Whether the Liberal Party of Canada chooses a local candidate for Steveston-Richmond East remains to be seen after party leader Justin Trudeau addressed the question in front of Richmond’s business community at a luncheon Friday afternoon.
Among the three major federal parties, only the Liberals have yet to announce all of their candidates in Richmond’s two ridings.
“I promise you we will have a candidate by Oct.19 (election day),” quipped Trudeau to a chorus of laughter.
On a more serious note, he explained the party’s position that it prefers “grassroots” candidates, “however at the same time, there needs to be a balance; not everyone can be a Liberal Party candidate.”
Trudeau, addressing the Richmond Chamber of Commerce audience at a local hotel conference room, spoke to putting more money in the pockets of the middle-class, increasing job education and training, boosting federal infrastructure investment and furthering international trade and investment with Asian countries.
He also took questions specific to Richmond, namely immigration, housing affordability and the economic and environmental issues on the Fraser River.
On the latter issue, Trudeau indicated he supports increased commercial and industrial activity on the Fraser River but told the crowd better environmental protection is needed. He said there should not be a choice between the economy and the environment.
Sitting with Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester at the front table, Mayor Malcolm Brodie chose not to ask Trudeau about how the federal government could change port governance to make it more transparent, a complaint commonly expressed by he and other city councillors in meetings.
Instead, Brodie asked Trudeau about the Senate and its recent problems. Trudeau stated he does not support abolishing the Senate, as the New Democrats have suggested doing. Instead, he prefers reform mechanisms such as independent, non-partisan appointments.
When asked by an audience member for his opinion on the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program and other wealth-oriented programs that lead to citizenship, Trudeau offered no specific opinion but cited his support for immigration on the whole.
“We need to continue to draw in a broad range of people from around the world with different strengths and attributes,” he told the audience.
“The Liberal Party is committed to improving our immigration system in all its aspects,” said Trudeau.
Former city councillor Evelina Halsey-Brandt asked Trudeau if he would consider creating federally funded co-op and low-income housing.
Trudeau said “absolutely,” stating the Conservative government had neglected its duties as co-op agreements continue to expire nationwide.
Addressing media for 10 minutes after his speech the Richmond News asked whether a Liberal government would enact restrictions on foreign home ownership.
“Every region is facing challenges in terms of home ownership or finding rental stock, whether it’s vulnerable individuals in co-ops or seniors. Senior government needs to work with provinces and municipalities to ensure, regardless of the circumstances across the country, we’re ensuring Canadians have a safe and secure place to live.”
When asked again, Trudeau said, if elected, he would sit down and talk to all levels of government, calling it a “complex discussion that needs to happen in a responsible way.”
Trudeau started his speech addressing what he would do for the middle-class.
Trudeau said he would bring in a child benefit program that is non-taxable and would benefit low-income families more. He would then cut the middle class tax bracket by seven per cent and introduce a new bracket of 33 per cent for income over $200,000 (the highest bracket is 29 per cent for incomes above $138,000).
“Those Canadians doing very well, in the one per cent of Canadians, can afford to do just a little more.”
But Trudeau said he would not increase corporate taxes as that would decrease foreign investment.
Raising corporate taxes is one of many issues Trudeau said he disagreed on with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
Trudeau also said he disagreed with Mulcair on international trade and the Clarity Act for Quebec secession.
As Trudeau stated more foreign investment is needed he also cited the need for clean energy investment.
He drew on local businesses Corvus Home Energy and Harvest Power as companies with the “kind of innovation we should be championing.”
Following his media briefing Richmond Centre candidate Lawrence Woo was asked by the News if his party supported reestablishing the long form census, something Canadian municipalities and other interest groups, including journalists, have asked for.
He said the party would consider it but not in full as he said there was certain information on the 2006 census that wasn’t necessary.