Conservative leader Erin O’Toole talked about tourism, SkyTrain to Langley, and the local film industry in a campaign-style talk with the CEO of the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce on Friday.
The Zoom conference between the chamber’s Colleen Clark and O’Toole, who was joined by Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako van Popta, began with the leader of the official opposition talking about Canada “falling behind” countries like the U.S. in terms of opening up as the pandemic recedes.
“Canada deserves to lead,” O’Toole said.
With an election expected sometime in the aftermath of the pandemic, O’Toole talked about Conservative plans if they form government, and slammed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party.
He touched on industries that are significant in Langley several times, including filming, tourism, and agriculture, and promised to maintain targeted support for the businesses that were hit hardest and will recover slowest as the pandemic recedes.
Tourism and hospitality industries were mentioned again when O’Toole was asked about child care – he noted that the pandemic has hit women’s employment in particular, and that one reason was that women entrepreneurs are well represented in hospitality and tourism.
A flexible, federally funded child care program was needed, he said, describing it as “critical infrastructure.”
“This is a priority for our entire Conservative team.”
On the SkyTrain extension to Langley, O’Toole criticized the Liberal government’s lack of urgency on funding infrastructure projects.
“I want federal infrastructure dollars to get out the door,” O’Toole said.
The federal government should partner with provinces and municipalities on priority projects such as SkyTrain, O’Toole said.
At present, the province and TransLink have pledged their portions of the funding to get SkyTrain to Langley, but the federal funding that is guaranteed would only extend the line to Fleetwood.
He spoke of a need to reach out to the U.S. on issues from softwood lumber tariffs to cruise ships docking in B.C. for Alaskan cruises, and of getting the local TV and film industry running at full strength again.
On the discovery of 215 children’s graves at a former residential school in Kamloops, he spoke of the need for reconciliation and implementing all the actions recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“It’s a blight on our history,” O’Toole said, not that all federal parties, going back to the founding of Canada, have bad records on this issue.
O’Toole also made a pitch to non-traditional Conservative voters.
“I want more union members to be in our movement,” he said. Referencing the NDP specifically, O’Toole said that people who used to vote for other parties were welcome in the Conservative tent. “We’re standing up for the values of unions and working people.”
The Conservative leader said as pandemic restrictions continue to ease, he hoped to do some actual travelling across the country in July.
Although the last federal election was in 2019, it left the Liberals with a minority government, and parties are beginning to recruit candidates. Trudeau has pledged not to call an election during the pandemic, but has been lobbing election-style attacks at O’Toole since at least April.
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