Federal election questions: Lambton-Kent-Middlesex

What is the most pressing issue facing your riding, and what do you plan to do about it if elected?
Micheal Janssens: The most pressing issue facing this riding, this country, this world, is the demoralization of western society brought on by the disintegration of the family. We kill our children, trample marriage, ignore the elderly, and then we wonder why the whole world seems to be going crazy. When you remove God, you remove his morals. When you remove his morals, you destroy the basis for family. When you destroy the family, you destroy the bedrock on which our nation sits. Our children grow up in families. Without families, our children aren’t raised, and when they take over the country, it falls apart. It’s been going on since the 60s, and it has to stop.
Joe Hill: The downturn in the US economy, and specifically the downturn in the automotive sector, has caused global corporations to close their SW Ontario operation.
If elected, I would work with our new Prime Minister Jack Layton to implement legislation to make it more difficult for global corporations to close and move their operations
Bev Shipley: The economy, especially as it relates to jobs, protecting families, agriculture and tourism. Ontario has experienced a slow down in the manufacturing sector and I believe we have to continue on the course set by our Prime Minister of balanced budgets, lower taxes and debt reduction. To be clear, I believe we have a responsibility to retrain our workforce and make investments in technology as well as research and development. In support of these initiatives we must build on the investments we have made in agriculture, and ensure our new programs reflect the ever-changing needs of farmers in a global marketplace. In terms of protecting families, seniors and those who are at risk, a growing economy, jobs, debt reduction will allow us to make the selected investments so that all Canadians prosper.
Jeff Wesley: Issues vary according to what part of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex you’re from. Certainly agriculture and jobs are vital. But tourism and the ongoing Ipperwash issue are important in Grand Bend. Before my present position, I specialized in municipal and aboriginal relations, visiting almost all the First Nations in Ontario. I believe my background provides a unique perspective to help with the situation, in addition to my law degree. And as Mayor of Wallaceburg, I know the tourism opportunities that are available if we just work together, especially for such a beautiful place as Grand Bend and area.
For farmers, we will fund the federal share of the Risk Management Program, and support the hog and beef sector.
A new Liberal government will implement a five-point economic action plan within the first 30 days of being sworn in to provide Canadians with needed certainty and clarity in times of economic turmoil. Canadians are rightly worried for their savings and value of their RRSPs, mortgages, household finances and their jobs. Canadians expect their government to offer more than assurances that all will be well. They expect action. Mr. Harper’s response to financial instability and economic uncertainty has been to lecture Canadians that things are fine. I believe governments have a responsibility to protect Canadians from undue economic harm and to take prudent, responsible action to respond at a time of crisis. And we will deliver.

What is the biggest environmental issue facing your riding and what will you do to address it?
Micheal Janssens: Lambton-Kent-Middlesex faces no more problems than any other riding in Canada. We’ve all got pollution woes. As a whole nation, we need to rethink our stand on the environment. To start, the CHP would scrap the Kyoto Accord. It doesn’t work. Pollution didn’t get better when we got into it, and in fact, what was accomplished was billions of taxpayers’ money pumped into Chinese and Russian economies to buy “pollution credits” that they weren’t using. That money would be much better spent subsidizing research into renewable energy sources, like water, wind, and solar.
Joe Hill: Years of abuse by the oil companies, chemical companies, manufacturing industry and the coal-fired electric generating stations in Michigan and Indiana have poisoned our environment by spewing toxins into our air, soil and water. In the rural farm communities of our riding we put our citizens at risk with the uncontrolled use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers by the global agri-business.
Bev Shipley: Industrial pollution, whether it is discharges to the St. Clair River or the Great Lakes ecosystem in our riding would be the first but not the only issue that comes to mind. This is why our government provided $3.3-million in support of clean up efforts in the St. Clair River. I have and will continue to work with stakeholders, including WATCH, the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Great Lakes and BPAC to ensure their input is sought and acted upon.
Jeff Wesley: Climate change is the issue of our generation; it creates lower lake levels, more hail (as we saw this summer in the area, destroying crops), more thunderstorms and hurricanes. We have an action plan to deal with it; all can read it and see how much income tax they’ll save by visiting www.thegreenshift.ca. I have a lot of experience dealing with businesses in Chemical Valley, for example, which were responsible for 300 chemical spills into the St. Clair River in the 1990s. People in Wallaceburg had to line up behind water trucks at the local mall to get their drinking water like refugees. We now, thankfully, have provincial laws in place that mean, “you spill, you pay.” I congratulate our MPP, Maria Van Bommel, who was instrumental in developing that plan of action. I will work with the municipality and the province to develop a local action plan to help reduce the number of beaches closed locally. We must all do our part.

Do you believe your riding needs federal infrastructure funding, and if so, what will you do to bring it here?
Micheal Janssens: The Liberals’ proposed infrastructure bank has a glaring fault. The Liberals know that our infrastructure is in bad shape, and they know that they don’t have the funds to fix it. So they are going to sell equities (shares), and sell bonds (debt), and borrow from Canada’s chartered banks to get the money to rebuild infrastructure at a low cost of interest.
Right idea; wrong execution. This plan would plunge Canada further into debt, stealing even more money from future generations.
The CHP would instruct the Bank of Canada to make interest-free loans to provinces and municipalities to improve infrastructure. As economic revenue increases from the upgrades, the lower levels of government would pay off the loans, which the Bank of Canada would then remove from circulation to prevent inflation.
Joe Hill: Yes, I believe that our riding needs federal infrastructure funding; I will do my best with Jack Layton and our team to ensure that downloading of federal funds reaches the areas that it is most needed to benefit the working families of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.
Bev Shipley: All municipalities across the country need the support of all levels of government to address infrastructure funding. Through COMRIF and a number of other programs we have begun to address many of these issues. But of course there is still more to do which is why our government established Build Canada, a $33-billion fund to partner with provinces, private and municipalities to address these issues.
Jeff Wesley: Yes, absolutely, and not the phony cheques given by our MP to some area municipalities, whereby no money was attached, and local mayors had to come up with two-thirds of the funding, hurting local taxpayers. The Liberal government created the rural infrastructure program, and we have committed to a new $70-billion program over 10 years. Our roads, bridges, sewers, waterlines, are all important to keep our economy on the move.

What will you do to stimulate the economy in your riding?
Micheal Janssens: Aside from playing around with corporate taxation and easing up on regulative legislation, the government really doesn’t have that much control over the economy; the businesses do. The CHP would do just that; we would arrange a system of taxation and regulation that would allow for businesses to open and run profitably. One idea that we would implement is a Fair Tax system for all Canadians. We believe that if you earn a dollar, then that dollar is yours – you’ve earned it. The finance minister has no right to ask you what you earned last year and even less right to say “Send me half.” We would eliminate the income tax and replace it with a consumption tax. That puts you in charge of how much tax you pay. The incentive to earn less to save on taxes will be gone, we’ll be encouraged to save and invest more, and we’ll all become wealthier.
Joe Hill: I will work with Jack Layton and our team to continue to confront the manufacturing crisis by reviewing unfair trade rules, investing in manufacturing upgrades and improving worker transition programs. This would include continuing to promote our green-collar jobs strategy and a green car strategy to reposition Canada’s auto industry as a leader in producing the fuel-efficient cars that the world is demanding.
Bev Shipley: First I would say we need the kind of strong decisive leadership demonstrated by our Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I have had the honour of working with him and our caucus to deliver balanced budgets, especially in these times of global economic uncertainty, lower taxes ($3,600 in lower taxes for the average family of four) and debt reduction ($40-billion), which we are committed to passing on the interest saved in the form of even lower taxes for hard-working families. We need to build on investments already made in retraining our skilled workforce for the in-demand jobs of the future as well as in new technology and research and development. What we do not need is reckless irresponsible spending which will spiral us into deficit as the opposition parties in this election are proposing.
Jeff Wesley: Set up a local committee of representatives of chambers of commerce, business associations, employers, unions, tourist operators, to tackle the problem head-on. Too often, Ottawa seems like some foreign capital, when it shouldn’t be. The MP’s role is to not make big speeches and attend ribbon-cuttings; it’s to roll up your sleeves and shake things up. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I would take their ideas and help implement them.

Tourism is an important industry in our readership area. Do you believe the federal government should fund arts and culture projects, and if so, what kind?
Micheal Janssens: Canadian culture is powerful and deeply rooted in Judeo-Christian ideals. If our culture needs welfare, then we’ve truly degenerated into a sad nation indeed. I’m okay with local governments giving scholarships to talented potential artists, but to suggest that Canadian culture would die out if it didn’t have funding from the government, to me, debases and humiliates Canadian culture. We’re Canadian. We don’t need Ottawa’s money to protect our Canadian identity. We’re better than that!
Joe Hill: Yes, I believe the federal government should fund these projects.
Presently, the federal government has focused its spending on the “bricks and mortar” and cut programs that support the actual “artists”: musicians, filmmakers and visual artists. I believe that we should continue to oppose Harper’s narrow-minded cuts to programs that support cuts to Canadian artists, cuts to local artists and cuts to museums.
Bev Shipley: I do, which is why our government has increased funding to arts and culture by eight per cent ($2.3-billion annually) since coming to office, which is far more than the previous government spent. However, we were elected in 2006 to manage taxpayer money effectively and efficiently and in that regard we have undertaken a strategic review, which resulted in reallocating funding from programs that were not working or that had achieved their objective to programs that required additional funding.
Jeff Wesley: Yes, the federal government should fund arts and culture. I was very disappointed when Mr. Harper cut $10-million from the museums budget. That hurt our smaller museums in particular.
A new Liberal government will double the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $360-million annually, while simultaneously reversing the cuts recently announced by the Conservative government to arts and culture.
Canada’s diverse arts and cultural community plays an important role in our national identity. We are committed to helping revitalize a vital sector of the Canadian economy that is under threat by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ideologically driven mismanagement.