CANADA VOTES 2021: Kitchener South-Hespeler Riding Candidates
There are many issues that have taken front and centre during this Federal election campaign, especially surrounding Canada’s economic future in wake of the pandemic.
The business community is looking for strong representation as it continues to forge a clear path towards toward recovery and ensuring more prosperous communities going forward.
We reached out to the federal candidates vying to represent Kitchener South-Hespeler – Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, NDP candidate Suresh Arangath, Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose and People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner - with a series of questions to determine their priorities and goals.
(Conservative Party of Canada candidate Tyler Calver did not provide answers to these questions at publication time).
1. What type of leadership can members of our business community expect from you as our MP and why should they vote for you and your party?
Communication with the business community will play a key role for the candidates if they are elected to represent Kitchener South-Hespeler in Ottawa.
“I’ll be a strong voice for our business community, and a collaborative leader who wants to work alongside you to shape positive change in our community,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, adding as an economic development professional and Chair of the Manufacturing Innovation Network she has spent the last 15 years working to help bring jobs and investment to the region. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and we must do everything we can to support them.”
The same sentiment is shared by NDP candidate Suresh Arangath who, as a financial advisor and professional accountant, says he understands the intricacies of business.
“I understand and appreciate the role of small business who are the engine of job creation in Canada. As a Member of Parliament, I can relate to the needs of the business community and can be a bridge between the business, workers and the government.”
For Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose, a healthcare worker, listening to small business leaders will be imperative.
“My style of leadership is to listen and gather advice from community members and subject matter experts. As an MP, I would consult with small local business owners as well as workers on how the federal government could improve conditions for both employers and employees,” he says. “The Green Party has always been a supporter of small local businesses and believes that small local businesses are the backbone of a community’s economy.”
Listening to concerns from business owners is also important to People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, who has roots in the wellness industry and is studying for her holistic nutrition designation.
“(Chamber) Members can expect me to go to bat for them to keep their doors open, and to fight against restrictions and mandates that can negatively impact their businesses,” she says. “They can always approach me with their concerns.”
She says a vote for her and the PPC is a good step towards fiscal responsibility.
“We understand that the best thing government can do for businesses is get out of the way. After we have balanced the budget and eliminated the deficit, we will begin cutting the personal income tax, corporation taxes, and capital gains tax,” says Melissa. “Excessive spending has created startling inflation, which impacts both businesses and consumers.”
Tackling issues related to regulatory process and lowering the small business tax, anything affecting the ‘bottom line’ for small businesses is on the radar for the NDP says Suresh.
“If elected, a New Democratic Party will be a government that helps small business access the services and infrastructure they need to thrive and expand, while investing in a health and talented workforce for overall success.”
The continued economic health of the community will also be important for Valerie and the Liberal Party she says.
“The Liberal government has had the backs of Canadian through the COVID-19 pandemic and a Liberal government will continue to support the business community as they get back on their feet and build back better,” she says. “They also delivered the vaccines we needed, ahead of schedule, bringing us closer than ever to brighter days. Now, we have a fully costed, action driven plan for Canada’s long-term care recovery across the economic board.”
2. What will be a top priority for you as our MP and what concerns are you hearing from the business community on the campaign trail?
When it comes to priorities, the candidates have a variety of issues in their sights which they hope to tackle while representing this riding in Ottawa.
“We need to finish the fight against COVID-19. This is a must if we are going to ensure that we secure people’s health, livelihood and prosperity,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford, adding she’s ready to work the ‘fundamental’ priorities expressed by voters in this riding. “These entail supporting our local businesses and creating jobs, bringing in affordable childcare, taking action on the climate, and helping Canadians buy their first home sooner.”
Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose also says addressing the ‘climate crisis’ will be a priority, along with healthcare system improvements, creating affordable housing and providing more supports to the most vulnerable, including seniors and those with mental health and addiction issues.
Creating affordable housing will also be a priority for him, says NDP candidate Suresh Arangath who would like to work with developers and community builders about his party’s plan to build 1.7 million affordable houses in Canada. As well, he says helping small businesses is imperative.
“A priority is to mitigate the effects of debts accumulated by small business through financial incentives and supporting hiring, rehiring and/or retraining the current employees,” he says. “Additionally, we should think about extending the CRHP and the CEWS until small business are able to get stronger to stand up on their own.”
For People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, she says the rights and freedoms of Canadians have been “under attack” for the past 18 months and that restoring them is a priority.
“In these 18 months, we went from ‘two weeks to flatten a curve’ to a segregated society,” she says. “This is the issue at hand, and it seems the other parties are aligned with each other on endorsing restrictions and also trying to ignore the elephant in the room.”
In terms of concerns, Melissa says how vaccine passports will affect their business is a key issue.
“People are wondering how they’re going to be able to keep their doors open if lockdowns persist,” she says. “I’m deeply concerned about the struggles that small and medium businesses are facing right now. It’s time to get back to business as usual.”
The struggles of trying to maintain their businesses is something that Suresh says he’s hearing from business owners.
“They are accumulating debts and left with no more room to grow or survive another crisis,” says the NDP candidate. “They ask the support from the government to continue the programs like CRHP and the CEWS for a period to help them pass through the post pandemic time.”
For Gabriel, pandemic uncertainties about the future and improving government supports for employees, including health and childcare, are things the Green Party candidate says he has been hearing from residents. As well, he says worries about labour shortages also tops the list.
Labour shortages and economic uncertainties are also things Valerie says she’s come across while campaigning for the Liberal Party and promoting its recovery plans.
“We have a real plan to manage the concerns of the present, while addressing the recovery of the future,” she says. “This includes direct support and relief programs, more good jobs and the community investments that help everyone get ahead and back out supporting the economy.”
3. What supports will you champion to assist businesses and sectors that continue to struggle due to the pandemic?
When it comes to aiding businesses and sectors struggling with the effects of the pandemic, candidates are looking at various ways to assist.
For NDP candidate Suresh Arangath, he says during his discussions with many business owners who’ve continue to survive the pandemic it’s apparent the need to mitigate accumulating debt is vital.
“Among those who survived, more than 40% of businesses with less than 20 employees reported that they did not have the ability to take on more debt,” says Suresh, adding providing financial incentives and to support hiring, rehiring and/or retraining current employees, is something his party champions. “The NDP’s plan to include the pharma care, dental care, and mental health care in our Medicare system will help employers to hire qualified and quality workers without spending on benefits to those workers.”
Skills training and development is a target he and the Green Party will be championing, says candidate Gabriel Rose.
“There is a huge shortage of skilled tradespeople, and I would be an advocate and encourage young people to choose a career in the skilled trades,” he says, adding holding taxation at no more than 9%, plus reducing paperwork for small businesses by eliminating duplicative tax filings and red tape, are other causes he will support. “I would also support a Made in Canada strategy and prioritize Canadian companies in any public sector contracts.”
Re-tooling the workforce is one of several issues Valerie says she will champion on behalf of the Liberal Party.
“The pandemic has also had the impact of changing the nature of my many jobs, and we’ll make sure no Canadians are left behind,” she says, adding shifting to virtual work or creating new career opportunities will be part of the plan. As well, she says creating more green jobs is something else they will promote.
“We don’t have to choose between fighting climate change or growing the economy,” says Valerie. “Through new initiatives like a Net-Zero Accelerator Fund, we’ll capitalize on the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit already present in the riding. I will be a champion for our riding and help stimulate investment and opportunity from both the public and private sectors.”
Ending all federal measures that support lockdowns is something People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner says she will champion as MP.
“We will not bail out provincial governments that choose to close down their economies,” she says. “We must learn to live with this virus – the sooner we recognize this, the sooner we can get back to regular business.”
4. Will you support a national vaccination passport plan and national childcare strategy?
When it comes to implementing a national vaccination passport plan, the candidates are split, with the Liberal and NDP hopefuls in favour.
“Many businesses have already established policies that reflect this sentiment, as it is simply good business practice to do everything possible to keep customers and employees safe,” says Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford.
Her NDP counterpart Suresh Arangath concurs, explaining it ‘would just make life easier.’
People’s Party candidate Melissa Baumgaertner says having such a passport is a “gross infringement on the rights and freedoms of Canadians.”
“Vaccination should be a personal choice of every Canadian, with informed consent, not something you are coerced into so that you can travel to another province or enter the supermarket,” she says.
Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose also does not support a vaccination passport but supports people getting vaccinated.
“It’s important to realize that fully vaccinated individuals are still able to acquire mild and asymptomatic infections of COVID-19 and are still able to transmit the disease to others,” he says. “For that reason, I do not support mandatory vaccination or a vaccine passport plan. I support the proven gold standard method of eliminating COVID-19: test, trace and isolate.”
Gabriel, like Valerie and Suresh, does support a national childcare plan.
“The Liberal plan for $10/day childcare will allow parents, particularly women, to fully participate in the workforce,” says Valerie, adding every dollar invested in childcare returns $2.50 to the economy.
Suresh says the NDP’s plan to invest $20 billion in childcare over four years will help.
“There’s no recovery without the support for women and for many this includes childcare,” he says. “Childcare is fundamental to restarting our economy.”
His PPC counterpart says her party is standing firm on its decision not to institute any new social programs in effort to get the budget under control and eliminate the deficit in one term.
“Healthcare is within provincial jurisdiction, and realistically any childcare strategies should fall within their responsibilities,” says Melissa.
5. Do you see the possibility of collaboration between the Federal and Provincial levels of government on finding solutions to the growing shortage of doctors/nurses due to the impact of COVID-19 and mental health?
This is something most of the candidates would like to see occur.
“This is a crisis. During a crisis, issues should be addressed immediately by close coordination between the provincial and federal governments,” says NDP hopeful Suresh Arangath.
Liberal Party candidate Valerie Bradford agrees.
“That is a collaboration I would like to see,” she says. “Re-electing the Liberal government means continued work with the Provinces and Territories to make our healthcare system even stronger. That includes investing $10 billion to eliminate waitlists and another $3 billion to hire 7,500 family doctors, nurses and practitioners over the next four years.”
Green Party candidate Gabriel Rose says as a healthcare worker himself, he’s experienced burnout due to the pandemic and believes both levels of government can do more to address not only the shortages of frontline staff, but other health professionals such as respiratory therapists, diagnostic imaging technologists and medical laboratory technologists.
“Governments also need to provide much more funding to colleges and universities to create more seats in healthcare programs across the country, as well as abolish tuition fees so that more potential students have access to education in healthcare.”
In terms of any collaboration between both levels, PPC hopeful Melissa Baumgaertner says since healthcare is a provincial matter, the provinces would have to ask the Federal Government for guidance.
“Far too many problems in Canada have arisen from the Federal Government interfering with provincial matters,” she says.
6. What inspired you to run in this election?
When it comes to the key reason why these candidates decided to throw their hats into the ring, the majority say the need for change is imperative.
“Parliament is currently broken. There is too much negativity and cynicism in federal politics, and we need more loving and caring MPs that are interested in helping people above all other considerations,” says Green Party hopeful Gabriel Rose. “I am passionate about being part of this change.”
Wanting to help the most vulnerable in our society is what NDP candidate Suresh Arangath says inspired him.
“I am not convinced when the government cuts the benefits for the common man citing limitation on the availability of the funds,” he says, adding the housing crisis and climate crisis need to be addressed. “I think I can be part in expediting the whole process to make the lives of Canadians better.”
For PPC candidate Melissa Baumgaertner, she says the “fearmongering” and the “divisive and abusive” narrative of the current government inspired her to run.
“Watching small and medium businesses get crushed by these absurd lockdowns, while large corporations are allowed to remain open and reap massive benefits has been a major concern to me,” she says. “This isn’t right, and I’m ready to stand up against it.”
Standing up for the community is why Liberal Party hopeful Valerie Bradford decided to join the race.
“It’s important to me that you have someone in Ottawa who understands this riding, has experience building up the community and strengthening businesses,” she says. “Much of the region has transformed, but with change comes challenges, including the unprecedented time we’ve been living through during the pandemic.”
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