Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS Conservative candidate Marc Dalton answers question at youth employment forum Thursday at Riverside Centre.

Maple Ridge candidates take campaign to school

Topic was future of youth employment

Federal candidates tried to reach out to younger voters with promises of reduced education costs at an election forum on youth employment last Wednesday at Riverside Centre.

“We want to begin your adult life, debt-free from school,” said Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge Green Party’s Ariane Jaschke.

The Green party plans on spending $10 billion on post-secondary education, said Jaschke, who only paid off her student loan debt five years ago – when she was 35.

Jaschke was addressing the first question posed by students at the forum, asking politicians how they’d improve the lives of young people who are just entering the workforce.

Bryton Cherrier, with the Peoples Party of Canada, proposed cutting the capital gains tax by 10 per cent and personal income taxes by up to 15 per cent, while independent candidate Steve Ranta called for increasing the minimum wage to $20 an hour – noting that there’s a minimum wage in Seattle of $15 an hour.

Ranta said that continuing education has to be more available for those out of school and called for free post-secondary education.

“We need to reduce the cost of housing. We should ban all foreign ownership of real estate and tax speculators,” he said, adding that global warming must also be addressed.

Jaschke said the Greens would build 40,000 new homes and provide rental assistance. She said the market is experiencing high rents and lack of supply.

Tory candidate Marc Dalton said that a Conservative government would ease the mortgage stress test to make it easier for people to borrow and buy their first home and also extend the maximum mortgage period from 25 to 30 years.

Dalton also said Conservatives will remove the GST on home heating bills and offer tax credits on green renovations to homes. Affordability was the main issue he’s been hearing about, he said.

But Liberal candidate Dan Ruimy said easing conditions for borrowing and raising mortgage terms to 30 years would be a “disaster” according to experts, and the incumbent said the Liberals have already launched its 12-year, $55-billion national housing strategy that provides money for non-profit housing groups. “What they’re saying, we’re already doing it,” Ruimy said. “So, don’t be fooled. The challenges are out there, it’s not that simple to do.”

But the government needs land for housing projects which it will fund, he added.

Candidates also were asked if it’s better to spend money on the conventional energy industry or on renewables.

But Ruimy said there has to be an transition away from an oil-based economy. He said the federal government rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline which would have seen oil shipped from Prince Rupert along the B.C. Coast and bought the Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver in order to get world prices for Canadian oil exports. He pointed out that created a youth council out of his office that held a town hall on youth mental health. “We all have to own a role in that.”

Canada Summer Jobs funding has also been increased, he added.

But Dalton noted that not an inch of pipeline has yet been built.

“So much of Canada’s prosperity … is in the resource sector, which we support,” Dalton said.

Jaschke said that the Green party plans on a rapid switch to a non-oil economy. “The solutions are already out there. Other countries are already … having success.”

Ranta noted that former Liberal cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott are running as independents rather than switching parties. “They won’t have anything to do with our parties and neither should you,” said Ranta.

NDP candidate John Mogk said his party would cut cellphone bills and introduce pharmacare, “so that we pay a reasonable amount for our medicine and everyone can afford it.”

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