By Jenn Watt
Parked cars spilled out of Pinestone Resort’s parking lot and down either side of its driveway all the way to County Road 21 on the night of Haliburton’s all candidates’ meeting.
The grand ballroom was standing room only after every stack of chairs to spare had been exhausted with hundreds of people out Monday night to see the four candidates running for federal office.
Conservative Jamie Schmale found himself defending the record of his government several times throughout the night, while the other candidates tried their best to offer alternatives to the crowd, who asked questions about everything from military spending to the environment.
“I’m running because I want to help people. I want to use the federal government to improve our quality of life here in our riding,” said NDP candidate Mike Perry in his opening remarks.
“I’ve been hearing about health care and seniors’ issues and the environment and good jobs for our area,” he said, noting he would like to address those issues with a balanced budget.
Conservative candidate Jamie Schmale said that his party had the leadership experience to keep the Canadian economy growing.
“Since coming to office, our government has had to make choices, most of them difficult in an unstable global economy,” he said. What the Conservatives avoided was “massive permanent spending increases” and raising taxes.
Liberal candidate David Marquis said Canadians wanted a bolder government – “we are ready for a leader with the optimism to invest in our country and put us on a level playing field with other progressive nations,” he said.
The Liberals will focus on the middle class, he said, and the child benefit and middle class tax cut would “right some of the imbalances” in the economy. The party’s plan to pour $125 billion into infrastructure over a decade would kickstart the economy, he said.
Green party candidate Bill MacCallum said his party offered good economic policy while protecting the environment.
“A Green government will build a 21st century economy, lower taxes for Canadians, while returning corporate taxes to 2009 levels,” he said. “We will allow seniors to live in dignity with a guaranteed liveable income and a national pharmacare program for everyone.”
Monday’s meeting was run by the local CARP chapter with the support of the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce. Besides taking questions from the floor, moderator Jim Blake also read prepared questions from the two organizations.
CARP asked what the candidates would do about improving the lives of seniors who are living in poverty because Old Age Security and the Canadian Pension Plan are not enough.
Marquis said the prime minister should sit down with the provinces and talk about augmenting CPP. The Liberals would roll back the eligibility age for OAS to age 65, he said, “where it should be.” They would also increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).
Perry said the NDP would also roll back the eligibility age to 65, provide an increase to the GIS as well as increase spots in home care and affordable long-term care.
Schmale said the Conservatives did not think the government should impose CPP increases. “A payroll tax is the worst thing you can do, especially for small businesses,” he said. The change in retirement age came because the system was designed during a time when people didn’t live as long as they do now, he explained.
MacCallum said the Green party would also move the retirement age to 65 again and that it would change the CPP income replacement rate.
“The Green Party would enhance the Canada Pension Plan by phasing in the target income replacement rate from 25 per cent to 40 per cent of income before retirement. Originally, the Canada Pension Plan was intended years ago to replace 50 per cent of income and so we agreed it was perfectly reasonable to be moving it back to 40 per cent over a number of years, phasing it in, giving time for business to accommodate,” he said.
Due to the Echo’s press time, this is a shorter version of the candidates meeting. Next week’s paper will include additional information on the candidates’ positions. You can also go online to haliburtonecho.ca before then to read more.
By Jenn Watt