By Chad Ingram
Jamie Schmale says his top priority is driving down the cost of living for residents of Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock.
The Conservative candidate is the federal incumbent for HKLB vying for re-election Oct. 21 after having been first elected as MP in 2015.
“What I’m hearing most at the doors is the cost of living” Schmale says adding that residents’ pensions and paycheques aren’t going as far as they used to. “People want to get ahead. They’re sick of just getting by.”
Schmale says a large chunk of the Conservatives’ platform is aimed at making life more affordable for Canadians and notes that in the riding some residents are making the choice whether to pay their heating bills or buy groceries.
The Conservatives are promising a 1.25 per cent income tax reduction for those earning less than $46700 per year which they say would equate to savings about approximately $440 per person per year or more than $850 for a couple with incomes in that tax bracket.
“That’s money they can put back into the priorities that are important to them” Schmale says.
The Conservatives are also vowing to remove HST from home heating fuel – “We’re paying tax on top of tax” Schmale says – as well as eliminating the carbon tax.
While the Conservative party intends to terminate carbon pricing Schmale points out it has a 50-plus page plan on the environment which includes such suggestions as bringing back programs such as the federally funded Lake Simcoe/South-Eastern Georgian Bay Cleanup Fund which was created to address phosphorous loading and improve lake health.
“Tangible results that people can see” Schmale says.
Acknowledging it’s important for society to start weening itself off fossil fuels Schmale says the way for the government to advance is to support businesses creating made-in-Canada sustainable technologies.
“Our goal is technology not taxes” he says. “We need to allow companies and businesses to build that technology.”
At press time the Conservatives were readying to present a rural broadband strategy. Haliburton County is part of the Eastern Ontario Regional Network project that aims to outfit the entire eastern portion of the province with wireless broadband internet by the year 2024 with the federal portion of the project’s funding – $71 million of a $213-million price tag – announced in July.
“EORN had a plan on the minister’s desk for two years” Schmale says. With matching funding from the province as well as funding from municipalities and internet providers the long-awaited confirmation of federal funding was the last piece of the financial puzzle for the project.
During the weekend Conservative leader Andrew Scheer made an announcement regarding promises to help veterans including dealing with a long backlog of veterans’ benefits applications.
“I think veterans have felt let down by governments current and past” Schmale says adding that some of proposed changes include eliminating requirements that make vets prove they have certain injuries over and over again in order to receive certain benefits.
Under former prime minister Stephen Harper the Conservatives made substantial cuts to the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs including the closure of eight Veterans’ Affairs offices.
Schmale is asked if he thinks the low polling numbers for Ontario Premier Doug Ford who’s been staying clear of the federal Conservative campaign would hurt the party in vote-rich Ontario.
He responds that in this election voters are decided whether they want Scheer Justin Trudeau Elizabeth May or Jagmeet Singh as the prime minister.
“Doug Ford whether you like him or not he’s not on the ballot” Schmale says.
Pointing to Ontario’s heavy debt level Schmale adds that his party wants to stop the tax-and-spend ways of the Trudeau government before the federal picture resembles the provincial one and valuable social services people rely on need to be cut.
“It’s been an honour to serve for the last four years as the Member of Parliament for this riding” Schmale says adding he’s tried to be as accessible to residents as possible. “I hope to keep doing it.”
Schmale served more than a decade as executive assistant to former HKLB MP Barry Devolin before being elected in 2015.
Vying to unseat Schmale are Liberal candidate Judi Forbes NDP candidate Barbara Doyle Green Party candidate Elizabeth Fraser and People’s Party of Canada candidate Gene Balfour.