The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce is keenly interested in all levels of government and the business environments that encourage economic development. In this light, we are hosting a Federal Candidates Forum on September 25th, 7:30am at the Manteo Resort for the Kelowna-Lake Country candidates. We provided a set of 4 questions to each candidate in the Kelowna-Lake Country and Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola area’s that are related to business interests. Here are the responses we've recieved.
1. Jobs: Jobs are a key focus of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce platform. Though Kelowna has historically maintained near full employment, a key challenge is attracting higher paying, higher skilled jobs to Kelowna. If elected, how will your party bring better jobs to Kelowna?
Dan Albas (Conservative Candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola): A number of factors are required to create employment– investment is key as is the availability of skilled employees and a cost effective business environment. While these measures require a partnership from all levels of Government, from a Federal perspective our government will not increase taxes as is currently proposed by the other parties and we will maintain our skills training program that creates a relationship between employers, educational institutions and students. Our Budget 2015 Action Plan also supports manufacturing and processing machinery and equipment by providing a ten-year tax incentive in the form of an accelerated capital cost allowance.
Norah Bowman (NDP Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Under Harper, Canada has lost 200,000 jobs since the recession. Harper is the first Prime Minister who, when asked about the recession can say “which one?” The NDP will help kick start the local economy by cutting small business taxes from 11% to 9%. This will create jobs, as small businesses create roughly 80% of private sector jobs. The NDP will create an innovation tax credit to help the manufacturing sector, so we can process our resources here in our communities and keep families together with local jobs. The NDP will also invest in research and development and new machinery.
Ron Cannan (Conservative Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Helping our business community create well-paying jobs is both a personal priority and an ongoing priority for our Conservative government. We will succeed by maintaining low business taxes, balanced budget, ongoing funding in local sectors including agricultural &hi tech, opening new markets, supporting job training/trades by investing in the Canada Jobs Grant & UBCO/OC to retain/attract the skilled labour our business sector needs.
Strong partnerships between all levels of government, private & social sectors. Enthusiastically support a strong business sector because we know that the economy & well-paying jobs are the priority for Canadians. The business sector is the engine that drives that success.
Stephen Fuhr (Liberal Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Kelowna currently enjoys higher paying, higher skilled jobs in the tech sector, healthcare, education, and professional services. To continue to draw more of these jobs into our community, the following variables need to be satisfied: available financial stimulus and access to a skilled workforce that can fill those roles.
Most recently the Liberal party has announced an aggressive and innovative plan to invest in Canadian infrastructure. This plan will have three distinct eligibility areas: public transport, social and green infrastructure. Specifically, funding for projects such as protection against wildfires and core services like water and sanitation will be made available. Under the “social “eligibility area, funding will be made available for affordable housing, senior facilities and early learning and childcare. Investing in infrastructure is not only necessary for improved quality of life, it is deemed to be the best stimulant for skilled job creation.
A Liberal government will also renew our commitment to cooperate with the provinces to provide quality healthcare, and assist provinces in building the capacity to do that—with physical capital, human capital, and all the economic spinoffs that entails.
A Liberal government will also redirect funding from fossil fuels to support investment in the research, development, and manufacture of clean energy technology. This would make new funds available to universities, and I would advocate for those funds to be directed to our institutions.
Based on my personal experience as CEO for a local avionics company, I know how important government programs like IRAP and SRED* are to stimulate enterprise in the tech sector. I would like to see those programs enhanced, as we are uniquely suited to benefit due to our growing tech sector infrastructure.
* IRAP Industrial Research Assistance Program SRED Scientific Research and Experimental Development
2. Private investment in business: Kelowna has a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and aims to be one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business. However, all businesses need capital to get off the ground and grow. If elected, how will your party ensure that businesses have access to the capital they need to grow?
Dan Albas (Conservative Candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola): Ultimately it comes down to keeping taxes low. Raising corporate taxes as the NDP proposes takes investment out of the business community and transfers that money to Ottawa. We cannot forget the private sector supports the public sector and our Conservative platform is the only one not proposing tax increases of any kind if elected in 2015. In Alberta we are already starting to see impacts of increased corporate taxes and declining investment. On a different note Budget 2015 also expands services offered through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to help our business community grow.
Norah Bowman (NDP Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Small businesses are the engine of our economy. Many of them are struggling or need capital in order to grow. New Democrats understand this point and will cut small business taxes from 11% to 9%. This will give an immediate tax break to small businesses so that they can help grow the economy. This is a plan that has been supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses.
Ron Cannan (Conservative Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): As a former small business owner I understand the importance of having access to capital. Our Conservative government has & will continue to ensure that the Business Development Bank of Canada works closely with entrepreneurs with flexible lending criteria. We also recognize the need for more investment when start-ups need angel investors. As Finance Minister Oliver has noted, “Strong capital markets are at the heart of a strong Canadian economy.” Our government has provided favourable tax policies for investors &
created numerous Venture Capital Action plans providing the early capital investment needed for entrepreneurs, to innovate, successfully bring new ideas to market & encourage more investment.
Stephen Fuhr (Liberal Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Ultimately, capital is derived from three sources: private investment, lending institutions, and direct government investment. As a former CEO of a local avionics company, I know how difficult it would have been to launch and grow that business without federal programs like the Industrial Research Assistance Program and the Scientific Research Experimental Development tax incentive. A Liberal government will continue to provide these incentives to facilitate technical business development. A recent announcement by the Liberal party will make billions of dollars of new money available for municipal infrastructure improvement. Additionally, a Liberal government will sponsor innovative methods of alternative financing with the establishment of a Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) aiming at providing low-cost financing. This new CIB will work in partnership with all layers of government and the financial community to best leverage Canada’s strong credit rating and lending authority to make it easier and more affordable for municipalities to finance local projects. Alongside the new CIB, Green Bonds will be issued so that green projects will be more attractive to private investors, by offering loan guarantees, reducing financing costs and risk and bundling small initiatives into attractive and rewarding offerings for investors.
3. Technology: Kelowna has a growing tech sector and is home to leading educational institutions. However, technology oftentimes fails to realize its potential for positive impact on business and productivity. If elected, how will your party push technology to benefit business and promote productivity?
Dan Albas (Conservative Candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola): I can think of no better local example on this question then my colleague Ron Cannan who was instrumental in securing $3.4 million in federal funding for the Okanagan Centre for Innovation. For those of you unfamiliar with the Centre for Innovation, it is 24,000 sq.ft with numerous technology resources intended to assist local entrepreneurs in the new digital age. This is a very exciting facility for our region and demonstrates that our Government is at the forefront in strategic investment that ensures local business has access to technology in our rapidly changing markets.
Norah Bowman (NDP Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): The NDP has tabled the Post-Secondary Act in the House of Commons to ensure adequate and stable funding for our educational institutions. This will help make sure that our educational institutions in Kelowna can be at the forefront of researching new technology and grow the technology sector locally. As energy efficiency becomes increasingly important, an NDP government will kickstart our clean energy sector to make Canada a global market leader. Kelowna is well situated for solar energy, for example – Okanagan College has installed solar panels, and this is only one way that technological knowledge should be applied to sustainable local industry.
Ron Cannan (Conservative Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): For a long time successive governments have heard that we need to do better at getting technology to the marketplace to increase Canada’s productivity. The Jenkins Report made that very clear: http://rdreview.ca/eic/site/033.nsf/eng/h_00287.html
Our conservative government took that advice seriously and has invested heavily in R&D in a number of sectors.
Add to that a competitive tax regime/tax incentives that now directly support business innovation, retention of highly skilled people, opening new markets for export and investing in the physical/digital infrastructure needed to get our products to market. Conditions for success & increased productivity! Locally through Accelerate Okanagan/Okanagan Innovation Centre the future is very exciting!
Stephen Fuhr (Liberal Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): A Liberal government would help businesses benefit from technology to boost productivity and efficiency with a few important strategies: improve energy efficiency; create incentives for technology adoption; empower decisions with open access to government data; and improve our buying power for technology. Specifically: tax incentives and the consolidation of today’s scattered programs will boost investments in job creation in small, innovative start-up businesses in a number of fields to include aerospace and manufacturing.
Liberals have a long history of supporting innovation in Canada, creating the Canada Foundation for Innovation in 1997 to establish competitive research facilities. These funding projects have led to countless spinoffs in the private sector, retained our best talent, and helped to diversify the Canadian economy.
Ultimately, the government should enable specialized technology incubators and accelerators to find the best solutions and best practices that benefit businesses and promote productivity.
4. Markets: Kelowna’s natural beauty and hospitality attracts visitors from all over the world, and its business community benefits from exporting themselves and their products abroad. Simply put, dollars from abroad bring prosperity to our City. If elected, how will your party assist business in reaping opportunities from markets abroad?
Dan Albas (Conservative Candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola): We are extremely fortunate here in the Okanagan to enjoy the success of the Kelowna International Airport that has served as our gateway to the world. Last month our Government extended the lease to the Kelowna Airport for 39 years that provides long term certainty our airport can continue to grow and capitalize on international opportunities that are hugely beneficial for our region. Since 2007 our Government has also concluded trade agreements with 38 countries that now represent more than half of the global economy. This opens up exciting new opportunities and ensures our region has an incredibly bright future.
Norah Bowman (NDP Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): The NDP knows Tourism is an important sector for Kelowna's economy. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives cut $24 million of funding from Destination Canada. Instead of investing in Canadian tourism, Conservatives spent more than $800 million on government advertising—much of it highly partisan. Tom Mulcair announced $30 million in funding for Destination Canada, particularly the Connecting America campaign to attract American tourists. This will help boost the local economy as Kelowna is a top tourist destination in Canada. Our agriculture industry exports abroad. The NDP will work with local agriculture groups to ensure fair prices for Canadian products internationally.
Ron Cannan (Conservative Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): In 2006 when I was first elected as MP for Kelowna Lake Country, Canada had free trade agreements with 5 countries; today we have 44. We are opening new markets, reducing & eliminating tariffs & promoting Canadian products like our cherries to the world’s largest markets in Europe/Asia. Our Okanagan business sector is not afraid to compete with the world when we are on a level playing field. "Go Global" workshops will help local businesses learn how to tap into resources/services like our Trade Commissioners to take advantage of these new markets. As well, continuing to break down trade barriers within Canada.
Stephen Fuhr (Liberal Candidate for Kelowna-Lake Country): Paths to accessing markets abroad depend on the sector. Generally speaking, we want efficient transport infrastructure by road and by air to reach Kelowna, we want to promote Kelowna as a business and tourism destination.
A Liberal government would seek to re-energize cooperation on reducing impediments to trade and commerce between countries – including by improving border infrastructure, streamlining cargo inspection, and making the movement of people and goods easier.
A Liberal government is committed to working with all levels of government and First Nations communities to improve highways and road infrastructure. We have announced plans to not only directly fund infrastructure projects but also create a Canada Infrastructure Bank to provide low-cost financing for such projects.
I have a lot of experience working with Transport Canada and know we haven’t realized Kelowna’s potential as a regional or national air hub. As Kelowna’s Member of Parliament, I would advocate for our community to expand that capacity.
We also want to promote trade with other nations, not simply negotiate trade agreements. A Liberal government would resume those Team Canada trade missions started by Chretien, and give Canadian businesses opportunities to access foreign markets and investment.