In a series of interviews with candidates in next month’s federal election, the Times sat down with Michael Barrett of the Conservative Party.
Michael: We’ve had the opportunity to knock on thousands of doors in our community for this election, but we were also out for the by-election last year, and the message that we’re hearing is very consistent across our community. It’s one of affordability. People are telling me that they’re doing all of the right things, and they’re still having a hard time at the end of the month having anything left. And that’s the focus of our campaign, both nationally, but also here in our community. That affordability is so important, and doing what we can as a federal government under Prime Minister Andrew Scheer, we would seek to make life more affordable by doing things like removing the GST from home heating. Because I think that, in Canada, we can all agree that heating our house isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity of life.
Doing things like eliminating the carbon tax, where, in our community, driving your car to get to the doctor, or get to the grocery store, or take kids to sports practice, is not an option. We don’t have alternatives. It’s not a behaviour that needs to be corrected. So, we have a real plan for the environment and it doesn’t put a punishing carbon tax on families and small business owners and farmers, it puts the emphasis back on large emitters. It doesn’t give them the break, it gives everyday Canadians a chance to make changes. For example, if they’re making renovations at home, putting in energy-efficient windows, that’s going to lower the footprint of their home heating, we’re going to put some money back in their pocket when they do that. And that’s a real way people can have an impact without having to change their way of life because they can’t put their kids in hockey because they can’t afford to drive their car anymore.
NG Times: With regard to at-home businesses, satellite offices, etc., what support would a Conservative government give to small business to keep them from having to commute to Ottawa or Brockville, or to bring jobs back into the community?
Michael: We’re tremendously supportive of small businesses, and one of the major successes that we’ve had in the last four years is really pushing back against the punishing tax changes that the Liberals proposed for small businesses. At one point, Prime Minister Trudeau even referred to small business owners as “tax cheats”. We know that small business owners are the backbone of our economy, and I had the privilege of being appointed as the Deputy Shadow Critic for Small Business and Export Promotion, following my swearing-in, and that gave me the opportunity to meet with small business owners, not only in our community, but throughout Ontario and in other Provinces as well. I heard about the challenges that they have. I’m personally committed to fostering the small business atmosphere and bringing businesses back to our small towns, and that’s why I opened a full-time Constituency Office for folks in the North Grenville area. The people of North Grenville don’t have a Service Canada office, and when people are deciding whether to move to an area, or open a business, they want to see what services are available. Somewhere they will get service. We have fantastic services available in North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford. You look at our outstanding hospital, at our fantastic schools, we have all kinds of great services available, and I certainly wanted to do my part as a member of Parliament, to enhance the service, so we can attract new businesses, we can retain people in our community as much as we can.
NG Times: Given that municipalities have most direct dealing with the provincial government, what do you see as the role of the federal M.P. in encouraging that kind of encouragement?
Michael: In the months since my election, I have made the effort to reach out to all the mayors in the riding and have spoken to all of them. I have met with the council in North Grenville – we ran out of time before we could go to Merrickville-Wolford, though I have spoken with Mayor Struthers. Inter-governmental co-operation is critical, especially as a rural community. A Conservative government would make rural communities a real priority, we would have a Minister responsible for rural communities, who’s from a rural community. I take every opportunity to liaise with our provincial member, Steve Clark, whenever possible and always when necessary, I reach out and speak with my municipal partners. They’re on the ground every day and know what’s needed. Knowing that County Road 43 is a top priority for them, makes it my top priority. So seeing everyone working together, that’s the role of the federal Member.