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The Star asked some of Canada’s top business leaders what they wanted to know about the candidates vying for the country’s next prime minister.

In the second installment of this ongoing series, three business leaders asked questions of the leaders of the five major federal political parties. The Star received responses from the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties.

In their own words, here are questions from Zita Cobb, a businesswoman and social entrepreneur who started Shorefast with her brothers and is an innkeeper at the Fogo Island Inn; Ed Sonshine, Founder and CEO of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust; and Prem Watsa, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Fairfax Financial Holdings.

(Questions and answers have been edited for length.)

Question from Zita Cobb:

Canada has a tyranny of goods and wealth. We are fortunate that our financial and shopping centers have strong economies, thus attracting people from other places and receiving a large portion of immigration. Yet there are thousands of other communities outside of these financial centers that are yet to be mobilized as economic engines for the benefit of their residents and for the benefit of the national economy.

What policies would you put in place to facilitate the creation of strong local community economies in the places where we live? How would you ensure that all communities have high speed internet access, access to capital and support for local entrepreneurship?

Response from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau:

Our approach to economic development takes into account the spirit and the uniqueness of our regions, towns and cities.

We will help nearly 160,000 small and medium-sized businesses adopt new technologies and digitize their offerings, and create jobs for nearly 30,000 young people.

We have invested more than $ 8 billion to accelerate the delivery of high-speed and wireless Internet services across Canada. This year alone, over 400,000 more Canadians will have access to high-speed Internet.

Finally, we are adding $ 450 million to expand access to venture capital; adding new support for regional development to help growing businesses; provide 100 percent depreciation for small businesses that invest in new equipment, software or machinery; and expanding access to low-interest lines of credit of up to $ 500,000 for small businesses.

Response from Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole:

High speed internet is essential for Canadians to learn, work and compete. With rising inflation, families and businesses are struggling to make ends meet. There are still communities that don’t have high speed Internet access because Justin Trudeau took a long time to bring high speed to more of the country.

Canada’s Conservatives will end the endless delays and become a true partner with the provinces, providing broadband from coast to coast. We will develop rural broadband over the next four years and take concrete steps to reduce the amount Canadians pay for this essential part of our lives by promoting investment and market competition, empowering large companies to telecommunications and ensuring that Canadians have access to a reliable Internet. no matter where they live.

Response from NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh:

Communities across Canada found themselves without services like high-speed Internet and intercommunal transit. With more people working from home, rural communities attract more people. The need to support families in these communities will grow. I will deliver.

With a new public company, we will provide quality and affordable telecommunications to every community and ensure public transport services that connect rural areas. We will help graduates stay and work in rural and northern communities and provide stable, long-term funding to help build and protect rural communities. Our universal drug, dental, long-term care and child care programs will provide a standard level of service in all communities.

Ed Sonshine, CEO of RioCan REIT.

Question from Ed Sonshine:

Affordable housing has been a major problem for many years. Is any of the leaders willing to admit that the government itself is the biggest obstacle to lowering prices? The barriers range from the difficulty and time required to obtain approvals (municipal and provincial jurisdiction) to the various fees, contributions and levies imposed on all new construction, again, primarily municipal and provincial, as around 25% the cost of a newly built unit is made up of these different charges. When the federal government exercises some control, HST (this is a 13% tax in Ontario) is levied on all new rental housing, including affordable housing.

As we hear promises to produce huge numbers of affordable housing, how will each party actually achieve these goals?


Every Canadian deserves a home. And for many, young people in particular, the dream of owning their own home seems to be becoming more and more elusive. The Liberal Party has the most aggressive and ambitious plan to build and revitalize more homes that are affordable and safe places to live.

The plan will speed up new construction, make it more affordable and viable for first-time homebuyers, and make the home buying process fairer and more transparent.

One of the key innovations is a new $ 4 billion housing acceleration fund, which will increase the supply of housing each year in the country’s largest cities, creating a target of 100,000 new homes for the middle class. by 2024-25. This demand-based fund will support municipalities that are increasing housing supply faster than their historical average; increase densification; speed up approval times; fight against NIMBYism and establish inclusive zoning regulations; and encourage transit-oriented development.


There is a housing crisis in Canada. We are not building enough houses to cope with our growing population and houses are increasingly difficult to afford for Canadians. It is made worse by the fact that foreign investors sit on their investments and leave houses empty.

Canada’s Conservatives have a plan to bring transit to where people buy homes and increase density near transit infrastructure. We will free up at least 15% of the 37,000 government-owned buildings for housing, and we will ensure that Canadians have the opportunity to own homeownership by making it easier for families to get a mortgage. Finally, Canada’s Conservatives will never tax capital gains on the sale of a principal residence.


To ensure that there are 1.7 million new and renovated homes that ordinary people can afford, we will build 500,000 new homes.

By giving the CRA more resources, we’ll fight real estate money laundering, drive out big foreign investors with a new federal tax on speculators, and help first-time home buyers and tenants so that ordinary families can look for houses on an equal footing. We will waive federal taxes on the construction of affordable rental housing, work in partnership with provinces and municipalities to establish quick start funds for the community, co-ops and affordable housing providers.

Prem Watsa, Founder and CEO of Fairfax Financial.

Question from Prem Watsa:

As a poor immigrant to Canada 48 years ago, I couldn’t believe the opportunity in Canada. Having built Fairfax for the past 35 years and having the good fortune to travel all over the world, I have found that pro-business countries have done well while non-business countries have done badly. I have the impression, studying the economic history of Canada, that we are a G7 country primarily because of our commercial success.

Do you agree with this statement and what have you done or will do to make Canada more business friendly?


We want to lay the foundation on which Canadians and Canadian businesses can grow and prosper while providing support when times are tough. This has been evident throughout the pandemic with the wage and rental subsidy programs for businesses and the Canada Emergency Benefit (CEP) and Canadian Recovery Benefit for millions of Canadians.

Thanks to this rapid and unprecedented action, our labor market has rebounded faster and stronger than in the United States, and we have avoided many new bankruptcies.

Going forward, we will launch a $ 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine proof fund to support provinces and territories that implement a vaccine proof of identity requirement, allowing businesses to safely reopen .

Before the pandemic, Canada had the lowest small business tax rate in the G7 and was one of the nicest places to live, with a rapidly growing population thanks to a smart immigration policy. These benefits remain true today and as we come out of COVID-19, we are in a unique position to build back better and stronger.


During the pandemic, millions of Canadians lost their jobs, with women accounting for more than half of the job losses year over year. To get our economy back on track, Canada’s Stimulus Plan will restore a million jobs and put that many people back to work in good jobs, in all parts of Canada, in all sectors, as quickly as possible. possible. We’ll be supporting hard-hit hospitality and tourism sectors with our Dine and Discover program, and we’ll help small businesses get back on their feet with our Main Street Reconstruction Tax Credit.


Canada cannot be an economic success if workers do not participate in prosperity. When the pandemic started, businesses had to shut down.

The NDP lobbied the Liberals to increase the PCU to keep money in workers’ pockets and create the wage subsidy to allow companies to keep workers on the payroll. Without these supports and others, many Canadians and businesses would not have paid off their loans, would not have paid their rent and could not have made ends meet.

Our planned health care expansions in Canada will also attract more businesses and make it easier and cheaper for them to attract and hire workers.

Compiled by Christine Dobby, Toronto-based business reporter for The Star.

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