Conservative leader Erin O’Toole emphasized “targeted” help for the business sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, along with the longer-term need to re-balance Ottawa’s books at a virtual meeting with the North Vancouver Chamber Friday.
O’Toole took the opportunity during the lunchtime Zoom event to take some election-style digs at the Trudeau government, as well as setting out the roadmap out of COVID favoured by his party.
The pandemic and how to deal with its economic fallout were the key topics during online questions.
“We're all frustrated to see Canada fall behind many of our allies in the developed world on vaccine deployment…” said O’Toole. “Canada used to be a leader in the G7. We used to be champions. But under Mr. Trudeau, increasingly we're becoming laggards from vaccines to rapid tests to capital investment.”
O’Toole said Canada needs to make sure it has domestic capacity to produce vaccines and critical medicines, rather than relying on importing those from other countries.
O’Toole said Conservatives have supported programs that helped families and businesses survive the pandemic, but said in future he wants to see more ‘targeted’ programs aimed at the hardest hit sectors, like tourism and hospitality.
“We've seen lots of companies, including large corporations, who actually made higher revenues within the pandemic, benefiting from programs when (the government) could have restricted and focused the spending better,” said O’Toole.
O’Toole said it’s also necessary to get back to a balanced budget in the next decade.
“Now we know the emergency spending in response to COVID-19 was actually just the beginning for the Liberals,” he said. “They don't want it to end spending and their budget is so astronomical, and it puts the future of our country at risk.”
“Once the recovery starts we need to get spending under control in a way that’s fair,” he said.
To aid the recovery, O’Toole said he’d like to see more rapid COVID tests used at borders and airports, which will be crucial to rebuild both domestic and international travel, he said.
O’Toole also voiced concern about the federal government’s handling of the Alaskan cruise ship issue which will see US cruise ships bypass stops in Vancouver while the border remains closed. That could potentially lock in a “multi multi million dollar loss” over the long-term, warned O’Toole.
On perennial North Shore issues of transportation and housing, O’Toole didn’t make any specific promises, but said Conservatives would work with local governments on priority issues.
Too often infrastructure announcements are made but it takes years to actually see any money flowing to on-the-ground projects, he said.