Conservative politicians met with the Cranbrook and Kimberley business community on Thursday, as part of a listening tour throughout the region amid the COVID-19 .
Pierre Poilievre, the Tory opposition critic for the federal finance portfolio, met with representatives from local and regional industries ranging from forestry, mining and small businesses to gather feedback on federal government COVID-19 supports and issues or barriers in the way of post-pandemic economic recovery.
Poilievre said there needs to be a ‘worker-led recovery’, as the federal government stares down a 380 billion deficit largely brought on by spending in response to the pandemic.
“The message is loud and clear,” said Poilievre during a media availability along with Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison on Thursday in Cranbrook.
“We need to unleash our economy, leave more money in the hands of the workers and the entrepreneurs, remove the red tape so our projects can get started and built, remove anti-business policies that Ottawa has imposed so that our businesses can hire more, grow more and pay more wages.
“We need to unleash the power of our 20 million Canadian workers across this country to create the wealth that will pay our bills and give us a better future.”
Tourism hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic
The pandemic has had an adverse affect on the Canadian — indeed the global — economy, as governments scrambled to implement social distancing restrictions aimed at preventing and slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Many sectors of the economy have been hard-hit, however, tourism — which relies on out-of-region visitors — has been reeling, according to Poilievre and Morrison.
While travel restrictions have closed the border to visiting Americans, Poilievre said this is the year where Canadians can explore their own backyards.
“This Christmas, you’re not going to have as many people down in the Caribbean or Mexico, so we’ve got to be creative about how we can get people to spend money here,” Poilievre said.
“How can we get them to spend it at Sun Peaks, for example, near Kamloops? Or in Banff or Fernie or other magical places across Western Canada that are famous around the world?
“Why can’t we get more Canadians at home to spend their tourist dollars here rather than shipping them south all the time, so this might be the year to do that.”
Morrison noted he’s heard feedback from local guide outfitters and heli-ski operators in the region who are struggling, but brainstorming ideas on keeping clients isolated while out on a backcountry tour or hunt.
Responding to the federal government’s handling of the pandemic, Poilievre criticized the Liberals for being slow to act on travel closures last fall just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to spread from southeast Asia.
While Poilievre said the Conservatives supported the wage subsidy and the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), he also criticized aspects of some of the programs. For example, as workers earn more money, they can ease off CERB rather than being kicked off it the instant they earn more than $1,000, Poilievre said.
“We need to ensure all our future programs reward, rather than punish, work and that will be our plan going froward,” Poilievre said.
Poilievre was named to the Conservative shadow cabinet, along with Morrison, following the conclusion of the party’s leadership race in late August, which was won by Ontario MP Erin O’Toole.
An elected MP since 2004, Poilievre has been with the Conservative Party through a number of transitions, including minority and majority governments and leadership changes.
Looking ahead to the fall parliamentary session
In the 2019 election, the Tories captured a blue wall of Conservative ridings stretching from the Okanagan to the Manitoba border, but didn’t make enough inroads into Central and Eastern Canada to oust the Liberals from governance. However, Poilievre said he is hopeful the party can make gains in the Greater Vancouver and Greater Toronto areas where the party could flip battleground ridings whenever the next election is held.
That could be as early as the next few weeks, depending on what happens when the Liberals release the Speech from the Throne, which sets out the government’s priorities over the fall legislative session and carries a confidence vote.
The Liberals, who are currently governing as a minority with 157 seats, need additional support from other political parties in the House of Commons to pass legislation in order to meet the 170-vote majority threshold.
As far as the parliamentary process goes in the event of a failed confidence vote, opposition leaders will meet with the Governor General and attempt to establish or maintain the confidence of the House. If confidence can’t be established, Parliament will dissolve and Canadians will head to the polls.
The new parliamentary session and Throne Speech is set to kick off next week on Sept. 23.