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Be Heard: The NDP 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?

A New Democrat government would take a leadership role to move toward a fair, efficient, transparent and accountable immigration system.

Specifically, in conjunction with provinces and licensing authorities, we will accelerate and streamline the recognition of foreign credentials, overseas degrees and previous employment experience. To assist with literacy, community integration and English and French as a second language programs, we will reinstate federal funding for the settlement programs for new Canadians.

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?

Yes. Because Canada is the only OECD country that does not have a national public transit strategy, New Democrats tabled the National Public Transit Strategy Act, which outlines a practical plan for providing sustainable, predictable, public transit investments. Jack Layton has long been committed to public transit and can be trusted to work with other governments to increase access to public transit for Canadians.

New Democrats have also promised to allocate an additional cent of the existing gas tax to public transit funding for municipalities and to encourage transit use by providing a tax exemption for employee workplace-based transit passes.

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

To improve public safety on the streets of our communities, New Democrats will invest in a balanced, effective approach which focuses on policing, prevention and prosecution.

New Democrats will provide stable, permanent funding to put at least 2,500 new police officers on the streets and increase federal support for crime prevention initiatives from $65 million to $100 million per year and wee will give parents, teachers and police more tools to protect our children by making gang recruitment illegal and create new, stand-alone offences for home invasions and carjackings. And to help small business owners protect their livelihood, we will enact the “Lucky Moose” bill.

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 addition to increased funding for public transit, New Democrats will continue current federal infrastructure funding commitments and invest in community-controlled renewable energy development.

In addition to restoring the affordable housing programs the Harper Government allowed to expire, we will fund 100,000 new child care spaces and provide around a billion dollars a year for new affordable housing.

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?

Canada’s cities and communities are the economic drivers of our nation. Their quality of life and the reliability of their infrastructure are critical to our country. Canada’s cities must be regarded as important resources in Canada’s future economy.

Jack Layton is determined to increase investment in cities, including an extra cent of the gas tax -- $500 million a year – for public transit. He understands the important role these communities play in our country’s over all economy and is committed to seeing there is a place at the negotiating table for cities, whenever their interests are at stake.

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