Responses to Kingston Whig-Standard candidate surveyOctober 18, 2019
Original Post: October 18, 2019
I provided my responses to a survey provided by the Kingston Whig-Standard to all candidates in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. The paper printed all responses it received in THIS STORY.
Take a look!
Note added: November 20, 2019
The Whig Standard asked some questions to which it decided not to publish (presumably on the basis that the answers were so long). But in the interest of completeness, I’m posting my answers to those questions as well.
1) What do you consider the most important issues facing voters in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston?
Affordability is the #1 issue in this election. The Liberals have made tens of billions of dollars in promises to engage in what economists call “pro-cyclical” spending. In addition to the $70 billion Trudeau added to the national debt in 2015-2019, the Liberal platform promises a further $90 billion in deficit spending over the next four years, along with tens of billions per year in uncosted promises.
This would be bad at any time. But “pro-cyclical” spending = increased government spending during an economic expansion. The Keynesian doctrine to which the Liberals claim to adhere calls for the exact opposite: reduced spending in times of expansion, so that governments can spend aggressively during a recession to stimulate the economy (as we did in the “Great Recession” of 2008-2009). If we overspend now, we are likely to overstimulate the economy and deepen the next recession, while depriving our future selves of the ability to use countercyclical spending to dig our way out.
My constituents are not characterizing their concerns in this kind of technical language. But they know that government is spending beyond its means. They know that if he is reelected, Justin Trudeau’s spending will have added a minimum of $160 billion to our national debt—just under $10,000 for every Canadian family of four. And they know that they, or their children, will have to pay this back, through taxes that will, inevitably, include thousands of additional dollars to pay for the interest costs that will accumulate on that $160 billion.
Rural Canadians know that most of this spending is not for the benefit of small-town Canada, but that they will be forced, via the tax system, to pay a proportionate share when the bill comes due for Justin Trudeau’s orgy of spending. With good reason, they are worried.
2) Compared to your opponents in this election, what do you think are your biggest advantages? And what are your greatest weaknesses?
My greatest assets, I think, are the following:
- I’ve served as an MP for 19 years, both in Government and in Opposition. So I have a substantial amount of experience, both in taking care of constituent concerns, and in getting things done at the national level.
- I work well, across party lines. This has allowed me to be effective, for example, in human rights work (most notably in the work I have done on behalf of Falun Gong practitioners imprisoned in China, where this work led to the freeing of thirteen individuals with family links to Canada). I’ve also been able to employ this approach to steer a number of important non-partisan issues through the House of Commons, such as a change to the way the Speaker is elected, and provisions for Parliamentary oversight of the very expensive renovations underway to the Parliament Buildings.
- I have a lifetime of business experience in my family business (Giant Tiger Stores, Ltd.). The ability to see governmental problems from a business-oriented or bottom line-oriented perspective is a key component of keeping government spending under control.
- Over the years, I have engaged in a considerable amount of study regarding the Constitution, including establishing a database of primary constitutional documents intended for the use of the courts. (You can look it up online: PrimaryDocuments.ca). This expertise has an obvious utility in bringing context to constitutional discussions in the Commons.
- Having lived and worked in two other countries (the United States and Australia), I have useful comparative experience dealing with the world’s two other continent-sized federal states, which serve as Canada’s most useful “control models” when we consider policy options.
3) The affordability and availability of housing in rural areas has been singled out as among the most pressing problems facing the city. If elected MP, how do you think the federal government can help address this housing crisis?
The issue of housing, as it pertains to urban areas—most notably Toronto and the “905 belt” in Ontario, and Vancouver in British Columbia, is somewhat different than the situation in exurbs like the ones found in the part of Kingston north of Highway 401—let alone in rural Frontenac County. In the cities, the problem is largely driven by three factors that do not exist, or that exist to a much lesser extent, in rural areas and small towns:
- Rapid population growth, stimulated in part by people moving from other parts of Canada, but also by immigration from overseas;
- The purchase of properties by overseas buyers, many of whom are more concerned with having a safe place to park their investment money, than in actually residing in the property. This drives up the demand for residential properties (and hence the price), while causing many properties to remain under-utilized (thereby not sopping up exess demand);
- The revolution in online short-term rentals (largely via Airbnb) has resulted in some long-term housing being used instead for overnight accommodation. This has further restricted supply.
In rural and small-town areas, the cost issues for middle-class first-time home buyers are less problematic than is the case in the cities. However, the presumably unintended problems caused by the mortgage “stress test” which was imposed in 2017 by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) are very real, anywhere that people need to renew their mortgage (which of course includes rural areas). The need to demonstrate the ability to
The Conservative Party has pledged to adjust the stress test, to make mortgages easier for first-time buyers to access. Speaking personally, I am committed to eliminating the unintended consequences for people who are having trouble renewing their mortgages on their existing homes.
4a) Many municipal councils have declared climate emergencies this year. If elected MP, how would you want the federal government to address the climate change crisis?
As a starting-point, Canada should try to achieve its emissions targets, as laid out in the Paris Accord.
But I think we have to be realistic about how small this difference is going to be, when compared to global emissions. According to GlobalCarbonAtlas.org, Canada emitted 573 megatonnes of carbon in 2017. (2017 is the most recent year for which comparative data is available.) Significantly, Canada’s emissions in 2017 were no higher than they were in the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 20%, from 30.7 million to 36.6 million. Stated differently, per capita emissions in Canada are down by nearly 20% over this period.
Meanwhile, global emissions have gone up 47% since 2000, and now equal 36,153 megatonnes. Thus as a percentage of the global total, our emissions have dropped from 2.33% of the worldwide total in 2000 to 1.58% in 2017.
Therefore, it’s clear that Canada will play a meaningful role in the effort to control emissions only if it serves as an example that other countries will wish to emulate. For example, China—which is seeking to expand its economy, and which emits seventeen times as much C02 as we do—will be inspired by new, Canadian-developed technologies, and will eagerly replace its coal imports with imports of clean-burning liquid natural gas imported from Canada. (Natural gas produces about half as much carbon dioxide per unit of energy created, as does coal—53 kilos vs 94 kilos per million BTUs of energy.) This is important, since China’s coal-burning accounts for about half of its total C02 emissions.
By contrast neither China nor any other country will be inspired to follow our example if Canadians damage our economy with a growth-killing carbon tax, of the sort that Mr. Trudeau is attempting to implement.
4b) Also, what have you personally done to change your lifestyle to reduce your impact on the environment?
I think the best way to answer this particular question is to try to provide you with a list of some of the things that my wife Robyn and I have been doing. The climate impact of some of our lifestyle changes is very small, while some are a bit bigger. Ultimately, it will require many, many of these, to make a meaningful difference.
- We live in a 180-year-old house that was built long before the development of central heating or air conditioning—and that therefore was designed with a focus on making practical use of the ambient environment (for example, using cross-breezes to keep it cool in the summer, and using in-room heaters in some rooms in the winter, while shutting off other rooms, which is what they did before central heating was installed in the house in the Twentieth Century.
- We compost our kitchen waste, and have two organic gardens.
- We buy most of our produce at the Perth farmers market, and belong to a CSA.
- We use recyclable cloth bags, rather than plastic bags (with the occasional slip-up).
- I stay overnight in Ottawa on weekdays, when Parliament is in session. On these days, I ride my bike to work (until the snow falls). From then until the snow melts, I bus to work in the morning, and walk home in the evening. The car stays unused all week, and it’s a good way to get exercise.
5) In four years, what kind of changes would you like to see in Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston and what role do you think the local MP should play in making those changes happen?
Here are a few areas where I think the local MP can make a significant difference:
- The bandwidth of internet service in rural areas—particularly outside the main towns—is expensive and inadequate. Download speeds are slow, and upload speeds are much, much slower. This means, among other things, that any person hoping to run a business in rural Frontenac or Lanark will be unable to participate in video conference calls, or upload data at the speed necessary to run a business.
I will seek, along with other rural MPs, to influence the way in which the CRTC regulates the telecom providers, to cause them to devote more funds to building and improving ‘final mile’ delivery (whereas right now, federal subsidies tend to go into increasing the bandwidth of ‘backbone.’) This change in focus would lead
- The economic well-being of communities in this riding are closely linked to the cities to which we are in close proximity (Kingston in the south, Ottawa to the east). We benefit from agri-tourism, from cottaging and people who visit our campgrounds, fairs, farmers’ markets and golf courses. Facilitating this kind of economic activity is critically important, and will be a focus for me.
- The wealth of many people in this riding is tied up in real estate (their family farm, their campground, golf course, etc.). From time to time, all levels of government impose expensive new regulations on the use of this land, which amounts to a confiscation of part of its value without compensation. This practice is unfair, and governments should be required to reestablish the traditional practice of providing compensation for the costs imposed by such regulations. I will continue to push for a constitutional amendment to entrench this kind of compensation in the Charter of Rights.
6) Any additional thoughts?
It’s an honour to serve as an MP, and I hope that the voters will reelect me on October 21. But if one of my opponents is elected, it will be my responsibility to ensure a smooth transition and to help my successor take over constituency affairs, including active case files.
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