Malcolm Allen said it was “fitting” he chose the front of the Welland Hospital site to reveal his five-prong platform today.
“When I was MP from 2008 to 2015, we fought for this hospital,” said Niagara’s NDP federal candidate.
“We told the powers that be this hospital would remain open, not closed … We fight for our communities and the folks that live in the communities.”
“Today, we are announcing a new deal for Niagara,” Allen added.
Part one, he said, is “to stop the cuts for health care. We are going to restore those transfer payments” to levels that existed before they were frozen by former Conservative leader Stephen Harper, he said.
“Tommy Douglas, icon of our party, said that health care had to be from head to toe. We’re going to put real teeth into that and introduce dental care for those who make less than $70,000.”
People will be able to access that service “in the form of a health card, not a credit card,” said Allen.
Reducing the current 10-year wait list for affordable housing was next on the NDP platform list.
“We will build 5,000 units right here in Niagara, affordable housing, which is what we need. It also becomes jobs” in the form of construction and related trades, he pointed out. “We will provide $5,000 rental subsidies in the interim.”
The growing climate crisis has “a huge impact” in potentially damaging Niagara’s tender fruit crops, stated Allen. “We need to do what we need to do to have a sustainable climate.”
Fourth on the list, “We would eliminate all the interest on student loans,” he said. “Eventually, our goal is to get tuition free” for all students.
Finally, Allen vowed to address the fees for cell phones and data charges.
“We need to put a cap on it so folks can afford it. Today, data and cell phone usage really is a necessity.”
“This new deal works for us,” he summarized. “We’re in it for you. Why? Because we’re like you; the same as you—hardworking folks like you, and we intend to stand up for you, just like we have in the past.”
Allen was joined by Nameer Rahman, NDP candidate for Niagara West riding, who said, “We’re here to represent the interests of Niagara as a whole.”
Calling Niagara an “artery of trade” with “unique challenges,” including “an aging population, financially-stressed households and a looming health care crisis,” Rahman said, “You can’t cut your way to greatness; you have to invest,” whether addressing hospitals, climate change, or student potential.
“This is not something you’ll get with the Conservatives, who believe cuts are the way to go. It won’t get 5,000 units of affordable housing and initiatives you need on climate change, or interest-free loans. We’ll have even less than what we have today” if Conservatives are elected, he predicted.
Brian Barker, NDP candidate for the Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, and Niagara-on-the-Lake riding, warned, “The Conservatives want to shut Douglas Memorial Hospital, but the NDP has stood up for health care since day one.”
Thirty-five per cent of people in south Niagara “have no access to dental care,” said Barker. “I want to go to Ottawa and be someone who stands up for our services. I speak to residents who can’t afford their first house. In Niagara Falls, a wait list for a one-bedroom apartment is over a decade. We will clear the wait list and ensure first-time house buyers will be able to afford one.”
Further, said Barker, “Tommy Douglas was able to bring in national health care while balancing budgets. Big companies like Loblaw’s don’t need subsidies. We need to stop propping up big oil by providing them subsidies.”
In Welland, “Good-paying jobs have been replaced by call centres,” said Barker, adding that the NDP’s plan to build affordable housing and boost the green economy presents “an opportunity to provide good-paying jobs, and a way to be successful, and address climate change immediately.”
Asked how he would fund the five-prong “new deal,” Allen said a “wealth tax on people who make $20 million would raise $70 billion over 10 years.” Additional tax savings would come from clamping down on overseas tax-shelter accounts.
Currently, oil and gas companies make $40 billion in profit, added Rahman so shouldn't be getting any federal subsidies.
Noting that wealthy investors only pay tax on 50 per cent of their profitable investments, he said “Instead of only taxing half their capital gains, we will tax 75 per cent. It’s about tax fairness. Folks at the top—it’s their turn.”
“We want to ensure that an NDP government continues to engage in carbon tax and Cap and Trade” programs, Rahman stated. “We can’t force the provinces to do what they must do, but the federal government has more than enough leeway” in terms of “rerouting funds towards mass transportation and energy retrofits. It’s up to the federal government to show leadership and get it done. The green economy is going to be a big job driver in Canada.”