Conservative Party Leader Erin O’Toole told an audience from Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows his party is not interested in a universal basic income as part of the pandemic economic recovery.
The Chamber of Commerce hosted O’Toole for an online Zoom meeting on Monday at noon. After O’Toole and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton offered comments, the Opposition leader answered questions for almost 30 minutes of the 45-minute session.
The entire webinar is available on the chamber’s YouTube channel.
Chamber executive director Flori Chaykowski posed questions from the audience, asking if the Conservatives have a stance on the universal basic income.
O’Toole answer that other parties are discussing “turning the CERB into a permanent UBI or something,” referring to the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Response benefit.
“We’re the only party that actually just wants to get the country back to work. We don’t want to incentivize a permanent CERB, because we have actually seen how that has hurt small businesses by distorting the labour market,” said O’Toole.
He said government should work on poverty issues by providing assistance and training and help people on a path to employment. The Conservatives, he said, have a jobs plan that would return the million jobs lost during the pandemic in the first year.
“We need a government that respects entrepreneurs and small businesses again,” he added. “Getting people working, talking about the nobility of working, whether you’re opening your small business in Pitt Meadows at 5 a.m. in the morning, or whether you’re driving to a mill in the Interior there’s an inherent value in that, and that’s what we have to harness to get this country working after the pandemic.”
He also said the government should hold a public inquiry into the pandemic response. He said vaccines are arriving in larger numbers, which is positive. But there are still high rates of infection, high rates of hospitalizations, and tight restrictions.
“Canadians are all frustrated to see Canada in this deep third wave, and far behind our allies in where we should be on vaccine deployment,” he said. “As a G7 country, Canada used to be a leader, but under Mr. Trudeau we’ve increasingly become a laggard.”
O’Toole spoke about his personal connections with B.C., first coming as a 13-year-old on a train from Toronto with family to see Expo ‘86. He returned as an officer recruit with the Armed Forces.
“I can tell you that training at boot camp in the Fraser Valley at Chilliwack was quite different to my Expo Trip,” he said.
Asked about vaccinations, their side effects, and the vaccine requirements employers, he vouched for Health Canada.
“It is also important for everyone listening to know, any vaccine approved by Health Canada is safe and effective for use. I have taken the AstraZeneca myself, and am very confident in it.”
He also spoke about the need to do more to stop the opioid epidemic, rising gas prices, the high cost of real estate, and the federal budget.
He is against raising the federal carbon tax, because it would makes fuel even more expensive, said that government should work with the province and municipalities to increase the supply of housing, and of the federal budget opined:
“The spending is so astronomical that it puts the future of our country at risk,” he said.
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