Tuesday, March 7, 2017 6:45 am ·  2 Comments
Economics, immigration policy, and the size of government were the main themes as 10 of the 14 federal Conservative Party leadership candidates spoke to an audience of over 800 at the Burlington Convention Centre, Sunday March 5, 2017.
The event staged by the five federal ridings that overlap Halton Region provided each candidate with an opportunity to speak for six minutes. There was no debating between the candidates. This was the largest live audience of the campaign to date, which culminates in a vote on May 27, 2017.
TV personality Kevin O’Leary made a pointed presentation asserting that Canada can have its social safety net, health care and social programs – without going into debt – as long as the gross domestic product grows by at least three percent per annum. To do that, he asserted, you need a government that knows how to create a growth-friendly environment. Rhetorically, he asked how it is that one of the richest nations on Earth is mired in debt. O’Leary lamented the flight of technically skilled people and the disengagement of millennials (those born between 1982 and 2002). He received loud applause when he said: “I want to bring back the pissed off millennials.”
Two of the candidates from Halton Region – Michael Chong and Lisa Raitt – were roundly applauded. Chong spent part of his speaking time encouraging party members to think seriously about the environmental issues that face us, and to making the party welcoming to Canadians of diverse origins and backgrounds. Raitt garnered broad applause when she said she wanted to make sure there would be no second term for Justin Trudeau.
“I am smart, I’m prepared and I’m ruthless…and I will not succumb to Justin Trudeau,” she added.
Both Raitt and Chong brought up their origins: Chong from hard-working immigrant parents; Raitt working her way up from humble Cape Breton roots.
Pierre Lemieux, the former MP from Eastern Ontario, was well received when he denounced any introduction of a federal carbon tax, of which Michael Chong is a proponent. Former Québec City-area MP Steven Blaney generated laughter when he used his wallet as a prop to touch on a sensitive provincial issue – rising energy prices. Blaney, citing Canada’s history as a developer of atomic energy, urged the expansion of nuclear power.
The speaking order was determined by a draw and Simcoe-Grey MP Kellie Leitch spoke first reiterating her main themes around citizenship and the necessity for immigrants to be screened properly for their acceptance of “Canadian values.” Vancouver businessperson Rick Peterson said he believes Canada needs more immigration, not less. He also proposed a flat tax. Chris Alexander, former minister of immigration, spoke of the importance of cultivating a technological engine that will grow the economy.
Candidates who were conversant in French each made that point because, among the perceived front runners, Kellie Leitch, Kevin O’Leary, and Lisa Raitt are not known to be adept at speaking in French. Raitt addressed the matter obliquely, telling the audience that she intended to be the Prime Minister of all Canadians.
Attendees had the opportunity to meet with the candidates individually before and after the presentations.