THE HIGHLANDS VOTES

MP Jamie Schmale’s campaign for a third term in office is well underway.

“Besides the heat, it’s been pretty good,” said Schmale.

He said this campaign includes a lot of younger volunteers helping out alongside “veterans” as the team goes door knocking with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

“We knock on the door, we step back. Most people have been very good, a lot of good conversations.”

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock has been Conservative since 2004, however 2021’s election is shaping up to be entirely unique as issues such as COVID-19 take center stage. For Schmale and the Conservatives, the focus is stimulating the post-COVID economy

“I think the one that’s on a lot of people’s minds is jobs and the economy, what we’re trying to do to move things along.”

He highlights support for small business owners, which includes incentives for new hires and $200,000 loans for small and medium-sized businesses.

A central talking point in the Conservative’s economic plan is an overhaul of the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, which Schmale suggested is a key factor in why there have been staffing shortages around the County.

“As our vaccination rates increase, as the economies re-open we need to incentivize employees to go back to work where possible. We also need to ensure the business owners, who have been hanging on by their fingernails, are on stable ground,” he said.

According to Schmale, that could boost employment in heavy-hit industries such as tourism and hospitality in the Highlands.

Housing and long-term care

Affordable housing options, either to rent or buy, are scarce in Haliburton County.

“Housing is one of the top three concerns we’re having here,” Schmale said. His party proposes to free up 15 per cent of Crown land for housing developments. The plan would also temporarily block foreign buyers from purchasing real estate in Canada. He supports foreign investment, but said “the problem is, it’s gotten a bit out of control where we as a government have to step in.”

“Stepping in” also applies to helping out long-term care facilities. Schmale was critical of the Liberal approach to investing in long-term care support, including increasing transfers to the long-term care funding system.

Similarly, Schmale detailed how the Conservatives would replace a hallmark Liberal campaign promise, $10 a day childcare.

“The kids that are in daycare now are going to be paying this back. The question is how are they going to be paying that back?”

Schmale’s party would introduce a 75 per cent tax credit, paid throughout the year, to help fund childcare.

Vaccine hesitancy

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole will not support vaccine passports or mandatory vaccines for federal public servants or travellers. That’s a position Schmale agrees with, though he urges people to get vaccinated.

“Personally, I think the best way to combat this pandemic is to get vaccinated,” he said.

Some claim that vaccination requirements infringe upon privacy and their rights. Others claim a workplace’s obligation to provide a safe work space means mandating vaccines for employees, or requiring vaccine passports, is a necessary next step in the battle against COVID19. A poll from Abacus Data reports Conservative voters are the most likely to oppose mandating vaccines for employees, or requiring vaccine passports.

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