Canada’s 44th federal election is officially underway.
Governor General Mary Simon formally dissolved parliament over the weekend, following a meeting with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, setting in motion a 36 day election campaign, with general voting set for Sept. 20.
In Kootenay-Columbia, Conservative Party candidate Rob Morrison is running for re-election against candidates from three other major parties — so far — who have also jumped into the race.
“I’m really happy with our platform because it talks about priorities and number one is the economic recovery,” said Morrison, referencing the impacts to businesses and livelihoods stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s really important to get our small businesses, our tourism, hospitality — and of course in our area, we’ve got guiders and outfitters that have been down to zero [income] and heli-skiing and things like that that we thrive on in the winter…so it’s really important to get the economy back going.”
Locally, Morrison singled out innovative ideas and projects, such as an electric passenger train that would service communities in the Kootenays, and also highlighted labour shortage issues being faced by small businesses.
The Conservative Party platform, a magazine-style document released on Monday, contains campaign pledges on topics relating to economic growth, health care, climate change, Indigenous Peoples, seniors, and immigration, among others.
A few aspects of the platform include a jobs surge plan that would pay up to 50 per cent of the salary of new hires for six months, launching a main street business loan of up to $200,000, reducing red tape for large infrastructure projects, increasing worker and employment insurance benefits, and pledging to build one million homes over the next three years to address housing affordability.
As the economy rebounds and grows, Morrison says the increased tax base can generate revenues to fund areas such as senior supports or developing green technologies.
“Have a look at inflation rates right now and seniors are hurting, we’ve got to start developing some innovative plans,” Morrison said. “Really, seniors shouldn’t be paying for medical, dental, prescriptions — they just don’t have the money. When you look at CPP [Canada Pension Plan] and old age [security] — a lot of people don’t have CPP because they were staying at home, so they don’t even qualify for that, but some of those programs have to be tax-free and they need some really significant increases to catch up with inflation and be able to feed themselves and support themselves.”
Morrison also noted the importance of addressing mental health issues, which has become more pronounced over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, while also singling out the need to tackle the opioid crisis, with a focus on treatment and rehabilitation rather than incarceration.
As the world grapples with developing consistent COVID-19 public health policies in the post-pandemic era, federal party leaders have debated the issue of vaccine mandates.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau and New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh have campaigned in support of COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal civil service employees, while Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole is opposed, instead favouring a rapid testing regime.
“We need our airports opened up as well as our land border crossings so we can get not only our guide outfitters, but our tourism and hospitality going again safely,” Morrison said.
The B.C. government recently announced a vaccine mandate for health care staff working in long-term care homes across the province. As federal party leaders debate the merits of vaccine mandates, Morrison said provincial governments bear the responsibility of determining potential mandatory vaccination edicts for sectors such as the K-12 school systems or post-secondary institutions.
Prior to political office, Morrison served as Director General with the Treasury Board Secretariat as well as senior executive chief superintendant of the BC RCMP. He has also worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs as a diplomat in southeast Asia.
Morrison is running against NDP candidate Wayne Stetski, Liberal Party candidate Robin Goldsbury, and Green Party candidate Rana Nelson. Election debates in communities around the riding will likely be formalized in the coming days and weeks.