The COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic were two key topics discussed when B.C. Conservatives met over the weekend, according to Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MP Marc Dalton.
“It was good to get together to hear the challenges and issues we’re facing as a province and as a nation,” said Dalton, noting the provincial meetings were followed closely by a gathering of the federal caucus on Wednesday morning.
He said government spending and accumulation of debt during the pandemic is a worry for his party, and a criticism of the current Liberal government.
“We recognize families and business – Canadians – are having a real difficult time with COVID-19,” he said, noting there are approximately one million unemployed.
He has heard first-hand how local businesses have been hard hit, and many could still close.
“Some business owners have told me that they’re managing, but if it (a shutdown) comes again, they won’t make it.”
The parliamentary budget officer has said the rate the government is accruing debt is not sustainable. So Dalton said there must be careful, thoughtful spending, or there will be “severe consequences” for taxpayers.
“Families are going to pay for it,” he said.
Conservatives also talked about the rising numbers of deaths by opioid overdose, and Dalton noted it has hit the Lower Mainland hard.
“It really is a crisis, and there needs to be more than what is currently offered,” he said. “Treatment and recovery needs to be better supported to provide a way for people to move out of their addictions.”
“I know the city (Maple Ridge) has also been advocating for a treatment centre.”
He said there is a place for the federal government in solving this crisis.
Conservatives expect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Throne Speech on Sept. 23 will bring a vote of non confidence in the government, causing the Liberal Minority government to fall, triggering a fall election. Dalton said Trudeau doesn’t want more investigation of the WE charity scandal, and he doesn’t want the economy to impact people further, before they go to the polls. So he will “engineer his own defeat” and have a new election.
Former Liberal MP Dan Ruimy, who will run against Dalton in the next election, answered these criticisms. He said Canadians need the money government is spending to prop up the economy during the pandemic.
“I think anybody you talk to would agree… this type of spending is not sustainable in the long term,” he said. “It’s easy to say.”
But nations across the globe are spending billions to keep their economies afloat, and Ruimy said even people who have received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) spend that money in their communities, also helping local businesses.
He noted more people are returning to work and the economy is slowly recovering, but it is not yet time for government to “dial it all back.”
“This is the difference between us and The States – we paid people to stay home,” Ruimy said.
Ruimy said Conservatives have no credibility in portraying themselves as better money managers.
“They couldn’t get the deficit under control in the 10 years they were in power.”
About the opioid epidemic, Ruimy agreed there needs to be more access to treatment and recovery, but said Dalton is “disingenuous” in even raising that issue.
“He personally was a B.C. Liberal for eight years, and he didn’t address it,” he said.
Ruimy was skeptical a Conservative government would spend to the level it would take to eliminate the waiting lists for addicts to get into treatment centres.
“Everything we know about that party suggest they won’t invest that money.”