In an exclusive one-on-one interview with CKNW’s Jon McComb, the Conservative leader talks marijuana and crime, but also defends his government’s economic record.
Jon asked about the Conservative pledge to deliver budget surpluses, when Canada has had deficits in seven of the last nine years.
“How could anybody, given your previous record, trust that what’s in your platform is actually going to take place?”
“Well, Jon, let’s be clear about what the record is. We were running surpluses before the global financial crisis.”
Regarding marijuana, the Conservative leader had some strong words about pot dispensaries, and did not back down from his party’s stance on the medicinal pot industry.
“They’re not bad because they’re illegal, they’re illegal because they’re bad.”
LISTEN to the complete interview here:
On the economy
Jon McComb: We agreed to sit down to talk to you a bit about the economy. You’ve rolled out a platform today that deals a lot with your economy.
Conservative leader Harper: Yeah.
Jon: So talk to me about that, what’s the plan?
Conservative leader Harper: Well, look the plan is pretty straightforward. We’re coming forward with some modest investments in the people’s lives and in our economy. I can talk about two or three of the big things, new permanent Home renovation tax credit, lowering small businesses taxes uh, to 9%, biggest small business tax cut generation cutting, EI premiums for people by 20%, enhancing register education, register disability, savings plans, a new tax credit for uh, single and widowed seniors. These are all things we can afford, all of things we can do with a balance budget with some tax increase or with some tax cuts. In the contrast, Jon, is obviously the other guys are proposing tens of billions of dollars of spending. Liberal party is proposing 25 times the level of increase that we are to be paid for by tax hikes which you know means less money for people for their take home pay, fewer jobs uh, and also permanent deficits which means there’ll be cuts down the road. In fact, there are cuts, vague cuts down the road in the Liberal platform now. So, we think when people look at how to move our economy forward in a stable, unstable world environment that this is the sensible way to go that will keep creating jobs. We created 1.3 million net new jobs over the past six years and our goal is to do that again in the next five years.
On affordable housing
Jon: Let’s talk a bit about affordable housing. In this town, it is a key issue. There are a lot of people who are in their 20s and 30s and looking around and saying I’m not going to be able to buy even a modest place in this city. What if anything can the federal government do to help out?
Conservative leader Harper: Well, there’s a number of things we have been doing. For instance, we established First-Time Home Buyers’ Tax Credit some years ago. There’s something called the home buyers plan which allows Canadians to borrow from their RSP to help finance a first purchase. In this campaign, one of our plans is to increase flexibility there so people can do that even more. We’re bringing and as I mentioned home renovation tax credit, make homes more affordable. We’re also particularly in this area in the Vancouver area, Vancouver, Toronto you know we have been concerned as I think a lot of residents are about what is really driving the escalation in prices and some suggestion that it maybe non-resident speculation and as you know, this is something we’ve committed to gather some data on and really get a handle on and if that indeed is the case, we’ll take some necessary action. But look, I don’t think we should talk too negatively here. One of the big things that’s happened in the last 10 years is the rate of home ownership in Canada has gone up. It’s now at a record level. It’s now higher than United States and well, you look around the world, home ownership is one of the things that kinda has crashed in a lot of other developed economies. In this country, it continues to move forward. It will continue to take these steps to make sure more people can own their homes. Our goal is to push the rate even higher and see 700,000 new home owners in the next five years.
Jon: Okay. Let’s go back and talk a bit about your economic…
Conservative leader Harper: Sure.
On Conservatives Party’s record of deficits
Jon: …plan. You’re government has run serious deficits, I think seven at the last nine years. In your platform, you said that there are going to be four budget surpluses. How can anybody, given your previous record, trust what’s in your platform is actually going to take place?
Conservative leader Harper: Well Jon, let’s be clear about what the record is. We were running surpluses before the global financial crisis. During global financial crisis, we told Canadians and Canadians supported us. We ran a massive stimulus plan with $60 billion. We ran an enormous stimulus plan to kind of protect our economy in the midst of that crisis. Every other country around the world was doing something similar. We said, we would without cutting services, without cutting taxes, we would gradually come out of that and that is exactly what we did. Every year after that, the deficit went down until last year, we ran a surplus. This year, we’re on track to have a surplus and I think all the experts have looked at our plans says, provided we have obviously not other global financial crisis, we’ve got the numbers that clearly point to having a balanced budget, not huge surpluses but a balanced budget. And I go back, we’re promising, you know our promises are affordable and sustainable. They are very modest. A balanced budget tells people the things we’re promising we can afford. The other guys are promising tens of billions of dollars more than we are. The Liberal promises in their platform are 25 times bigger than ours.
Jon: But you have…
Conservative leader Harper: That is not affordable.
Jon: You have excoriated Mr. Trudeau for coming out in advance and saying that he’s going to run a deficit. Is it not disingenuous to say to him, you know you can’t do that while you’re government over the last seven or eight years has been exactly the same thing?
Conservative leader Harper: No, we haven’t exactly done the same thing, Jon. We ran a massive stimulus program because of a global financial crisis and the biggest global recession in 80 years and we did that as a temporary measure. We came out of it with economic growth. What Mr. Trudeau is proposing is to run deficits when the economy is growing, to take what is a budget that’s already in balance, that Canadians made the wise decisions to get in balance over the past five years and for no apparent reason, other than that his promises don’t add up, to drive the country back into deficit when there is no crisis. This is a recipe of what the Liberal party did back in the ‘70s to create permanent deficits. If you’re going to run a deficit when the economy is growing, you’re going to run deficit all the time. If you’re going to go from surplus to deficit when the economy is growing, you’re going to do with permanently. That’s what he is proposing.
Jon: Well, you referenced the ‘70s but let’s look at the ‘90s. The Liberals ran nine surpluses. They had four deficits so let’s talk about the 1990s?
Conservative leader Harper: Let’s talk about…
Jon: You’re going back all the way to ‘70s.
Conservative leader Harper: No, let’s talk about the record here from the ‘70s through. Because of the deficits, the growth in debt, the Liberals created in the ‘70s, the budget remained, the budget the so-called temporary modest deficits that Mr. Trudeau is talking about. When that was done in the ‘70s, that went on for nearly 30 years and how did we solve that? In the end, we solved it through massive tax hikes and massive cuts in healthcare and education. We, right now, in Canada have a budget that is balanced for the long term with our healthcare investments growing, our education investments growing, our taxes coming down, why would we want to go back to the experience of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s? It makes absolutely no sense other than…
Jon: Well the 19…
Conservative leader Harper: …other than the Liberal party made more promises than they had money and that’s why they’re proposing to do what they do, not as an economic strategy, but simply because their numbers don’t add up.
Jon: Let’s talk a little bit about the marijuana issue. You have said that marijuana is infinitely worse than tobacco.
Conservative leader Harper: Yeah, absolutely.
Jon: Where is the proof of that?
Conservative leader Harper: I think you look at… you look at uh… the science on this and not just…
Jon: Can you point to any science?
Conservative leader Harper: Not just on smoking, the health effects look up. Let Health Canada speak on that, the health effects, the medical community tell you, health how the effects of prolonged marijuana use like tobacco, smoking and everything else. You know look, our view is very straightforward. We don’t want to encourage our kids to get into marijuana. You know Mr. Trudeau’s number one priority, legalizing marijuana, making it as available as alcohol and tobacco. I know some people favour that but that is not our approach and that’s not the kind of lifestyle choices we want to see for our young kids.
Jon: He’s… this isn’t a huge priority. He said he would legalize marijuana.
Conservative leader Harper: This was his, this was his…
Jon: It’s happening all around. This has happened in Washington, in Oregon, it’s happening in California.
Conservative leader Harper: Others are doing it. This was his first policy announcement something he was running on over the country. Look, I’ll let him defend it. It’s not the direction we want to go. We want to obviously discourage non-medical use of narcotics. It’s a bad thing for people. We want to have programs that help people who get addictions, but we want to continue to crack down on people who sell substances that ruin people’s lives.
Jon: There are pot dispensaries as you know…
Conservative leader Harper: Yeah.
Jon: They popped up all over Vancouver, all over this area. They don’t seem to be going away and…
Conservative leader Harper: Well as you know, the RCMP and others are looking at those operations.
Jon: That’s my question. Are you going to send the RCMP to shut these places down?
Conservative leader Harper: Well, I’m not going to send them in but as you know, the Health Canada, RCMP and others, they have responsibilities under the law. They’ll certainly make sure that laws are being respected.
Jon: Are you not completely out of touch on this issue? Do you… the polls that I see across Canada indicates the Canadians have no problem with the legalization of marijuana? Are you stuck in another era?
Conservative leader Harper: I think the polls Jon are a little more mixed on that. I think what you know kind of all parents understand is nobody wants to see their kids get into marijuana and other narcotics and that’s something we want to…
Jon: And nobody wants to see their kids go to jail for walking around with a little pot in their pocket.
Conservative leader Harper: They don’t. We all know that. We all know that. You don’t go to jail for having a joint but if you become a trafficker of drugs and we know what the drug world; it’s guns, gangs, and crime, we want to crack down on that kind of behavior that obviously causes a lot of violence but also destroys people’s lives.
Jon: Does it… isn’t it true though that if you legalize it, you take it out of the hands of the guns and the gangs and the problems as we see here in Surrey and other places all the time?
Conservative leader Harper: You know what, the drug business isn’t driven primarily by marijuana now. We’re also putting in resources, RCMP to deal with the growth of meth labs and synthetic drug products. I mean look, this is never going to be a business that is about creating addictions and wrecking people’s lives. It’s never going to be a respectable business. These things you know, like I said Jon, the reason drugs are illegal is because they’re bad. They’re not bad because they’re illegal. They’re illegal because they’re bad. They destroy lives and what’s what we want to avoid.
Jon: Well again, I have to press you on –
Conservative leader Harper: I think we’re gonna have to agree to disagree.
Jon: Where is the research? Where is the proof? I mean you said infinitely worse than tobacco and you’re press secretary is trying to wrap this up.
Conservative leader Harper: I can direct it up at Health Canada.
Jon: Can you please?
Conservative leader Harper: Lots of studies that indicate all kinds of negative effects. Do you want to see your children using marijuana regularly?
Jon: My children are all adults and I leave it in their hands to make those decisions as adults.
Conservative leader Harper: Do you think it’s a good thing for them?
Jon: I don’t know whether it’s good or not. I know that it isn’t any worse than going home and having a drink of scotch or a glass of wine after work. I know that as much.
Conservative leader Harper: As I say, I think the health studies are pretty clear that the effects are bad. Well, we have to agree to disagree on that.
On more RCMP in Surrey and the Conservatives Tough on Crime approach
Jon: The situation in Surrey with RCMP just a question about there has been controversy, there have been various claims about whether the RCMP boots are on the ground, they are, they aren’t. Where does that stand?
Conservative leader Harper: As far as I know, the resources are being delivered. The RCMP numbers, we’ve said we would increase by 100. Those numbers are increasing but look, it isn’t just our criminal justice agenda isn’t just about creating more police resources, it’s also making sure we have the laws in place so we can crackdown in violent crimes. So that for example, one of our priorities in the next parliament when people commit serious crimes with guns that they face mandatory prison sentences for those kinds of crimes. You know we have got to have a system that actually treats crimes seriously in this country and that’s part of our agenda.
Jon: Just a bit of follow-up on that. The various proposals and laws that you’ve passed to try do that seemed to be shut down by the Supreme Court all the time.
Conservative leader Harper: No, that’s actually not true Jon. In fact, most have been upheld like recently on this particular gun issue, there was a narrow set of issues on which the court challenged the law but they upheld the basic principle that you can have mandatory prison sentences for violent gun crime and that’s what we’re going to do. And in fact, you know I’d point out with our tough on crime approach and other investments you actually see crime rates falling in this country and I think that’s a positive thing.
Jon: All right. Great to see you. Thank you.
Conservative leader Harper: Thanks for having me.