Canada’s innovation minister toured a Maple Ridge tech company on Thursday afternoon, then offered some of his views of the coming federal election.
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, toured Left with one of its founders, chief operating officer Chris Jensen.
Bains was joined by Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy. Ruimy suffered a badly broken lower leg after an awkward fall a week ago.
Left is a company developing RightMesh technology, which allows smart phones to communicate directly, without using the internet or data. The company recently received a U.S. patent for the RightMesh technology, explained Jensen.
Jensen said Left is “trying to connect the world, and make left better for the next billion unconnected people.”
Afterward, the two politicians talked about the technology company, business, and the looming vote.
“Left is a Canadian success story, happening right here in Maple Ridge,” said Bains.
“It demonstrates when you have someone of Chris’ calibre with a vision, when you bring people together and you empower them, you can find solutions that can have a positive impact on society – and you can also create jobs.”
The developing tech is currently being tested in Rigolet, Nunavut – an Inuit community of 306 people with about 100 homes and 50 phones.
The federal government has supported the tech company, which is based at Stewart Crescent in Maple Ridge, with a $2.1 million grant.
Bains said the government is proud to be part of the company’s success, and said it is an example of “investing in people.”
Bains is also the Liberal party’s campaign co-chair, with about two and a half months before the Oct. 21 federal election, he spoke about some of the issues.
Bains acknowledged the use of fake news stories in social media used to discredit politicians in the U.S., Britain and other countries.
“We’re not immune from it. We need to be mindful of the fact that the same tactics deployed in other jurisdictions can, and will be, deployed here.”
“It doesn’t impact one political party. It impacts all of us. It impacts our democracy. It impacts our communities,” he said.
“We need to be more vigilant. We need to be more aware. We need to pay more attention.”
He expects pro-active measures from Elections Canada and other groups, to help voters identify fake news and so-called “alternative facts.”
“We fundamentally believe this election is going to be about choices. On one hand … you are going to have the Liberal vision that’s going to be focused on moving forward together by investing in people and communities,” said Bains.
“And on the other hand, you have a very narrow, Conservative agenda that’s going to move backwards, that’s going to be focused on austerity and cuts.
“You can’t grow the economy with austerity and cuts,” he said, adding that an announcement last week about funding for coding education is an example of government investment in people.
Bains called the last federal election “divisive and ugly,” and expects the Conservatives to use the same tactics this time.
“Andrew Scheer is essentially Stephen Harper with a smile,” he said.
Ruimy noted he is the first Liberal elected in this riding in 64 years, and is proud of the government’s record of supporting the middle class. But he plans, even with a broken leg, to be knocking on doors in the election.
The Conservative party candidate for the riding is Marc Dalton. He hosted the party’s shadow minister of small business Blake Richards, on a visit to the riding and meeting with local entrepreneurs.
“Talking to them, the Liberals have made things more challenging,” said Dalton, adding the government would have increased taxes on business if not for push-back from the official opposition and business groups.
“The Liberals are not the party if you want to see strong growth in small business, or in large business.”
Richards, MP for Banff-Airdrie, said businesses tell him there is too much red tape, and the government needs to get out of the way of innovative people and businesses. The construction industry, he said, complains of too much bureaucracy and taxation.
He called the Liberal prediction of a Conservative government bringing “austerity and cuts” unfounded.
“It’s the typical scaremongering tactics that have no basis in truth,” he said. “We will make investments where they need to be made.”
Dalton said it is alarming that the Canadian economy is losing jobs while the rest of the continent thrives.
“The economy is just keeping its head above water. The American economy is very strong, so it’s atypical that our economy is not doing better.”
He said a Conservative government would rather tax people less, and leave consumers discretionary spending that can stimulate the economy.
He said Ruimy took the riding after it being a Liberal no-go zone for decades, because Trudeau won a contest between party leaders, and Stephen Harper had been Prime Minister for nearly a decade.
“There was a wave that went from coast to coast last time,” Dalton said. “Voters were ready to try someone different.
“But he (Trudeau) hasn’t met expectations at all, is what I’m hearing at the doorstep.”