Just a few hours after votes were counted in Manitoba’s provincial election, Governor General Julie Payette granted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s request to dissolve parliament, paving the way for Canadians to head to the polls on Oct. 21.
Federal party candidates will have five and a half weeks to convince Canadians to give them the chance to form the next federal government.
A combined forum to hear both federal and provincial candidates in the coming elections attracted upwards of 100 constituents Oct. 21 at the Herman Prior Activity Centre.
The Portage Community Revitalization Corporation (PCRC) and Portage la Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce jointly hosted the meet the candidate forum.
Federal Green Party candidate Beverly Eert and People’s Party of Canada candidate Aaron Archer did not attend. There has not been a candidate chosen for the federal NDP Party.
The first question was from the Chamber of Commerce.
Q: In our recent history communication partnering and relationships between our federal government and their provincial partners is not working well and in some cases not at all. As a chamber, we know that great things can be accomplished when we find synergies and we’re able to work and communicate with our partners. How do you think this issue can be solved?
Ken Werbiski: I think that these issues can be solved by coming to the table with a positive attitude, with having respect for everyone when (they) come to the table and dealing with everyone with the respect that they deserve. In my profession as a nurse I know that I do not treat everyone I come into contact with whether that is patient, resident, family co-workers: anyone that I need to contact if I do not have a positive respectful relationship with them. Things don’t go well at all. When you have a difference of opinion. That shouldn’t matter even if it’s a difference in political opinion you need to respect that person and the office that they hold or for you will get nowhere. And that goes with every aspect of our lives. If you treat people with dignity and respect. That’s what you get in return. That is the first step we need to make in dealing with anyone. Whether it’s federal, provincial, municipal, person on the street, we all need to treat people equally, with dignity and respect.”
Jerome Dondo: The first thing in negotiating as Ken said is mutual respect for both parties. And that’s one thing the provincial governments do have a role to play but I think one of the attitudes of the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau has been ‘my way or the highway’. We’ve seen it in so many different aspects. You know, from the elbow gate situation where he grabbed a member of parliament, of the Conservative party dragged them across the floor dragged him to his seat…his attitude with a pro-life candidate, a Conservative candidate, who was up for election as president of the Women’s Council and he refused to recognize her as president. There are many instances where Justin Trudeau has done that. And he plays a big part; he and his ministers play a big part in that. Like I said provincial governments also have to have that conversation.
But I think you know really the conversations are happening and we have to negotiate. We have to discuss the issues and come to solutions, come to the bargaining table with solutions as opposed to just the animosity.”
Candice Bergen: I think that we have seen over the last four years a real disconnect across the country in terms of federal-provincial relations and we’ve seen a lot of pitting one region against the other.
“When we were in government I’m really proud to say that a Conservative federal government worked very well with the provincial NDP government. Even though we disagreed on a lot of things there were things that we could talk about where we had common ground. We were able to get a lot of infrastructure money out to the province. We haven’t seen that under this current government. In fact, Manitoba has only received about one percent of all federal infrastructure money. The federal government is going into massive deficit, spending more money than anybody has and Manitoba has seen virtually none of it. When we (Conservatives) were government we were able to see almost 400 projects started in Manitoba. The Liberals have seen only 195. So there has to be a change in attitude. I believe there has to be respect but respect can’t be only in words: it has to be an action. That means not forcing policy on provinces. We need to support the provinces, support free trade amongst the provinces and allow provinces to govern in their jurisdiction.”
Question from PCRC:
Q: As governments move toward regional programs it is clear that Portage la Prairie has a lot of different social issues than our southern neighbours of Winkler and Morden. How is Portage different and how would you advocate for our city?
Jerome Dondo: There’s a lot of poverty in Portage. There’s a lot of crime and meth issues. We need to deal with some of the social issues as government. We need to address the problems that all communities are facing. And yes, every community is different. Everyone has their strengths and their weaknesses; their problems. One of the steps is negotiating…finding out what are the issues that the communities are dealing with. And as a federal government invest in the programs that will help communities.
“So in terms of dealing with poverty you know one of the CHP’s platforms is eliminating the Income Tax Act which heavily benefits people who are wealthy and replacing it with a fair tax based on spending. So you get more control of your own money and stopping deficit spending. Money can then be used to invest in other social programs and again helping the community. So, first of all, finding out what are the issues that the communities are dealing with and coming up with the programs that will actually help them to deal with their problems.
Candice Bergen: There seems to be an ‘Ottawa knows best’ mentality with the current government. There are all kinds of national strategies that propose a solution for one end of the country to the other end of the country and the problems not only across the country but right in our own province.
“Change depending on what area of the province you are in. And I think first and foremost we need a government that understands that and doesn’t try to put an ‘Ottawa knows best’, ‘it’s our way or no way’ fix on the challenges that communities face. So as a federal representative I know what I try to do and what I think very good at is I meet with organizations and law enforcement for example when it comes to the meth crisis and some of the issues that Portage la Prairie — by the way I will tell you Morden and Winkler really are facing these issues as well — so it’s important to meet with these community groups, know the local issues, know what’s going on, work together with our provincial and municipal counterparts to find solutions. But not come to town with “Ottawa knows best’ and if you don’t do what we’re saying or pay our fees, or sign up to our program you’re cut out. I think we saw that with the Canada Summer Jobs program. We lost a lot of good programs right here in Portage la Prairie, denied funding by the Liberals because it wouldn’t sign onto their beliefs. That’s wrong. That has to stop. That will not happen under a Conservative government.
Ken Werbiski: There is definitely a difference in population between the north and the south. Our indigenous population in the north here is what makes the difference. When you look at it historically how we have treated the indigenous population that is taken us to where we are. We need to invest in our indigenous population, help, education, training are all things that will make a difference in the level of poverty between the north of this riding and the south.
“Canada Child Benefit has made a huge difference. There are tens of thousands of children that have been raised above the poverty line because of the Canada Child Benefit.
“I would agree that the meth crisis is national because if you read the news it shows up everywhere. So we need to address the issues that are driving the addiction: mental health as well as poverty, homelessness…all the social issues, all the things that no one likes to discuss. Nobody likes to discuss social issues and we stand up and say ‘social issues are the problem’, but we can’t really give you an end date for it. Nobody wants to hear that. We’ve been doing that for too long. If that means that we need to invest more heavily into social issues which we have a problem with — especially in the north of this riding — then that’s what we need to do.
“There has been federal funding into national housing and Habitat for Humanity has benefitted from that in this community. There has been as I said the Canada Child Benefit, there has been training as well, funding for training and all of these things are important and all of these things are what’s going to help us make a difference.
Global warming is definitely a growing concern, continues having the global spotlight most recently with the Amazon Rainforest forest fire. As a chamber we want to see issues, this issue of global warming addressed and we believe that Canada needs to do its part. What is your stance on the current Carbon Tax? Is the model working, and if not, what needs to be changed?Candice Bergen: Climate change is a real problem! Canada has an important role to play in combating global emissions. Our leader Andrew Scheer announced a comprehensive 65-page plan — if you look at arealplan.ca you’ll find it — that is three-pronged: technology, not taxes. A carbon tax is not a plan to help the environment. It is a revenue generator. That’s all it does.
“So we believe in technology, not taxes. What kind of technology? Canadian technology. We’re proud of Canadian natural resources. We’re proud of the way Canada extracts and transports our natural resources. We need to export that to other parts of the world. Places like China who has huge emissions more emissions than Canada never emits in a year than China emits in a month. We need to export our clean technology and help countries like China have Canadian LNG. And then we need to consult and work with our agricultural producers, our small businesses, our sectors across the country who are doing things in an excellent and a clean way. We want to keep Canada clean. We want to keep our lakes clean. Let’s stop the dumping of raw sewage into our lakes rivers — that’s the first thing the liberals signed off on when they went to government. Dumped too much raw sewage into the St. Lawrence Seaway. That kind of stuff has to stop. Let’s keep Canada clean. Let’s export Canada’s clean technology and let’s actually help reduce global emissions. But not with a carbon tax.
Ken Werbiski: “Carbon tax is used in over 40 countries in the world. This is not first. This is not new. This is used by 40 countries in the world including Canada and works!
“Part of the plan with a carbon tax is you are taxed what is used. Therefore, people will reduce the amount of fossil fuels that they use. Now there’s been lots of upset about the pipeline to B.C. That is part of a plan. In order to get from where we are to greener technology, we need to fund it. A 35-point plan with lots of glossy pictures with no dates and no costing is not really a plan! If you don’t say how are you going to pay for it, it means nothing.
“When we put a tax on the pipeline we bring in millions of dollars. That millions of dollars go into green technology. It goes into green initiatives, it goes into countries that are working in the green sector and from there green energy that is produced in Canada and our climate can work anywhere in the world. Green technology can become our Avro Arrow, of our generation. We have the know how. We have people here that can make this work, and if we have the funding for it through carbon tax we can invest in it and we can make it happen.
Jerome Dondo: The carbon tax, the way the Liberal government has designed it in Canada is a joke!
“Yes it’s been implemented in 40 other countries in the world, but it’s not even revenue-generating because they’re giving it all the way back to individuals. They’re not making any real investments in infrastructure; investments in green technology. And you know the fact that the Liberal government even try to impose it on the provinces they didn’t want to take the heat for it because they knew it was a failed program. They wanted the provinces to do it so that they would take the blame for it and implement their own plans. So Justin Trudeau didn’t even want to stand up and defend his own carbon tax.
“What we need to do is eliminate the carbon tax, but also invest in green technology, making it affordable. People all over this country want to get off of fossil fuels, but what options do we have? Really, there is not much. So if we have incentives, if we had the ability, if it was more affordable to use green technology, more people would be using it and we’d be getting off of fossil fuels. So a CHP government we would make investments in more green technology make it affordable for individuals to use green technology, eliminate the carbon tax because all it does is increase the cost of living.
“People always talk about a carbon tax on fuel but what about the effect it has on the price of food or heating, all that other stuff that nobody ever talks about it. It’s just another tax on people. The Liberals never had a plan when they designed it.”
Because the average Manitoba only has $200 left after paying for monthly necessities, there isn’t money we would want flowing into our local businesses. Poverty, crime often go hand-in-hand. What would you do differently from previous governments to help Portage la Prairie out of the poverty cycle?
Ken Werbiski: “There are so many facets to this. Crime is driven often by addictions. Crime is driven by gang affiliation. Gang affiliation is driven by poverty, homelessness and these things need to be addressed. The federal government has invested in a homeless strategy and a Child benefit has lifted thousands of children out of poverty, but we need to do better than that. We need to teach kids in school about finance. We need to show them how money works. We need to have conversations about food and nutrition. We cold have gardening in school. There are so many things that we need to start teaching children: real life things earlier in school which would make a difference. We need to invest in people so that they can do better. We need to raise the bottom. People who are living at the bottom of society, at the lowest level, bring them up by investing in them. Everyone benefits. By investing in infrastructure we are creating jobs. Those jobs where they make that money — all that money goes back into the economy by the way —stores, restaurants, clothes…and the government also reaps those benefits through taxes. By investing in infrastructure and investing in people we all benefit, all of our lives improve.”
Jerome Dondo: “We’ve got to stop the revolving door of justice. Police forces are spending numerous amounts of time building their cases just to get the case thrown out by a judge or get off on a technicality or getting a slap on the wrist. Too often we hear about people doing things that there is no consequence to it. If there was a consequence, there would be a deterrent. So, first of all, we need to stop the revolving door of justice. And then in terms of poverty, we need to stop taxing people for everything. Like I said earlier we’ve got to get away from the Income Tax Act which benefits the wealthy people. If you have money you can invest in RSP to reduce your taxes if you have the money you can invest in a TFSA. If you have money you can kick into the Liberal or Conservative coffers and they’ll give you some breaks.
“It’s the people who are wealthy that are getting the benefits and the people who can’t afford those, are paying the taxes.
“So the CHP would get rid of the income tax hike and introduce a fair tax based on spending. So you don’t have to worry about how much money you make, you can make as much as you want. You can save it. You can invest it. You can put it wherever you want. It’s your money. But when you start spending it, buying something, there’s a tax on that. So the people who are wealthier and are spending more for whatever it is — buying a luxury vehicle — they’ll pay more tax. So it becomes a fairer system and it becomes a lot easier to administrate. So you will get rid of all of the loopholes, all the advantages and it’s just one tax for everybody when they’re buying it.”
Candice Bergen: “The average Canadian is about $200 a month away from insolvency. That’s it. That’s a very serious situation. Justin Trudeau was elected on a promise to help the middle class. Like so many of the promises that he broke, he broke that promise. The average Canadian is paying over $800 a year more in taxes and that doesn’t even include the carbon tax which the Liberals have promised will increase. And you know who is most drastically and severely impacted by the carbon tax? It’s not the big wealthy corporations. They got a huge exemption because they’re well-connected with the Liberals. It’s the people who are the lowest income and seniors. They don’t have a choice in this country. They got to drive to Winnipeg to go to the doctors. They can’t say oh! You know what? No, we’re going to get in our canoe or something, they have to get in a car and drive there.
“They have to go and they think they don’t have they any other way to get to the city but they have to drive. So you know when you look at how people right now are trying to make ends meet, they need a government who will reduce taxes, who will listen to what they’re struggling with, not help their wealthiest well-connected friends, and that’s what we’ve seen with this government. So we need to get back to a government who puts people before government. Puts the interests of the average Canadian before the interests of well-connected liberals like SNC for example. We saw the length that Justin Trudeau was willing to go to help his friends and to silence his critics.
“I think that for Canadians it’s time that they get ahead and not people who were connected to the government.”