A talked-about spring 2011 federal election would be a “huge distraction” in the face of an overwhelming desire among Canadians for leaders to focus on continuing efforts to stoke the economy post-recession, Conservative MP John Weston said recently.
Ditto on calls by his designated Liberal Party opponent, Dan Veniez, for a series of public, multi-party, forums — election or no — across the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country riding to discuss challenges citizens and the country are facing and how best to tackle them.
Veniez issued his invitation after a well-attended West Vancouver forum involving himself, Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff and Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison on January 13. Upon hearing of Weston’s initial response, that such meetings would be a “huge distraction,” Veniez countered in an open letter to Weston:
“I must confess being very perplexed at the notion that we are ‘out of touch’ by listening and having a substantive discussion with citizens,” Veniez wrote. “It seems to me, at least, that meeting and listening is quite the opposite. A vast majority of those in attendance seemed to agree. We need more real conversation, Mr. Weston, not less.”
Weston responded that as soon as an election is called, he’ll be happy to be part of riding-wide candidates’ forums involving Veniez, NDP candidate Terry Platt and other hopefuls. But not before then.
“It’s a huge distraction from the work of government and we don’t need an election now when the country is focusing on rebounding from the recession,” Weston said. “I would say that five successive quarters of economic growth speak for themselves, that he and Michael Ignatieff just visiting the riding are out of touch with what people who live here really want.
“When the election comes, I’ll be delighted to engage with other parties in that discussion. Now, my job is to represent people in the priorities that they have set in terms of economic recovery, engagement, working on fisheries matters and my [private member’s] drug bill that we still have to get through the Senate.”
Despite recent polls that have shown roughly half of Canadians would be okay with an election in 2011 — Ottawa has, after all, been in a minority situation for almost two and a half years — Weston said he doesn’t know anyone in the riding who wants one.
By and large, he said, people want their federal leaders to focus on “staying the course” toward full economic recovery.
He asserted that since the summer of 2009, Canada’s economy has created 460,000 jobs, most of them full time, that Canada’s unemployment rate is a full two points lower than that of the United States and that the country’s corporate tax rate, the lowest among G7 countries, is attracting foreign investment and creating jobs.
“The other parties can drive us to an election, but Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper, our government and I have said our commitment is to focus on the economic recovery and representing the interests of people, not on unnecessary politics,” Weston said.
Weston, who heads back to Ottawa for the next parliamentary session in early February, said the theme of his nearly two and a half years in office has been collaboration, which he credits for having brought approximately $200 million in federal stimulus funding and other grants to the riding.
“I don’t take credit for that. I take pride in the teamwork shown by our communities in promoting and pushing so effectively,” he said.
Every portion of the riding has benefitted, he said — from grants for ski and bike festivals in Whistler to stimulus money for diking upgrades and conference centres in Squamish, to harbour upgrades on the Sunshine Coast to infrastructure upgrades to help make industry more competitive in Powell River.
The latter community’s largest employer, Catalyst Paper Corporation, has received some money to help it remain competitive, and Weston hinted that more is on the way soon.
“After extensive work by the City of Powell River, Catalyst and our office, there’s good news to come,” he said.