September 8 saw the local candidates from Glengarry-Prescott-Russell take the stage to debate issues raised during the federal election campaign.
The first question went to Conservative candidate Susan McArthur, asking how her party was going to balance the budget within 10 years as promised. She said that they would not cut spending and that growing the economy is the priority for the Conservatives, as productivity and GDP per capita have “flatlined” under the Liberal government. The Conservatives plan to grow the economy, she said, has been tested and fact-checked by University of Alberta economist Trevor Tome, and the party is confident it can balance the budget within 10 years.
NDP candidate Konstantine Malakos said that while Conservatives judge the economy by “how well the richest people are doing, how well the Bay Street investors are doing,” he judges the economy by how well the poorest and most marginalized people in the country are doing. The housing crisis is getting worse, he said, and members of the disabled community are living in abject poverty because they cannot work, benefits aren’t covering the high cost of living, and people are literally starving. Malakos acknowledged that investors are important, but he is “interested in hearing how a person in Fournier with boarded-up windows who’s going to the food bank is going to get ahead.”
Liberal candidate Francis Drouin questioned the numbers in the Conservatives plan, and how they’re going to get a three-per-cent growth rate over 10 years without cutting jobs. Drouin noted that former Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Kevin Page criticized that number as an impossible goal, so he would like to see the Conservatives costed platform, which had not been released at the time.
“I expect that from the NDP,” Drouin said, “but not the Conservatives, who say they’re a strong economic powerhouse yet they’re failing to show a costed platform.”
“I think that’s a bit rich,” McArthur said. “We won’t be taking any lessons, (not) any of these candidates standing up here, from the Liberals on fiscal responsibility.”
She criticized the Liberals spending $424 billiion a day for a trillion dollars worth of debt and said that even though Canada’s unemployment rate is lower than any other G7 nation, the high cost of living and high pandemic spending means Canada is further behind than any other G7 nation.
Malakos said that the NDP is the only party with an actual concrete plan to improve the economy, in the form of a tax on those who profited during the pandemic.
“Wealth over $10 million will be taxed at one per cent,” he said, “and we will do that because these are the people who have profited off the pandemic.”
Malakos and McArthur then discussed critical infrastructure.
“We have an incredibly well-educated population, we have a robust immigration policy, we need the modern infrastructure to make sure we can realize our potential,” McArthur said. “High-speed internet, affordable housing, an increase in the housing available in Canada.”
“In order to get there to the infrastructure you’re talking about,’ said Malakos, ‘we can’t just be writing cheques to large private companies and hoping they’ll use those cheques the way we tell them to. That’s been the strategy of the Conservatives, and it’s been the strategy of the Liberals. We actually need to publicly invest in infrastructure.”
Drouin said that the government has been investing $80 billion since 2016 over 10 years, but McArthur wanted to know where that was showing, adding that her office in Casselman still doesn’t have working high-speed internet. Spending money means nothing, she said, if results aren’t showing productivity gains and quality of life enhancements for Canadians. Drouin argued that the town of Maxville now has water because the Liberal government gave them $15 million to cover half of the cost.
“A Conservative government led by Erin O’Toole has a plan to grow the economy,” said McArthur. “We will make strategic infrastructure investments like high-speed internet, we will work to get small businesses back to work and keep their businesses open with specifically targeted programs to help them hire people and reinvest in their businesses. I am confident that a government, a common-sense, modern, thoughtful government led by Erin O’Toole that is competent will be the best alternative for Canadians.”