Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us on this first in our series of live chats with federal election candidates. Please join me in welcoming Bob Rosehart, Liberal candidate for Kitchener-Conestoga. Good afternoon, Bob.
Good afternoon, everyone. I am very happy to be here and take this opportunity to speak directly to the voters.
I don't feel like a star. And I don't have a parachute on. I have lived in the region for over 20 years and grew up in a small village in rural Oxford County.
I am a listener, so the first thing I would like to do is meet with you and hear your story. In terms of the riding, I would definitely work to create more opportunities both in terms of jobs and retraining of workers who could benefit from retraining programs. I have had extensive experience both in the Region of Waterloo and in northern Ontario in seeking out economic development opportunities. You have to be pro-active. The jobs don't come to you, and I am that pro-active candidate. It is also easier to save an existing job than to create a new job.
First of all, I would like to find out what your skillset and experience are. Second, could you benefit from additional education and/or training opportunities? As I said in an earlier answer, it is very important to continue to seek out economic growth jobs in the region. This riding has almost 25% of the employees involved in manufacturing, which is probably one of the highest percentages in Ontario. You not only have to seek out new jobs, but also have to develop new strategies to build on existing employment.
In one minute I will give you the list of issues people talk about in a campaign, but I feel that there is an overarching issue at stake, that of the state of democracy in Canada. I look at the future of Canada as one of hope and opportunity for the citizens, but I must admit that the current government has a message of fear and doom on a variety of topics, it is almost as if Canada has entered the "dark side," so-to-speak. In terms of specific issues, healthcare, jobs, pensions, the wellbeing of families, the environment, and education and training opportunities are all very important. There is the feeling that the Conservative "Agenda" is known, but I am not convinced. I note with interest in the United States after the newly-elected Republican governors have been sworn-in, their budgets have traditionally slashed Medicaid, mental health services, and education expenditures. In one state, even the newly-elected Republican backbenchers say that the proposed cuts go too far. In at least 2 states, unions have been challenged and these challenges will go beyond unions to the rights of individual workers. I served as a university president under the Mike Harris governement, which had a very similar ideology to the Harper government, and this was not a great time in the province of Ontario. It was the approach of the then-Treasurer and now the current Federal Finance Minister that generated the significant increases in university tuition levels.
I think that the issue of home owwnership to me is one of ensuring the economic wellbeing of the family. If the employement opportunities are there, I think that there are a variety of initiatives that will facilitate home ownership. If stable employment is not there, home ownership is a challenge. Canada and this region have done fairly well in terms of home ownership, but I am not sure government deserves much credit.
I have lived in the region of Waterloo for over 20 years, and in the past have lived in the Kitchener-Conestoga ridig in Elmira. I was approached several years ago about running in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding but had made other commitments rendering it not possible at that time. I also grew up in a small village of 800 people in rural Oxford County, so I feel quite comfortable with the variety of communities and issues in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding.
I think that the commitment of, I believe a minimum of $1,000, is a good first step. This type of grant is similar to the federal Pell system in the U.S., where every qualified student who goes to university receives the first level of student aid from the government. This kind of support is not at all related to family incomes. Another part of the program suggested by the Liberal Party deals with bringing back a form of merit-based scholarships. These types of awards were very important to me when I was the first memeber of my family attending university here in the 1960's. Canada's flagship merit-based program, the Canadian Millenium Scholarship Program was terminiated recently by the Conservative government.
No, not afraid of challenging Andrew. I feel that my own personality fits the Kitchener-Conestoga riding better than it does any of the other local ridings.
A good question. It depends on what you mean by "well off." I have heard many parents who have a concern about the cost of post-secondary education regardless of their income levels. It is also true that about half of students have significant debt when they graduate, but others (through employment or parental contributions) do not have significant debt. I think that the best combination is one of a base grant for all students, next would be merit-based scholarships, and the residual money needed paid from student aid programs but with a variety of mechanisms for loan forgiveness.
Industry needs to be competitive, regardless of the relative value to the U.S. currency. It all comes down to productivity. For years we had a financial advantage but we really did not take advantage of it and prepare for the future. The companies in this region that compete, compete globally, and they do it with good products, a trained workforce, and significant amounts of research and development. The Federal government, in spite of some new initiatives, have not been able to increase the percentage of R&D done by the private sector. There are many partnership programs to encourage public research projects, but more needs to be done in this area if we are going to be able to maintain the dominance of our manufacturing sector in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding.
Some of the issues are different, but some are the same but from a different perspective. I hear stories about healthcare concerns from rural residents that are a bit different from those in the city. I hear concerns about retirement home options and the need for financial and tax support for family care-givers. One of the major economic opportuntiies in the world today is the need for enhanced food production. Farmers I talk to seem to be at the bottom of the pile in terms of benefiting from such opportunities. There needs to be more focus on dealing with some of their issues. The recent Ontario budget put in place a form of price insurance for the agricultural sector that seems to be worth looking at. The issues in this particular riding also relate to gun control and the relative rules with respect to dividing property (though that is more of a provincial issue).
I think that the public in this election has a clear choice between a Liberal government or more of the existing Conservative approach. In my own case, I am a strong environmentalist, I very much respect the role of unions and workers in society, and I see no need to even talk about a coalition.
Kitchener-Conestoga, as you know, is made up of both a rural and urban component. Approximately 35% of the population live in a variety of small communities to the west, north, and east of Kitchener-Waterloo, and 65% live in the more urban soutwest Kitchener area. I very much have enjoyed my experience living in and being involved with smaller communities, who have a strong community spirit, while at the same time I am quite comfortable with urban issues. That is why I say I think it fits my personality.
I think that I have spent a lot of my career with young people, and this does keep oneself young. I think it is fair to say that I have been a champion for all ages. In the recent study I conducted on the northern economy, I actually championed a program to encourage older workers to establish their own entrepreneurial firms based on their skills and experience learned over the years. We clearly are in a life-long learning environment, and the Learning Passport initiative is something definitely needed in this country.
Negative is probably an understatement. If the sky was blue the Conservatives would probably call it cloudy. I find this political rhetoric very insulting, not just to me but insulting to all Canadians. I also find it interesting when Mr. Harper doesn't seem to be doing well that all of a sudden John Baird is on the scene. And I must admit, he sounds so convincing, he must believe some of the stuff he rambles on about.
Sorry about the long answer about a coalition. The answer is: NO.
I am a team player, patient, and gets the job done.
What would you identify as the top issues facing the riding of Kitchener-Conestoga?
I think that Harold has worked hard at the task. He and I come from significantly different backgrounds and ideology. I think that we present the voters with a choice.
Back to the economy, the Conservatives have pledged to balance the budget within five years. What is the Liberal plan for balancing the books?
The Conservative plan for balancing the budget within 5 years really depends on the level of economic recovery, which would generate the needed tax revenues. Many places have found that this "low corporate tax" approach, the so-called "trickle down economy," does not work. So I am personally dubious about the 5 year promise and all the goodies that would be delivered once the budget is balanced. In terms of corporate taxation, I think it is imporant that Canada be competitive with the United States, but being competitive does not mean being lower. Especially when you consider the national healthcare program in Canada, which is not a corporate tax liability. Much has been said of the cost of the policies developed by the Liberal Party, but I would suggest that these policies would generate a buoyant economy and the necessary tax revenues to fund (without raising personal taxes) as well, I am very dubious about spending billions and billions on fighter jet toys. I am not particularly excited about the type of participation we seem to have got ourselves into in Libya, probably as a favour to the United States, who themselves wanted to take a low profile.
This company started about 10 years ago as a University of Waterloo and University of Guelph spinoff. Initially for employees it peaked at about 120 employees, most of whom were in Waterloo with some in Toronto. In the past year, because of changes in product focus, the company is down to about 95 employees. Your suggestion of 100 layoffs must be in reference to another organization.
We have heard the phrase "unnecessary election" several times in the short while since this campaign began. Is this election unnecessary?
In some ways, one could argue that this election might be unnecessary, but I must admit that I am personally tired of all the negativism. In a true democracy the public should speak. I think if the public is tired off all this nonsense, I would suggest that the Liberal Party is a good place to park your vote.
You have talked about the manufacturing base that still makes up a part of our workforce. Is it necessary to support this workforce or must we move on to support and create jobs in the emerging "knowledge economy?"
This area is really fortunate to have a diversified employment base. Education, the broader public sector, the "knowledge economy," and manufacturing. There is a closer tie to manufacturing and the "knowledge economy" than perhaps some people realize. The manufacturing sector that survives today has to take maximum advantage of technology and very high-skilled workers. To me, in the future it is important to maintain the diversity of employment in this region, because that makes you less vulnerable to a variety of economic adjustments.
We're into our final five minutes, folks. If you have any final questions for Mr. Rosehart, now is the time to get them in!
Ignatieff: his integrity and committment.
Jack Layton: his courage.
Elizabeth May: her committment to the imporant sustainability and environmental stewardship of Canada.
I am somebody who calls things as I see them. I really want to present an alternative option to the voters, and as much as humanly possible I am a positive person.
I only know Harold. Earlier on I said that he has worked hard at the task. As I said, we come from different backgrounds, experiences, and ideology. I think that we present to the voters a clear choice.
Thank you all for participating in our live chat today. This is just one more way that 570 News is making our candidates more accessible. Mr. Rosehart, thank you very much for your time today and good luck in the campaign.
I would like to thank everybody for your questions. This has been an interesting high-tech format and I feel that I have gotten to know a few of you through our interactions here. I am a committed Canadian, very interested in the issues that impact you in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding, and I can assure you if elected you will have an effective and often-heard representative in me.