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Be Heard: The Conservative party answers your questions

Questions of immigration, crime and funding for services are important to Metro's urban readers, so we asked each major party where they stand on those issues.

Many immigrants to Canada are encouraged and allowed to move here based on their professional experience or credentials, only to discover once they arrive that their credentials are not recognized. What role should the federal government play in addressing this problem?

Stephen Harper’s government met the challenge of the global economic crisis head on with our world-leading Economic Action Plan. Support for foreign credentials recognition has been a key part of our economic agenda. In 2009, we invested $50 million over two years for the development and implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework for the Assessment and Recognition of Foreign Qualifications. This funding has helped to streamline the recognition process in a number of important occupations and made it easier for foreign-trained Canadians to use their skills and expertise in Canada.

But some foreign-trained workers still have difficulty paying for tuition and other training costs associated with the foreign credential recognition process. A re-elected Stephen Harper government will provide bridge loans to help recent immigrants pay for the training and skills upgrading needed for their foreign credentials to be recognized here in Canada. The Conservative Party understands the importance of credential recognition to the financial security and well-being of new Canadians and their families, as well as the Canadian economy.

Other G8 countries have national transit strategies, but in Canada federal investments in public transit tend to be ad hoc, which many big city mayors have argued leads to worse planning and less efficient spending. Does Canada need a national transit strategy, and if so, what should it look like?

As part of Canada’s Economic Action Plan and the Building Canada Plan, our government has made historic infrastructure investments across the country. In the past two years alone, we have worked with municipal and provincial partners to undertake more than 28,500 projects, many transit-related from coast to coast. A re-elected Stephen Harper government will continue to support Canadian communities according to their unique needs and priorities. We introduced the transit tax credit to encourage Canadians to take public transit, reducing traffic in major city centres. And we will continue to make major, longer-term investments in transit in Canada’s urban centres.

According to Statistics Canada, the crime rate has been declining since the early 1990’s, yet concern about crime in urban areas seems to be on the rise. How do you reconcile this discrepancy?

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government recognizes the need for safe streets and communities. Unlike the Michael Ignatieff-led coalition, our government has consistently put the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals. We have passed a number of pieces of legislation to protect the vulnerable and to hold criminals accountable. We have also invested in youth gang prevention and other initiatives to encourage Canadians to stay clear of criminal activities. A re-elected Conservative government will build on our strong record by enacting legislation to:

  • End the “sentence discount…#157"; for child pornography and child sex offenders.

  • Toughen penalties for elder abuse.

  • Amend the Criminal Code to protect the rights of Canadians to protect themselves and their property.

We also have a number of important pieces of justice legislation that the Michael Ignatieff-led coalition has been obstructing, in some cases, for years. Enough is enough. A Conservative majority government will bundle these bills into comprehensive legislation and pass them within the next Parliament’s first 100 days.

According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, only $8 of every $100 Canadians spend on taxes goes to cities, yet cities are struggling to pay for infrastructure, policing, housing, and many of the government services city residents actually interact with most on a day-to-day basis. What changes are required to ensure cities are sufficiently funded?

In 2008, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government permanently doubled the Gas Tax Fund. This major step forward for municipalities is providing a stable and predictable source of revenue for the renewal of local infrastructure. A re-elected Conservative government will introduce legislation to confirm this permanent funding for municipal infrastructure through the Gas Tax Fund. This important next step was blocked by the Michael Ignatieff-led coalition when they opposed Budget 2011 and forced an unnecessary and opportunistic election.

A century ago only 20 per cent of Canadians lived in urban areas. That number has now increased to 80 per cent (or more than 25 million Canadians). What is your party’s vision for the role of cities within the Canadian federation, now and into the future?

Cities are vitally important to Canada's economic success. Our government understands that. That's why we've invested record amounts in cities big and small, and will continue to invest in their success. A re-elected Stephen Harper Conservative government will continue to work effectively with all levels of government to deliver historic investments in local infrastructure, including better highways, roads, bridges, water-and wastewater systems, housing college and university facilities, public transit and green energy.

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