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Kelowna-Lake Country candidates tackle housing and labour issues at forum

All candidates were present at the forum
(Left to right) Brian Rogers (People’s Party), Cade Desjarlais (NDP), Imre Szeman (Green), Tim Krupa (Liberal) and Tracy Gray (Conservative) will be seeking to represent Kelowna-Lake Country in Ottawa this fall. (Contributed)

Kelowna-Lake Country candidates looked to shine for their prospective constituents on Tuesday night at a virtual all-candidates forum.

People’s Party candidate Brian Rogers, federal NDP candidate Cade Desjarlais, Green Party candidate Imre Szeman, Liberal candidate Tim Krupa and Conservative candidate Tracy Gray were present.

The debate opened with a question about how candidates plan to help women in the workforce. Women were disproportionately forced to stay home during the pandemic, partly because they are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs and because childcare systems don’t meet the needs of working mothers.

Krupa said he is proud that the Liberal party introduced $10-a-day childcare, which would cut costs for many families. Krupa also said the party also introduced the Canada Child Benefit, which sent more money to families who needed it most.

Desjarlais highlighted the federal NDP’s commitment to $10 universal childcare, saying the party has called for this policy for years.

Gray said that the Conservative Party would ensure access to affordable childcare. The party would introduce a refundable tax credit which would cover up to 75 per cent of the cost of childcare for low-income families. Women can also earn up to $1000 without losing parental leave benefits, said Gray.

Szeman acknowledged the other candidate’s commitment to more affordable childcare but highlighted that women also face housing issues and lower wages. He also said that this issue needs to be solved with an intersectional perspective.

Rogers said that it is important for women to be in the workforce, but families who want one parent to stay at home deserve support. He said that those families need to be given resources if one parent chooses to stay at home.

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Affordable housing in the riding

All candidates acknowledged that housing is becoming unaffordable for Kelowna-Lake Country residents but have different approaches to tackle it.

Desjarlais said the NDP is committed to building 500,000 new units of affordable housing. He also said the party wouldn’t charge HST nor GST to incentivize developers to build affordable units. The party would also charge foreign buyers a 20 per cent foreign buyer’s tax.

Krupa said the Liberal Party would continue to build more houses to tackle the supply issue. He also said the party would make a 10-year investment of $20 billion towards social infrastructure, including affordable housing units.

Gray said the Conservative Party plans to build 1 million homes in the next three years and create incentives for first-time homebuyers. The party would also ban foreign investors not living in or moving to Canada from buying homes.

Rogers said the PPC would defund the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, claiming that the federal organization is a big cause of the housing crisis in the country.

Szeman said the Green Party would implement a National Housing Strategy to provide housing to every Canadian. He also says the party would prioritize investments in cooperative housing to provide more affordable homes to Canadians.

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Immigration policies and numbers

All but one candidate agreed that Canada should be bringing in more immigrants.

Rogers said that the People’s Party would drastically reduce immigration numbers. The party would prioritize refugees escaping religious prosecution and accept immigrants based on skillsets and other criteria that would benefit Canada. He claims the policy is not racist nor xenophobic.

Szeman and Desjarlais both acknowledged the role immigrants play in Canadian history and society. Both also agreed that Canada should increase its immigrant numbers and programs and resources to help immigrants settle into the country. Desjarlais said the federal NDP would also work with provinces to determine where immigrants can best benefit businesses and labour shortages.

Krupa acknowledged the need for more immigrants in Canada. He said the Liberal Party is committed to streamline the temporary foreign worker programs and expand pathways to permanent residence for foreign workers and international students in Canada.

Gray said that immigration is an important issue for many in the riding, especially for the agriculture industry. She said that the Conservative Party is committed to expediting and streamlining immigration applications, saying the current process is very onerous.

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Agriculture issues

Krupa thanked farmers for growing food many people in Canada rely on, especially during the pandemic. He said the Liberal Party would invest $5 billion in lending capacity for people to address their cash flow issues. He also said the party would invest $100 million in agriculture recovery for those impacted by wildfires and extreme drought.

Rogers said farming is a provincial jurisdiction and it’s up to provinces to look after its agriculture business. He said the People’s Party would remove federal jurisdiction over agriculture across the country.

Szeman said it is clear that the agriculture community needs support because of climate change. The Green Party would help producers adapt to greener farming practices such as regenerative agriculture and diversified landscapes. Szeman also said that Canada needs to rethink its global supply chains, saying Canada can produce a lot of agriculture it imports.

Desjarlais said the agricultural industry is an important driver of Kelowna’s economy and that agriculture and climate change are linked. The federal NDP would partner with local farms to streamline the supply chain so farmers can export produce.

Gray said federal leadership could help farmers. She said the Conservative Party would introduce a grocery supply code to tackle large grocery chains taking advantage of Canadian farmers. She also said that labour shortages, the federal agri-stability program and agricultural trade markets are important issues for the agriculture industry in Kelowna.

The all-candidates forum was hosted by the Kelowna and Lake Country Chambers of Commerce. The event was also sponsored by the Association of Interior Realtors and the BC Fruit Growers Association. Kelowna Chamber of Commerce executive director Dan Rogers moderated the forum. A recording of the full debate will be posted on the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce YouTube page.

READ MORE: Kelowna-Lake Country candidates spar over climate, environment


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