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Q&A: Andrew Scheer answers readers’ questions one-on-one in Winnipeg

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says there is only one taxpayer.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer says there is only one taxpayer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer was in Winnipeg Tuesday on the campaign trail. He sat down one-on-one with 680 CJOB’s Julie Buckingham to answer questions from listeners and readers.

The federal election is on Oct. 21.

The following interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Julie: Mr. Scheer, welcome back to Winnipeg.

Scheer: Thanks very much. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Julie: It’s nice to have not a minus in front of the temperature here this time – you usually come here in the winter.

Scheer: That has been the way it’s worked out, the last a little bit, although I was here the summer of 2017 and it was gorgeous. You have very similar summer and falls as Regina does, but always a pleasure to be here.

Julie:  We always have to drop the R word when you’re here.

Scheer: Well you guys beat us to the Banjo Bowl, so…

Julie: As we usually do, as we usually do! And we can’t talk about who’s going to win the Grey Cup because we’re never going to agree on that.

Scheer: I will lose votes the longer that conversation goes on.

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Julie: So I did get some questions from our listeners because I feel I can ask all the questions all day long, but ultimately it comes down to what our CJOB and Global News listeners want to know about you – what your party would do if you’re elected. So, Phil sent in a question and he says if you were to form government, would you bring back income splitting for families?

Scheer: You know, I get this question a lot. It was a tax measure that put a lot of money in the pockets of Canadians. It’s one of the things that Justin Trudeau cancelled during the shell game that he did in one of his earlier budgets. It’s another reason why we have facts now that show that 80 per cent of middle-class families pay more in taxes today than they did under the previous Conservative government.

We are going to be making some announcements throughout the rest of the campaign. I can’t give away all of them, but I can say that we have already had a variety of broad-based tax cuts. Income splitting, in and of itself at this point in time, is not something that we foresee doing. We have lowered the first income tax bracket. We have brought back the children’s fitness and arts tax credit … we have some further exciting announcements to lower taxes for Canadians in the weeks ahead.

Julie: Rob wanted to know if you would ever attend a Pride celebration.

Scheer: There are a lot of ways to show support to the LGBT community. And and I have supported motions in the House of Commons to actually propose a motion in the House of Commons to call on this government to do more to help people who are persecuted because of their sexual orientation in other countries to be able to come to Canada. I also represented our party, the Conservative Party, during the historic apology to LGBT Canadians who were persecuted in the civil service who lost their job because of their sexual orientation.

So those are the ways I will continue to show support for the community…

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Julie: But you wouldn’t go to a, you wouldn’t go to a parade?

Scheer: Oh, I’ll support the community and those types of ways and I’m proud that many people in our party do. Many members of our caucus do. There is more than one way to support the community and I’ll continue to look for opportunities to do so.

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Julie: Are you distancing yourself from the likes of Mr. Kenny and Mr. Ford?

Scheer: I am working closely, I am working with people all across the country and premiers who are fighting back against terrible Liberal legislation.

And when you see the effect of the carbon tax that has the effect the carbon tax has had on provinces like Alberta, like Saskatchewan, like Manitoba, like Ontario, it’s no wonder that the premiers of those provinces are pushing back. They know it’s hurting jobs, it’s making life more expensive for Canadians. And so I’ve got good news for all of them … after Oct. 21st they won’t have to fight the federal government anymore to get rid of a carbon tax because I will get rid of it.

Julie: In this province, just recently we’ve re-elected Brian Pallister to a second term and his Progressive Conservatives. He’s noted for not playing particularly well in the sandbox with the federal government. If you were to become prime minister, how would you bring the premiers back into the fold? Because a lot of Canadians think a lot of time is wasted on the arguing back and forth between the two levels of government.

Scheer: There is often frustration when you see that type of approach when you see a prime minister like Justin Trudeau who campaigned on doing things differently with premiers and then here we are, seeing premiers having to take him to court to fight back against his own policies.

I’ve known Brian for a while, he’s – he might be the only Canadian politician taller than me. I’m 6’4″. [Brian Pallister is 6’8″.] But he always impressed, when I stand beside him, how tall he is. We’ve got a great working relationship. He’s been to Ottawa a few times as Premier. He’s dropped by to talk to me about the issues that he’s going to be focused on. I know he’s a champion for federal support on important areas like health care, like mental health.
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So I think it’s all about finding that common ground and realizing at the end of the day there’s only one citizen and there’s only one taxpayer. The money all comes from the same pocket. Whether or not someone is a federal or provincial politician we represent the same people and we have to work for them and put their needs first.

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Julie: The City of Winnipeg has a big infrastructure deficit. Just today, executive policy committee outlining its priorities for the program that would see the federal, provincial and municipal governments work together on some of these projects. They’ve just completed the underpass at Waverley. But now the city is saying the North End Water pollution plant. It’s a huge item on their plate. That is the overall No. 1 priority, followed by a new rec center for south Winnipeg. So will you maintain the fund that will help municipalities and provinces come together with the federal government to complete some of these items that could cost $1 billion or more?

Scheer: We will keep the federal government there for our partners at the municipal and provincial level. It was actually a Conservative government that saw massive expansion in federal government support for these very types of projects and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the watchdog that keeps track on how governments perform and how they spend money, has flagged the fact that the Liberal government has actually no infrastructure plan, because of the way they’ve structured it. A lot of the money just lapses and never actually flows to municipalities.

So I made the commitment that all projects that have already been agreed to will continue under a federal Conservative government, and we’re going to make sure the money actually gets to the important projects that create jobs, growth and opportunity.

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Julie: Tougher question for sure, but Ian wanted to know your stance on women’s reproductive choice. In Winnipeg today, there happens to be a very graphic protest at a busy intersection. Ian wanted to know your stance and if, if your personal stance is different from your political one.

Scheer: A Conservative government will not reopen the debate. We will not introduce legislation that affects access to that or affects that issue at all. We’ve been very clear that we’re not going to reopen the debate and I will oppose attempts that attempt to do so.

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Julie: On the flip side of that, if we’re going to talk about equality for women’s reproductive rights, would a Conservative government look at assisting women who are having trouble getting pregnant – perhaps with some of those fertility treatments – because we know those are extremely cost-prohibitive for some couples.

Scheer: Yes. I’ve known many people who have unfortunately not been able to have children for some time and have used those types of newer technologies to do so. Those generally fall under provincial regulation or provincial management of what’s covered under provincial health services. But I will increase the federal transfers to provinces for health care so that they can make those types of decisions, so they have guaranteed additional increases to provincial programs to be able to make those types of decisions.

Julie: All right. A couple of fun ones. One person texted in and said Donald Trump wanted to buy an island and was flatly said no. So one Winnipeg wants to know if you’re interested in buying Turks and Caicos or anything on behalf of Canadians?

Scheer: That’s always been an idea that’s intrigued me and it’s I’m not sure exactly what level discussions went in the past. Right now, our focus is about making life more affordable for Canadians. That’s not something that we’re contemplating doing. But I can understand – especially in winter on the prairies – why people start to think about why that might be a great idea.

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Julie: We have thrown this question at you before and I know it’s always a tough one – if you had to say something nice. We know how you feel about Justin Trudeau and the Liberals. But in this campaign when we’re we’re trying to bring the country together, could you say something positive about the leaders of the other federal parties?

Scheer: And it is tough, especially you know in the recent months. It’s not just about differences of opinions, but we do see a prime minister who has lied to Canadians and I take particular issue with that because as we go into a campaign politicians have to be able to, to earn the trust of other voters. So I might disagree with Jagmeet Singh, I might disagree with Elizabeth May, but we are gonna make the case on the arguments. But when you have a track record like that, it does make it more difficult to find something nice to say.

But I will say this – I know Justin Trudeau has children and I know that he is a devoted father. I know that he makes a tremendous sacrifice for himself and for his kids when he goes out and fights for the things that he believes in. And so I respect him for that, acknowledge the sacrifice that he makes. And I certainly wish him and his family well in that. As it relates to that the very best of this campaign. I know it’s tough on families, it’s tough on kids.

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Julie: Your 30-second elevator pitch to Winnipeg is why they should vote for their conservative candidates – not why they shouldn’t vote for the others, but why they should vote for your team.

Scheer: They should vote for our team because we have excellent candidates that are all focused on running a government that lives within its means so that we can put more money back in the pockets of Canadians. That is our pitch. We are going to make life more affordable. We’re going to lower the cost of living. We’ll leave more money in the pockets of hardworking Canadians so that they can reach their goals and live out their dreams.

Julie: Mr. Scheer as always thank you for your time.

Scheer: Thank you very much.

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