Q. What do you believe are your government’s accomplishments over the past year?
A. Our biggest accomplishment is handling the economy, or the lack of it in some respects. We made the good decisions as a government to cause growth and win back some of those jobs we lost in 2008.
We were interrupted in that agenda by an election. It’s always nice to have a reconfirmation of support and that moved us into a majority situation, which is allowing our government to move forward on some of the initiatives we have wanted to do for the last five years.
Q. What do you see as the big issues of the year ahead?
A. The big issue is the budget. There are going to be some hard decisions made to try to cut spending to get back to balanced budgets.
The economy has interrupted a couple of issues that I felt were important; immigration was my number-one issue. Now we’re getting tougher on those immigration consultants that were misrepresenting clients, saying they had skills that they didn’t. We’re litigating against them, cracking down – not on the immigrants who are the victims in some respect.
We’re having people deported if they’re here illegally or have been breaking the law.
Now the number-one issue is health care. We’re just starting a review of the health act with the provinces. There will be a lot of discussion and challenges.
I have no idea what might be cut, but you can be sure the things that will be cut are maybe programs that should have had a sunset clause. We’ll keep funding things that support the economy and keep us competitive in the global market.
Q. What is the issue constituents call you about?
A. As far as workload in the office, 60 per cent is about immigration– a visa to come over that has been rejected, someone wanting to bring family members over, passports although not as much as before, when the U.S. government decided Canadians had to have passports to visit.
The biggest concern is still what’s happening with the economy–feedback from small and large business about what’s happening in the market – and some of the challenges.
Q. What about the fact many people are having to work two jobs because they can’t survive on part-time work at minimum wage and without benefits?
A. I don’t know if I totally support that argument. The fact is there are a number of jobs in B.C. and Alberta. I could tell you about hundreds. They’re either gonna have to change or move, even though I know people don’t want to leave the comforts of their homes but people are working in the Oil Patch, mining, civil service and they’re making big dollars. There definitely has been some slippage, but I believe there are still opportunities out there.
Q. What do you think about the Occupy movement?
A. The enemy of capitalism is greed and the enemy of socialism is power. That’s been proven in history, we always see adjustment. We’re starting to see some push back on those that have over-indulged. I don’t think any free enterpriser grudges seeing someone make good returns on their risk, but there is a social conscience and they have a part to play to ensure their benefits are not unreasonable for the risk they have taken.
Q. What do you think about corporations that have farmed out a lot of their work to other countries?
A. In one way we as Canadians are generous, sending aid to help feed the poor and providing health care. That is making them dependant on you, that’s not the answer. We need to get them training and jobs.
Corporations are competitive on a worldwide basis. Our government is saying, get taxes down for individuals. We’ve lowered the GST and taxes so the average Canadian of four is paying $3,000 less tax today than they were in 2006.
Q. What about the fact your government is running a deficit that is higher than when the Liberals were in office?
A. If you look at what we spent our money on, it’s like an individual spending on a credit card or borrowing money for their house. We are trying to address the huge credit card debt. We said no mortgages would be more than 35 years, and you have to have percentage for down payment. We’re working with banks, making sure they’re being up front. We just passed a financial literacy bill. We’re going to help educators and financial institutions to make sure Canadians have a better understanding of financial issues and learn to manage them well.
Q. What do you think about the recent case in which your government falsely spread the word that a Liberal MP in Quebec is retiring?
A. Look, there’s a political machine. But what about the NDP going to Washington over the oil sands. That’s just as disgusting. I suggest people read Ethical Oil by Ezra Levant. Basically he looks at the big picture. It’s amazing how the Canadian oil sands has been given so much bad press, yet nobody says anything about Saudi Arabia, where there are no women’s rights. We seem to think it’s OK. Nigeria is another one. We buy oil from Nigeria and it’s the worst, or Venezuela.
Q. Why did the Conservative Government pull out of Kyoto?
A. Kyoto was something that was signed onto and commitments made, but there were no plans to implement the targets, so we fell by 35 per cent (in Canadian commitments). When we became government, we said there was no way we could meet those targets, they would cripple the economy, and we only produce two per cent of greenhouse gases in the world.
The Prime Minister said right from day one, we’ve gotta get the U.S and China to get onboard with targets that are fair, ones we could meet. We have set a target of 17 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020.
Q. What about your get tough on crime bill and the fact many people with mental health issues are ending up in prisons and that the bill will cost the provinces a lot more?
A. We acknowledge the fact there are people incarcerated with mental health issues that need rehab and we need to look at other facilities. I think the provinces have gone overboard (in their protests). We looked at the stats. Corrections Canada said it would add 2,500 (to the penal system). But we looked at it and on further investigation, we found it will be a quarter of that. The reason that we’re incarcerating the same people (repeat offenders). There will be stiffer minimum sentences.
The other thing is we are getting tough on crime, but we’re getting tough on violent crime, sexual predators on children and (drug) traffickers. The other ones are repeat offenders. This is not locking up anybody and everybody. We’re looking for hard-core criminals that are dangerous on the street. And we’re not just building facilities, we’re looking at new rehab programs.
In last 30 years we spent too much time looking at offenders and not the victims. We make no apology for that. Look at the Ponzi schemes where people lose their life savings. The sentencing on that, they serve only one-sixth of their term – not even two years. That’s not acceptable in our society, there has to be a certain deterrent.
Q. What is your biggest challenge as a Member of Parliament?
A. One of the challenges I find as an MP is in this world of information, discerning things that are true and factual that I can base arguments for good public policy. That’s a real challenge. It’s like the whole argument around greenhouse gas emissions and the changing climate. That has collapsed. I believe in global warming, the question is what’s causing it. If we had to spend billions of dollars just to find out it’s not greenhouse gas emissions, what would that have done to the Canadian economy?
We need to stop polluting, we need cleaner air and purer water, and make sure we protect those aggressively. But we need to make sure our decisions are based on good science and future consequences won’t be worse than what we’re doing now because of the initiatives we take.
Q. Are you still enjoying being a member of Parliament?
A. Yes, we know we’re there for four years so we’re not so much on the edge. It makes for a more stable home life and takes a bit of pressure off in the constituency. I can work with people. We’re going to have some roundtables in Armstrong and Salmon Arm in January. But we don’t want complaints, we want suggestions for things government could do, maybe to cut red tape.