There's a new face since the last federal election and Erin O’Toole, the leader of the Conservative Party, may be a mystery to many Canadians.
Dubbed the “Man with the Plan” in a Vanity Fair magazine-style cover for the Tories' Canada’s Recovery Plan document, O’Toole is seeking to wrestle seats from the Liberals and NDP to form a majority government this fall.
And one of his big targets in B.C. will be the riding of Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam where Liberal Ron McKinnon is seeking a third term. Additionally, the Conservatives want to hold the riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, where candidate Nelly Shin is running for her second term in Ottawa after winning by slim margin of 153 votes in 2019.
At 48, O’Toole is putting forth a young, hip image, at least on the cover of his party’s platform, in which he sports a tight, black t-shirt.
With plans to be in B.C. this weekend with his wife and children — both O'Toole and his wife, Rebecca are vaccinated — O’Toole gave the Tri-City News a preview of some of the highlights of his Canada Recovery Plan platform.
“B.C. has been a special place to me,” said O’Toole, noting that his wife worked in the broadcasting centre during the Vancouver Olympics, while he was based at Chilliwack during part of his Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) career.
BALANCED BUDGET PROMISED IN 10 YEARS
Meanwhile, many of his party’s promises target the pocketbook and seem geared to struggling B.C. millennials, who are facing higher housing, transportation, child care and grocery costs.
O’Toole acknowledged these recovery incentives aren’t free, the taxpayer will eventually have to pay with a balanced budget in 10 years. But he hopes the “boost” now will pay off with a stronger economy.
On the housing file, O’Toole is promising to create one million homes by repurposing some federal buildings, banning foreign investors living outside the country from buying property for at least two years and easing up the mortgage stress test.
“We can’t price our young people out,” said O’Toole.
On child care, a Conservative government is set to offer income tested tax credits to families, instead of funding a $10 a day plan as the Liberals said they would do. O’Toole said his plan would put money in the hands of families more quickly, and give them more flexibility in what type of child care they choose.
O’Toole said he wants to help small and medium-sized business with incentives to hire workers and loans to build back “Main Street.”
“A couple of measures are very critical in terms of not only helping people have a bit of break, as the cost of living is skyrocketing, but give help to businesses that are hanging by thread,” said O’Toole.
TAX BREAKS FOR SHOPPING AND DINING OUT
For example, this winter, you wouldn't have to pay GST on goods purchased from brick and mortar stores, a holiday savings bonanza O'Toole said would help local businesses and cash-strapped families in time for the holiday season.
"This isn’t for Amazon, this isn't for online," said O'Toole, who said he wanted to help "mom and pop" retailers with a December GST-holiday.
Dining out and travelling would be cheaper too, with a Discover Canada tax credit of up to 15% or $1,000 for travelling in Canada and tax breaks to get people to dine out Monday to Wednesdays.
“It’s a time of week when restaurants are flat, we want people to get out and dine.”
One issue where O’Toole said Conservatives haven’t been strong is policies to reduce emissions and slow climate change.
With heatwaves and wildfires burning out of control, combating climate change is an important issue to British Columbians.
O'Toole said a plan introduced in April addresses the issue of pricing carbon, but instead of putting the money into government coffers, Canadians would get a “personal low carbon savings account” where carbon taxes from buying fuel and heating oil could be saved up for low-carbon purchases such electric cars and bikes, energy retrofits or donations to green non-profits.
“For the first time in a long time, the Conservatives are putting a price on carbon," O'Toole, said acknowledging that his party needs to "earn back a little trust" on the climate change file.
"We're doing it in an innovative way, and we'll meet our Paris targets and provide more jobs.”