Federal Tory leadership candidate Michael Chong wants to rebuild in Atlantic Canada
Canadians want economic, not social, policies from Conservative party, says Chong
Conservative Party leadership candidate Michael Chong wants a better showing for his party in the next federal election, which is why he's in a region of the country where one seat would be an improvement.
"As the party of Confederation, I think it's really important that we rebuild, beginning here in Atlantic Canada, and that's why I've come out here," he told CBC in St. John's on Monday.
"I think that starts by being more inclusive as a party, by making our tent a lot bigger, and by welcoming people from all walks of life, and I think that also starts by ensuring that we focus on an economic agenda of jobs and growth and set aside the divisive social issues that Canadians don't want us to focus on."
Focus on 'pocketbook' issues
Chong said Canadians want the government to focus on "pocketbook" issues, i.e. jobs and the economy, and that's what he says his campaign will be about as he vies — along with, so far, Maxime Bernier, Tony Clement, Kellie Leitch and Deepak Obhrai — for the leadership, which will be decided in May.
Asked if a Chong-led Conservative government would follow through on a 2013 federal-provincial agreement for $400-million fisheries fund, he demurred, and spoke about the Canada-European Union: Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement instead.
Pipelines is the single biggest thing that the government can do. There are billions of dollars in capital, private capital, waiting on the sidelines to be invested in projects across this country.- Michael Chong
"We'll have to wait and see," he said. "I think it's really up to the current government in Ottawa to work with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that we can see the implementation of the Canada European trade agreement through."
Chong said CETA is important for jobs across the country, including in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Asked what the federal government should do to spur the economy in this province specifically, he said it should approve the construction of new pipelines, adding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion should be given the go-ahead.
As for how an Alberta-British Columbia pipeline would help people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Chong said "it sends a signal" to companies that pipeline proposals in Eastern Canada will be approved by the federal government.
Oil produced by Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry is transported by ship.
Pipelines would help NL: Chong
Asked whether the federal equalization formula needs to be adjusted, Chong returned to his pipeline prescription.
"I think the equalization formula that's currently in place is ensuring that wealth is redistributed across the country to ensure that provinces can deliver health care and education services that citizens require," he said.
"I think there are other ways, though, to help provinces like Newfoundland deal with the tumble in commodity prices, and I think pipelines is the single biggest thing that the government can do. There are billions of dollars in capital, private capital, waiting on the sidelines to be invested in projects across this country."
With files from Peter Cowan