The Boundary is in the South Okanagan – West Kootenay federal riding. There are five candidates vying to become Member of Parliament for our riding: Richard Cannings (NDP), Donnie Denesiuk (Liberal), Brian Gray (Independent), Marshall Neufeld (Conservative) and Samantha Troy (Green Party). Many Boundary residents feel our region is distinct from both the South Okangan and the Kootenays, and so the Gazette took the opportunity to ask each candidate what he or she would do for the BOUNDARY if elected as Member of Parliament. Four candidates responded:
RICHARD CANNINGS, NDP
I know the Boundary country fairly well since my wife came from Grand Forks and we spend a lot of time there, and in the Boundary I see similarities to other interior communities that are having a hard time attracting working families and servicing a large seniors population.
If elected as your MP I would work hard to assist the local government in the Boundary to access federal government infrastructure funding which provides good jobs while building needed services. The NDP will increase direct transfers to municipalities and make it easier for smaller communities to be eligible for these funds.
Increasingly, people are moving to beautiful parts of the country such as the Kettle Valley because of the outdoors lifestyle.
Many can work out of their own homes, but we must ensure that infrastructure elements such as broadband Internet are available to rural communities. These small businesses are important job creators in Canada, and the NDP would encourage them to grow by lowering the small business tax rate from 11 to 9 per cent.
Good jobs are key to keeping people in smaller communities, and in B.C. the forest industry is often the primary employer. An NDP government would invest in forest product manufacturing facilities to help maintain or retool for competitiveness, and support research and development for new products, manufacturing methods and new wood biomaterials.
Seniors are also retiring to the Boundary Country in increasing numbers. Many pensioners live near or below the poverty line, so we must ensure that their incomes are sufficient for a comfortable retirement.
The NDP would roll back the age of eligibility for Old Age Security from 67 to 65, add $400 million to the Guaranteed Income Supplement (lifting 200,000 seniors out of poverty), fix the Canada Pension Plan so that people can properly save for retirement, and maintain pension income splitting at tax time.
The frequency and intensity of fires is a concern in the Boundary as is water quality and quantity. Climate change and the need to lower carbon emissions is a serious issue for the NDP as is preparing for community emergencies. The NDP would restore funding to the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program quietly cut by the Conservatives in 2012.
As a biologist, I know that proper standards and funding to maintain clean water and a healthy environment is essential.
Finally, access to good health care is an extremely important issue, and many Canadians are having a difficult time to even find a family doctor. To alleviate this, a federal NDP government will help the provinces hire 7,000 health professionals and build or expand 200 community clinics across the country.
Health services for seniors are a particular concern; last year the NDP drafted a National Seniors Care Health Strategy that includes funding to expand home care services, help provinces build more nursing home beds and palliative care services. And the NDP will bring in a universal Pharmacare plan for full prescription drug coverage.
CONNIE DENESIUK, Liberal
The economic, social, and environmental issues which are of concern to residents of Boundary Communities share equal importance with those of the riding’s largest community, Penticton.
A Liberal government will invest in physical and social infrastructure projects to kick start our stalled economy. We will begin that process right after the election. Young people in the Boundary, and those who have been forced into mid-career job searches by an uncertain and changing economic situation, need that help now, not in five years.
Our plan for skills training funding for colleges such as Selkirk will assist with that aim. Rather than a “top down” approach, we will work with employers and labour to arrive at an appropriate apprenticeship ratio for all federal infrastructure projects.
I will advocate for consultation with B.C. forestry and mining industry representatives in B.C. on diversification and value-added opportunities for businesses typically located in small communities.
Environmental research to help assess and mitigate effects of climate change, including wildfires and drought, is also critical to the survival of small communities throughout the Boundary. I would advocate for federal consultation with the B.C. government for improved disaster response measures.
A Liberal government would invest $200 million each year to support innovation and clean technologies in the forestry and agricultural sectors, both of which are important to the Boundary economy.
As Justin Trudeau observed: “The environment and the economy are linked, like paddles and canoes. If you don’t take care of both, you’re never going to get where you’re going.”
Adequate social infrastructure, as advanced by the Liberal Party platform, is critical to Boundary’s communities. Affordable housing, seniors housing, and continuation of federal funding for agencies such as the Boundary Family and Individual Services Society are vital needs.
As a further example, the Midway post office is a community gathering place, which the Conservatives’ proposed community mailboxes can never replace.
I have met with the adjacent riding’s candidate Don Johnston to discuss shared advocacy for the rural portions of our ridings. Small communities in the Boundary are important links between the West Kootenays and the South Okanagan, and must not be overlooked by their Member of Parliament.
Over the past 16 months I have made regular visits to Boundary communities in all four seasons. I will continue that important contact with constituents if I am elected as your MP.
MARSHALL NEUFELD, Conservative
Residents of the Boundary have many of the same concerns as other Canadians. Whether I’m door knocking in Grand Forks, Midway, Greenwood or other communities, I hear concerns about jobs, the economy and taxation.
The Conservative government has the only responsible position on these issues. Today Canadians pay the lowest federal taxes than they have at any time in the last 50 years.
Income tax on small businesses has been reduced to 11 per cent and we are committed to reducing it to 9 per cent.
GST has been reduced from 7 per cent to 6 per cent to 5 per cent, saving all Canadians money on nearly every purchase.
Pension income splitting was introduced to help our seniors. The Conservative government committed to this promise to help people in their retirement years against stanch NDP opposition.
We’ve introduced income splitting for families, saving many families up to $2,000 per year. The NDP also voted against family income splitting and have committed to remove this benefit.
The tax savings have been so significant that the average family of four pays $6,600 less in federal tax per year than they did in 2006.
The Conservatives are committed to reducing taxes for small businesses, families, seniors and individuals.
If re-elected, we will raise the annual pension deduction limit per person from $1,000 to $2,000 and all the way to $4,000 for single seniors. This will mean that every senior household (whether you are a couple or single) will be able to have a combined tax saving of $600 per year.
At the same time both the Liberals and NDP want to raise taxes on working Canadians. For a person earning $60,000 annually, the Liberals propose raising payroll taxes by about $1,000 and the NDP propose raising payroll taxes by $1,500. The Conservative Party stands opposed to these proposals and in fact will reduce payroll taxes by about $200 per year by 2017.
The NDP have also proposed raising taxes for businesses by 13 per cent starting next year. This is irresponsible and will affect the economy. If the NDP plan is enacted, it will cost jobs.
Economists estimate that the NDP plans will cost 250,000 Canadians their jobs. That will include jobs here in the Boundary.
If elected, I will not only work for a stronger economy and lower taxes, but I will fight against Thomas Mulcair’s plans to bring back the failed long-gun registry.
It was just last December that Mulcair said he would register every gun in Canada if he was ever elected. A registry of long-guns only targets law abiding gun owners and does nothing to reduce crime.
I will work closely with our local mayors to identify their top infrastructure requirements and then advocate for federal resources.
All too often the needs of small communities go unaddressed if they do not have an effective and energetic MP advocating for them. I will work tirelessly to make sure the priorities of every part of our riding are heard and addressed in Ottawa.
SAMANTHA TROY, Green Party
Canadians are a people united by cooperation, hard work, and mutual respect. We know that it is our families, our communities, and our teamwork that make us strong. We view the diversity of our nation, not as a liability, but rather as a shared strength and a source of pride.
As your MP for our part of Canada I would endeavour to listen to what our constituents want and to manifest those wants in a meaningful and timely manner.
The Green Party platform is a smart and substantiated vision which is committed to a sustainable economy, strong communities, good government and bold action on climate change.
We will commit to establishing a Council of Canadian Governments which will include federal, provincial, municipal, as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders. Together, solutions will be created transparently and publicly.
This dialogue is imperative in order to address each of our individual communities needs.
There is a serious disconnect between the unprecedented wealth produced by our economy and the increasing economic insecurity of all Canadians. We need to immediately build those sectors that benefit from a lower Canadian dollar: manufacturing, tourism, value-added forest products and cultural industries. We need to support small business development and community agriculture, particularly in our region.
We will shift government supported research away from biotechnology and energy intensive farming and direct it towards organic and sustainable food production. We need to help local ranchers better manage our water resources and also provide tools which would facilitate processing our food animals regionally. We need to address transportation, educational opportunities and access to health care resources.
The health of our democracy depends on electing MPs who are accountable to their constituents. Green MPs will seek constructive solutions to issues in our local communities, striving to create dialogue and solve problems when they arise.