Q. Could you comment on the timing of the election? Critics have said Stephen Harper left the Opposition parties no choice by things such as not disclosing the full price for what’s been called the biggest military expenditure in Canadian history.
A. Stephen Harper and our government said all along, we’re not in favour of an election, we felt Canadians didn’t want an election, therefore we were not making any attempt to force an election. The opposition, instead of debating the budget and giving it a chance, come up with the contempt of Parliament excuse… Our government has managed the economy so we’ve recovered those jobs we’ve lost, we’re leading the world, we’ve managed to crack down on crime, we put 18 bills forward for our cracking down on crime agenda, we’ve lowered taxes for families and seniors, increased transfers to provinces for health care… I believe what we’ve done can’t be faulted by the opposition coalition. I believe they are grabbing at strings, they think the Canadian taxpayers are gullible enough to think there’s some wrong here. It just is not so.
Q. Alan Williams, the former assistant deputy minister of defence, has said he believes the government could possibly have saved taxpayers several billion dollars on the F-35s had it gone to more than one source, Lockheed Martin.
A. I disagree with that – he’s retired and not part of the Canadian forces… The reason this is the best airplane is there were criteria. It had to be stealth, it had to be supersonic, it had to be a flying range of 1,200 miles without refuelling. The Lockheed Martin F-35 was the only aircraft that fit that criteria. The other reason is all of our allies and joint forces would have the same aircraft. It made co-ordination of any defence or united effort – we would have the same aircraft and it would be easier to maintain…
Q. The Canadian Association of Journalists met recently to discuss what they called the unprecedented secrecy of the Harper government.
A. I disagree with that. The fact is when you’re the prime minister of the country, you’re there speaking for the people and communicating to the people, it’s important to access the media… but you also need to realize you can’t be expected to create news on a consistent basis to fill the time slots. I feel Stephen Harper has been there to report to Canadians whenever there are issues they need to hear, he has been open with the media in that regard. We passed the federal accountability act which gives access to information which has oversight as far as the ethics commissioner, lobbying and those sorts of issues.
Q. A ‘perimeter security agreement’ is in the works with the U.S. that might mean iris scans at the border. Critics have said our government is too closely aligned with the U.S. and is further eroding Canadian sovereignty.
A. Stephen Harper has done more for Canadian sovereignty, looking at border security, looking at Arctic security – in no uncertain terms has he told our ally in the United States and the international community that the Arctic belongs to Canada… (Re the border) It’s not just trade, our citizens go back and forth across the U.S border on a consistent basis. How to make that the least cumbersome and yet keep the border secure. People don’t realize how we’ve tightened things up, for instance, for guns and drugs… There has to be a level (between security and privacy) and that level has to be agreed to, so I think that’s why we have to work with the United States.
Q. Some Canadians, if they thought their irises were going to be scanned and all their information attached would be available to government officials in the U.S. and in Canada, they would likely have a problem with that, and it doesn’t appear it’s going to be debated in Parliament.
A. Ultimately it’s just like the body scanners at the airport, some people are offended by that also… We think these arguments out but ultimately the environment we are in today in the world, unfortunately we are losing some of our rights to privacy. I guess the question is, if you don’t want to give that information out, then you’re going to have to restrict your travel, that’s all there is to it.
Q. With $2 billion over five years planned for prisons, that makes some communities happy, but the overall crime rate is going down.
A. Certain types of crime have gone down, but violent crime, especially amongst youth, has gone up. We believe violent sexual offenders and repeat criminals need to be incarcerated, and given an opportunity to be helped to adjust to better behaviour in society, and need that support, but ultimately you are going to have to have better prison facilities and more spaces. We believe these people need to be off our streets…
Q. How has this riding benefited from the Conservative government?
A. I’d like to congratulate both the councils, the local governments, various organizations that have made application and have been granted funding for various projects, we’ve seen some great things happen in the riding. I’m not taking credit for that in that my job is to bring taxpayers’ money back to them, it’s their money, but ultimately we’ve had great partnerships… I don’t think we’ve seen so much activity when it comes to seniors facilities, roads, infrastructure, water and sewer, recreation facilities – we’ve been very, very fortunate in this riding.
Q. What things are you most proud of?
A. I have great staff, I’m always proud when I go around campaigning and people tell me how they’ve dealt with my office and said, ‘Those girls there, that Penny or that Tammy, they do such a great job, they get back to you and they really helped me on my passport or my immigration…’ You’re only as good as the people who work for you…
Q. Why vote for you?
A. I think if people looked at performance, I’m available, they have really appreciated my communication through your newspaper and others… I think I have experience, there’s an advantage to… understanding what your role and responsibility is… I am in some ways a better representative because I take time to really analyze the situation…
Q. Regarding conservative fiscal policy, this government has cut taxes but spending has gone up.
A. Let’s not talk about the downturn and stimulus money we had to spend to keep the economy going. Previous to that we did spend more money – but only two areas… one the military. General Hillier referred to the previous governments as the 10 dark years, with no capital purchases or recruitment… We had some catching up to do… The other area we have really increased is farming. The other file… was Indian and Northern Affairs. There were 190 communities on water advisory… And we increased spending on health care…
Q. What about the five new senators (the Conservatives appointed)?
A. We’ve been trying to set the limits on how long a senator can be a senator to eight years rather than 45. We brought in house amendments to deal with democratic reform, more seats for B.C, Alberta, and Ontario… and in a minority situation it’s difficult to change.
We haven’t talked about the environment. Things like the Green Transformation Fund… For example Castlegar… produces its own energy on site and puts enough on the grid to light up 10,000 homes… People don’t hear too much about that.