“We should be scaling up high-technology firms, providing hiring incentives, and improving productivity”
By Bala Menon
Innovative ideas are needed across the spectrum as Canada comes out of the crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole said on Wednesday. ’The best days for Canada are still ahead of us.”
Speaking at an Ethnocultural media conference, O’Toole said our focus should shift towards strengthening and boosting supports for small and medium enterprises – and not be selective in choosing industries and individual firms for giving government assistance.
There was also the issue of improper implementation of the Wage and Rent Subsidy Programs – which were taken advantage of by many companies who really didn’t need them and later reported incredible profits during the pandemic year. He also hit out at the proposal being floated by the Liberals and NDP about converting financial help like the Canadian Economic Recovery Benefit (CERB) into a permanent feature of the Canadian economic and social landscape.
As the economy reopens, O’Toole said, what was needed was scaling up of high-technology firms, providing hiring incentives, and improving productivity. “Canadians are hardworking and they don’t need handouts which tend to disincentivize people and be detrimental to the economy. We have to get the country working again.”
To a question on the espionage theory related to Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, O’Toole pointed out how the government has been dodging questions on two scientists who had connections with the Communist Party of China and one of whom was reported to have clandestinely shipped virus samples to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology. Xiangguo Qiu and her husband Keding Cheng were fired from the “Winnipeg lab in January this year and the matter is being investigated by the police.
O’Toole has been demanding in the House of Commons that the Public Health Agency of Canada release documents regarding the matter. PHAC has been stonewalling the demand and O’Toole said that parliamentarians have a right to know about the security breaches involved.
O’Toole noted that PHAC president Iain Stewart has been publicly reprimanded for not submitting the documents to the house “a situation which has not arisen in the house in over a hundred years.”
With regard to the Housing Supply crunch and the increasing difficulty for Canadians to own their homes, O’Toole said the Liberal Government had ignored several proposals that his party had put forward to rework the current housing policy.
“We want an immediate freeze on non-resident, foreign buyers active in the Canadian housing market. Just imposing a 1% tax on such properties is not going to work. What we are seeing are foreigners who just park their money in Canadian real estate.”
“We would like to see active steps to increase the housing supply across Canada. With federal support, there can be wide partnerships created to increase the supply – especially for first-time home buyers. This has become a really pressing need -and owning a home is part of the Canadian middle-class story.”
O’Toole called for ’smart, strategic ideas’ to deal with the slump in the travel and tourism industry. “We supported the proposal to help Canadian international airlines – with the proviso that they do not pay dividends or bonuses for the period. He also criticized the government quarantine plan as essentially unsafe and unfair and called for federal leadership in setting up the infrastructure for rapid-testing at all points of entry into Canada.“Also, we need to be prepared for any similar type of pandemics and crises that may arise in the future.”
While hailing the appointment of Justice Mahmud Jamal to the Supreme Court “who is a brilliant and outstanding constitutional lawyer”, O’Toole criticized what he called a Liberal list which vetted appointments in the lower judiciary and diplomatic cadres. “This list,” he said, “tracks Liberal supporters and donors, and appointments are made after names are run through this list. “Why should there be such a list? It isn’t fair to Canadians.’
Referring to the current discussions around Islamophobia, O’Toole said his party has been reaching out to the Muslim community. “We represent all Canadians and I want to stress that we have lots of Muslim supporters and many candidates in our election list. Muslims and others will see me fight against intolerance – that is my nature.”
“These parties can only offer more of the same – more big deficits, more debt, more taxes and less opportunity. They spend your money, and then claim that they are being generous.”
He said the Conservative Party had a national recovery plan which would put all Canadians first. “We will enact a comprehensive Jobs Plan that will recover the millions of jobs lost during the pandemic – in one year. We will hold the Government to account with a new Anti-Corruption Law that will restore accountability, transparency and trust in Ottawa.”