As three political newcomers scrap over the emerging federal riding of South Okanagan–Similkameen, the Liberal Party sent in a heavyweight to try and lay claim.
Former Finance Minister of Canada Ralph Goodale, who’s held down a Liberal seat in Saskatchewan since 1993, took part in an open public forum at the Penticton Lakeside Resort on June 27. It was a party event and he was joined by Connie Denesiuk — the Liberal candidate in the new riding.
Goodale discussed issues that are generally top-of-mind in an election cycle – the approach for best growing the middle class; the balance of freedom and security and the idea of electoral reform.
NDP candidate Dick Cannings said he’s glad to see the Liberals holding open forums because “Canadians have some tough questions for them. A lot of Liberals are very disappointed with Justin Trudeau for supporting that surveillance, anti-terror bill.”
After an address to the audience, Goodale fielded a related question from one member of the audience, who felt the government’s need to respond to jihadi warfare by enacting Bill C-51 is its own doing – claiming that Western military intervention in the Middle East leaves citizens of occupied countries with no retaliatory options aside from terrorism.
Goodale said the Liberals don’t agree with every aspect of Bill C-51, but the need for crucial provisions to national security outweighed the concerns.
“Knowing that within four or five months there will be a federal election, we can put before Canadians the specific further changes that we would make in the law to make sure that civil liberties are going to be properly protected.”
Goodale also said Liberal support for the bill lead to successful amendments, which took some potency out of its overreaching powers.
“It was not based on any calculation in the poles or any perception of political advantage,” Goodale said. “We knew it would be a contentious issue, and we voted in a way that we thought would be right for the vast majority of Canadians.”
The NDP voted against the Anti-Terrorism Act, and Cannings said “If you vote for a bill you support it. The NDP took a stand.”
On the matter of how elections are conducted, both the NDP and Liberals are promising reform, whereas the Conservative Party plans to stick with the status quo.
“The traditional Westminster system has served Canada well since 1867 and is the reason Canada is celebrated around the world for having one of the most stable forms of government,” said Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld. “B.C. has held two referendums… on different hybrid systems of voting — both were rejected — most recently in 2009 where 61 per cent of British Columbians voted to maintain our current electoral system. The Liberals and NDP are going against the wishes of British Columbians when they say they will move us away from the traditional Westminster system of electing MPs.”
Goodale said it’s not right that most majority governments in Canada are elected with a minority of support, which is compounded by the low voter turnout.
“Twenty-four per cent gave the Conservatives that lop-sided victory in the House of Commons – that doesn’t reflect the way Canadians voted.”
All three party’s have also set themselves apart with tax policies. Goodale highlighted the Liberal Party’s promise to lower income taxes for people earning between $45,000 and $89,000. Cannings said revenues should be coming from big business, stating that lengthy tenures of Liberal and Conservative governments have excessively lowered corporate tax.
“We have a lot of room to grow it, we could put it up a couple points and still be well below the American rates. Canada is very competitive for tax rates.”
Revenues from a high corporate tax rate would then be used to benefit families of lower and middle income, Cannings said.
“It’s time to get large corporations paying their fair share.”
Neufeld said the Conservative’s record speaks for itself, claiming that the average family of four is paying $6,600 less in taxes this year than they did in 2006 because of tax cuts implemented by his party.
Two days after Goodale’s visit to Penticton, Trudeau visited Vancouver to promise an investment in clean energy and impose a moratorium on crude oil traffic along the province’s north coast.
Cannings said the pledge to ban crude oil tanker traffic is a longstanding NDP policy.
“The North Coast of B.C. is too important environmentally to risk any sort of oil accident or oil spill,” Cannings said.
Neufeld believes a ban on tanker traffic would have somber implications. Similarly, he criticized the Liberal’s stance on the province’s emerging LNG industry.
“Trudeau is willing to jeopardize LNG projects that will eventually employ 100,000 British Columbians.”
All three major parties are making concerted efforts to appeal to voters in the new riding. The Minister of Defence Jason Kenney was in Penticton last month to support Neufeld in his door-knocking efforts, and Cannings said that a high-profile member of the NDP can be expected to drop in before the fall election, which is scheduled to take place on Oct. 19.