada has an opportunity to be a proud voice to defend Ukraine. We know that the new Administration in the US is taking a different approach, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has really stood down his actions and Canada’s response. I believe we need to step that back up and become a strong voice for Ukraine, just like in the Prime Minister Harper’s time. As Prime Minister, I will work diligently with our allies to put more pressure on Putin to simply get out of Ukraine. Actually, in 2014, I was included on the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia, as a retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and I wear that as a badge of honor.
New Pathway: What is your economic platform?
Andrew Scheer: I believe in a free market. The liberals right now are running massive deficits which will take away the prosperity from my children. I’ve got five young children and the recent data show that the budget won’t be balanced under the liberals until 2055. So, I’ve made a commitment to balance the budget in my first term. I believe we also need to cut taxes on small businesses, while the liberals increased payroll taxes on CPP which makes it more expensive to hire people. It is bad for young people who are graduating if the businesses aren’t hiring. This week I announced a very innovative tax cut for families – when families have a new child, the EI program allows them to take a parental leave. Right now, if someone is on the EI, matleave or parental leave, they have to pay tax on that income. My proposal is to make those benefits tax-free, this is the easiest way to help families cope with the costs of raising children. So, the combination of tax cuts to help businesses grow and balancing the budget will be the focus of my economic policy.
New Pathway: What do you think about the carbon tax?
Andrew Scheer: It’s terrible. I live in Saskatchewan now but I hear stories from my friends in Ontario, where I grew up, that their hydro bills have more than doubled in some situations. The liberals will do to Canada what Kathleen Wynne has done to Ontario and it’s going to be bad news for Canadian families across the country. So, job number one for Andrew Scheer will be to repeal the carbon tax.
New Pathway: Do you think you would be able to increase the economic growth as a Prime Minister?
Andrew Scheer: Yes, and what is really frustrating for me is that there are a lot of private sector solutions to stimulate the economy. Take for example the Energy East Pipeline that would go from Western Canada to Eastern refineries, and create the jobs all along the route. It’s a multi-billion project that doesn’t require a cent of taxpayers money and would get Canada off of foreign oil. That’s what we need the government to do, not to bail out one company here and one company there, to provide subsidies and handouts. We need to get out of the way of the private sector to put people back to work.
In January, another Conservative leadership candidate, Chris Alexander, issued the policy statement “Ukraine and Russia” featuring such strong statements as “[Russia’s] reckless behaviour represents a significant threat to the postwar peace.” The statement also featured the following proposals which Chris Alexander would implement as Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and Prime Minister of Canada: “toughen the sanctions regime comprehensively against all Russian office holders… and others involved in the invasion and illegal occupation of Ukraine; scale up Canada’s defense partnership with Ukraine, including by expanding training of Ukrainian combat forces and development of new capabilities; actively promote the accession of Ukraine and Georgia to membership in NATO and other European and Euro-Atlantic institutions; deepen Canada’s strategic dialogue with all partners in Europe on long-term alternatives to dependence on Russian oil and gas supplies; advocate and participate in a strengthened NATO posture of deterrence to prevent further Russian aggression in Ukraine, the Baltic states or elsewhere.”
In August 2016, we interviewed Lisa Raitt, who is also currently running as a leadership candidate, on the Ukrainian matters and asked her “Why do you think the government has not yet committed to renewing Canada’s military training mission in Ukraine which ends in March 2017?” Lisa Raitt then replied, “What I think is happening is that they are trying to figure out how they are going to thaw relations with Putin and they are taking a look at all the different areas in the world where they want to put their efforts. They are looking at Africa right now and they are not interested in Ukraine and that’s a problem. And they are not interested in ensuring that we have [Ukraine’s] independence retained even when there are 40,000 Russian troops standing on the border right now with heavy military, and we don’t hear a word of concern from the government. Even the US State Department has said that they are worried about a full-scale invasion and we hear nothing from this government at all. … And it’s not something that can wait for consultation to come back from the four reaches of the country – you have to have the ability to take action and a decision, and quite frankly our military needs to know that the government has their back – and they don’t know that right now.”
We invite other Conservative leadership candidates to lay out their platforms for our readers. The Party’s leadership election will be held on May 27.
We will also follow the status of renewal of the Operation UNIFIER under which Canada is providing military training to Ukraine’s armed forces and which is scheduled to end in March 2017. Last week, the Ukrainian newswire Ukrinform quoted Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan as saying that “The decision [on UNIFIER] will be made soon to demonstrate our commitment to Ukraine.” According to Jordan Owens, Press Secretary of the Office of the Minister of National Defence, as of February 13, there were no updates on the Operation UNIFIER yet.