Federal NDP leadership candidate and MP for Westminster-Burnaby Peter Julian visited Red Deer’s One Eleven Grill to discuss his vision for Canada with Central Albertans during a meet and greet on Tuesday.
“Red Deer is a very important stop on the leadership tour,” Julian said. “It has very effective local NDP MLAs and a lot of members and activists in the party.”
Julian began his day by speaking with the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CARE), which is near and dear to the MP due to his history of working with people who have disabilities.
“We talked about where the federal government can provide some support, which they are not providing now for a variety of issues,” he said.
“The federal government is not meeting its role, and meeting with these groups helps me get a sense of how we can change Ottawa. We can have a much more responsive federal government.”
Julian said he got the sense that the federal government has not provided much help in the past in Central Alberta, which he felt an NDP government could alleviate in a variety of ways including a clean-energy sector, no tuition education, a new health care strategy and a solid housing strategy.
“I believe in eliminating tuition fees and we could do that by getting rid of the post-secondary institution tax credits that currently are used and primarily go to wealthier families,” he said.
“Accessing college, university and trade school is not just good for young Canadians that can do that, it is also important towards building a knowledge economy.
“We are seeing an increase in jobs that require a high level of skill and training and it doesn’t make sense that we make it difficult for young Canadians to go to school to learn the trades and skills that will benefit our entire country.”
Julian feels many of these highly-skilled jobs remain untapped in Alberta and could provide an escape from the current economy which relies on the boom and bust oil and gas sector.
“One key element I am bringing forward is my clean energy plan,” he said. “My plan would bring significant investments by the federal government in retraining energy workers to clean energy. Clean energy investment could lead to thousands of jobs in Central Alberta, but we have a federal government that doesn’t understand the importance of that.
“When you you look at the potential in Alberta for geothermal, solar – which is basically limitless – and wind power as well, with the right investments and community involvement, we could really see the economy take off.”
Julian explained that the oil and gas sector will always exist, however he feels Canada must invest in clean energy in order to keep up with a market that already exists in Europe, the United States and Asia.
“Canada’s requirements for clean energy will more then quadruple over a little more than the next decade,” he said.
“The markets are already there and we know over the next decade with the right leadership and the right investments, we could be creating thousands of jobs.”
He added Ottawa needs to invest in Alberta in order to begin a transition to clean energy.
Julian also explained that the current Liberal government has let Canadians down by reducing investment into the health care centre.
He said this money could have been used to help fund projects like improved and new hospitals, which Central Albertans are currently lobbying for.
“It is not just important for families who use our health care system, it is also important for our economy,” he said. “The universal health care we have in place is a huge competitive advantage to Canadian businesses in that they don’t have to pay for health care plans the way American businesses do. The erosion in health care hurts our competitiveness.”
He added an NDP government under his leadership would look to ensure that pharmacare is included in Canadian health care.
“We see too many families that are struggling to pay for the medication that keeps them healthy or keeps them alive. We pay excessive amounts for these private plans because of the patent protections we have given to big pharmaceutical companies,” he said.
”An overhaul of the health care system requires the putting in place of pharmacare so that people in Central Alberta and elsewhere can rest easy paying less for the medication they have to take.”
Julian also feels housing is an important issue that affects Canadians across the country.
“We are a phenomenally wealthy country and I think it is tragic that we are seeing so many people, particularly people with disabilities, mental health issues or physical disabilities, that have to sleep outside,” he said.
“The federal government needs to be working with municipalities right across the country so that we are ensuring that right to housing.”
While the federal NDP did lose seats in the last election, Julian feels the party is having excellent dialogue and is coming together.
“We need to have the conversation and we will have disagreements on key issues. The important thing is that the membership casts their vote in this democracy and they make their own decisions. The debates are healthy and I don’t sense people feel the party is fractured – I sense the opposite – that people are coming together.”
He added the question of leadership in Canada is important for the country moving forward.
“This is really important for the future of our country and we have to build a better Canada. We can’t do it with the same old policies we have seen from the conservatives and the liberals.”