The interview below was conducted with MP Bryan Hayes on August 12, 2015.
Your term has been very clean, there has been no local scandals or anything unfavourable in that way. I’m wondering how you feel about the fact that there has been so much turmoil at the top?
You’re going to have to elaborate for me in terms of what you’re referring to in terms of ‘turmoil’.
Ok. How about the fact that we have Nigel Wright speaking today in the Mike Duffy trial. Are you concerned that this will damage the Conservative election campaign?
I’m not concerned that it will damage my campaign. And whether it will damage the national campaign- it shouldn’t. The reason I say it shouldn’t is because the RCMP when they undertook their initial investigation, I mean it was Duffy that was in the wrong and the Prime Minister told him you have to pay back the expenses and Duffy said he paid back the expenses when in fact he didn’t. The Prime Minister through the RCMP investigation – our party has been forthright. The Prime Minister has turned over every single email in relation to the event and the RCMP have clearly stated that the Prime Minister had no knowledge with respect to Nigel Wright’s cheque given to Mike Duffy. So you know the Prime Minister as far as I’m concerned has nothing to do with it. And I certainly didn’t have anything to do with it. You know Mike Duffy is accountable for his actions. And Nigel Wright is accountable for his actions. I’m not accountable for Mike Duffy’s actions any more than I’m accountable for a colleagues actions. I’m accountable for my own actions and for what comes out of my own mouth and the integrity on the table.
Earlier this week Thomas Mulcair claimed the Conservatives ministers are puppets of Ottawa. Do you feel that you have been autonomous in your position over the past four years and that you openly represented your riding?
I’m extremely satisfied with my past term. You know I hear the opposition saying that they want to be the voice in Ottawa because I haven’t been the voice in Ottawa and Ottawa doesn’t have a voice in Sault Ste. Marie- and that is absolutely far from the truth. I can point out in several places where my voice has been heard in Ottawa.
How have you demonstrated that?
With respect to the Port of Algoma there is federal funding for phase two of that development. Without my efforts lobbying and endorsements that wouldn’t be moving forward at the federal level. The National Ship Building Procurement Strategy is something that I supported and you know Essar Algoma Steel has been a beneficiary of the Canadian content of steel for our first Arctic offshore patrol vessel. The 30 million dollar loan that was announced for Essar- and I want to stress the loan because I think it’s differentiates the Conservatives from the Liberals, frankly. The 30 million dollar loan- I have been partnering with Essar and lobbying very hard for those funds and the government listened to me. And again I’m glad it’s a forgivable loan. It came at a very good time for the City of Sault Ste. Marie. As a Member of Parliament I’ve hosted several round tables for input into the federal budget. So when we came out with the budget – you know it isn’t a budget that we pull out of thin air. It’s a budget that we have consulted with. And that input has been brought forward to the finance department and the Minister of Finance. So the budget and the Economic Action Plan 2015 is a culmination of consultations from across the country. I brought forward my private members motion on domestic violence prevention. It was unanimously adopted in Parliament by all parties. It went to Committee and the Status of Women Committee has produced a report on moving forward on domestic violence prevention. To me that’s a strong voice. My voice for Veterans- I sit on the standing committee for Veterans Affairs. Through my voice on that Committee the government has adopted new polices that really assist our Veterans. We’ve introduced the new retirement income security benefit. We’ve introduced training dollars of $75,800 for Veterans that are injured for training purposes. We’ve expanded the permanent impairment allowance. We’ve brought parity – and this is something that I interviewed about over a year ago, the key one that I was asked about was that I brought parity through our committee through our Reserve Forces that are injured- they have parity with our Regular Forces in terms of benefits. I think that is incredible important. And obviously in terms of my position on the National Steel caucus –I’ve worked very hard and I’m the liaison between Essar Steel, Tenaris, our major employers to bring concerns to Ottawa. And you know as a result of my work and the work of the Committee, the Canadian Steel Producers Association have endorsed our budget 2015…
…And I quote from the President Ron Watkins “Budget 2015 includes commitments that our industry has strongly supported as essential to strengthening our market and investment prospects.”
So those are all things that I have worked hard at and I believe that my voice is absolutely and unequivocally being heard in Ottawa on behalf of our residents. If I felt that after four and a half years as a Member of Parliament that I had nothing concrete that I could actually show I made a difference- I would actually question why I’m here.
Ok- I have a few more questions that I want to get to…
Sure we’ve got time. We’ve got time.
Ok- oil is now down to 43 dollars a barrel but local gas is still at 129.9 a litre. Does the government plan to intervene to stop refinery from gouging consumers?
I don’t believe there is a role for the federal government to intervene. The price of oil and gasoline is a commodity. It is market driven. I don’t dispute- because I question myself the cost of gas still being as high as it is at the local pumps where the price of oil is where it’s at. There is an ombudsman that investigates these situation so if somebody feels there is price gouging per say, or price fixing- because I mean it seems to be across the board- then there should be a request put forward for the ombudsman to look into that. But from the perspective of the federal government we don’t regulate the prices at the pumps.
In May of this year, local unemployment was at 8.7% almost 2% higher than that provincial and national average. What do you and the Conservative government intend to do about that?
Well, its things were already doing. Let’s face it, the government doesn’t – it’s the private sector that has to factor into the picture. The government needs to be providing the incentives to the private sector in order for them to create jobs. I mean obviously the largest factor contributing to our unemployment in Sault Ste. Marie right now is the price of oil. I mean basically the Tenaris workforce is not in existence right now. But as a government we can certainly contribute to support businesses creating jobs. And we do that. We have plans to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019. When we formed government the corporate tax rate was at 21%, it’s now at 15%. Those are our job creators –our businesses. We’ve done things for our businesses. We’re increasing lifetime capital gains exemptions for owners of farms and fishing businesses. We’ve implemented the accelerated that capital costs allowance which enables our corporations tax breaks to reinvest in new equipment. We’ve got a program called FedNor which is there to assist businesses. We’ve got programs called Future Entrepreneur Canada where we’re providing 14 million dollars over 2 years to support young entrepreneurs. We recognize that it’s business that needs to move things forward. We need to provide the incentives, opportunities, tax breaks. We’ve got what is called Venture Capital Access Plan available to grow and create job by making venture capital available for small businesses. And you know, we have as a country demonstrated one of the best economic performances among G7 countries over the recovery. It’s been tough and we’re not out of the vote by any stretch of the imagination. The global economy is still incredibly fragile. The last thing we need to do is have tax increases. We need to be in a position where we’re providing for our businesses. We don’t’ want to be increasing business tax rates. We don’t want to be increasing employment insurance rates. We don’t want to be implementing new pension plans that are going to be costing our small businesses and individuals. If you actually talk to some of our corporations and some of our businesses and ask them “what would it mean if your bottom line decreased by 1.9%”-and steel specifically- it’s such a volatile industry and the margins are so incredibly small that a 2% difference in tax rate- be it through pay roll taxes, be it through corporate taxes- will have a profound negative affect on our businesses.
There’s been some criticism that the support for small business is not accessible. There has been particular criticism of FedNor for being rather onerous in its application process. And that a lot of people that may benefit from FedNor programs are intimidated by that process.
I would actually find that pretty hard to believe. I’m obviously a big advocate for FedNor and there’s an awful lot of applications that come in for FedNor. Quite frankly all the applications can’t be accommodated. So FedNor is being used. People are absolutely accessing FedNor. Since 2006 we have invested 340 million dollars in FedNor projects in Northern Ontario- 1,645 projects since 2006. And that’ supported the 21,500 jobs throughout Northern Ontario. And obviously as a Member of Parliament if I heard that people were having difficulties accessing FedNor or that the process was too difficult- I would be hearing that from those people who are applying. I am absolutely not hearing that. Not hearing that at all.
Of 3,000 Canadians polled last year, 70.7% said the government should either legalize marijuana -37.3% said that, or decriminalize the possession of a small amount of pot – 33.4% said that. This week Prime Minister Harper claimed that most Canadians do not want the full legalization of marijuana because it could become more readily available to children and the health outcomes could be burdensome. In 2014 the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health released a report supporting a public health approach, and the legalization of pot- in other words an approach similar to alcohol and tobacco, allows for more control over the risk factors associated with cannabis related harm. Are Harper’s views on legalization a bit antiquated? Possibly misinformed?
No. His views match my views. And I don’t believe my views are antiquated and misinformed at all. I don’t believe in the legalization of marijuana. Health Canada has gone on record as stating the negative impacts of marijuana use. It’s my understanding marijuana is 300 to 400 percent stronger than it used to be. It’s my understanding that legalizing marijuana in Colorado has had a profound negative impact on its availability to youth. And it has become more available and I don’t believe that it should become more available. I believe that it has negative health impacts and Health Canada has pretty much stated that. And I believe there has been some hospitalization of youth in Colorado over –not OD’ing per say, but overuse of marijuana just simply because of its strength. That being said- that’s my concern. It’s my belief that legalizing it will make it more readily available. I believe that fully and I don’t believe that it should be readily available to our children. With respect to decriminalization, I understand people’s position on decriminalization on small amounts. You know I do believe that it’s unfortunate that if a young person made a mistake and got caught with a small marijuana and if it’s on their record forever and negatively impacts their future employment opportunities for example or their ability to cross into the United States- but there is a side of me that understands that but there is also a side of me that says that was their choice. So maybe there needs to be more education around the implications of possession. That being said I am aware that the police Chiefs from across Canada, the Police Associations –they undertook a study on the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, and I know there are members within the government that believe that that might be an approach. I’ll certainly read the report and I would want to make an educated decision to really understand the implications of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. Suffice to say I have an open-mind to the decriminalization component but certainly not to the legalization component.
I see. Ok. So you’re not going to be enjoying any funny brownies anytime soon then?
No! Absolutely not!
But do you want to?
Do I want to? No I don’t want to! I’ll have a beer thanks!
Ok. What kind of beer do you like?
I’m a Coors Light guy.
What kind of light weight are you?
Yeah…I’m a light weight. I’m absolutely a light weight.
Are you a scotch drinker?
I do like scotch. And you know I never, ever did until I became a Member of Parliament and I went to Robbie Burns night which is an annual celebration on the Hill and I had two or three scotch that night and it was the first time I really ever had more than a sip and I really enjoyed it. When you have a chance to really try the different types of scotch you’re like ‘hmm, ok’. So ever since then I actually partake in scotch on a somewhat regular basis.
Ok. So what brands of scotch do you favour?
Well I like Balvenie. Yeah, it’s good. And I don’t mind Glenfiddich. Well say those two –for now.
So if someone wants to bribe you they bring a bottle of scotch?
Yeah…I’m not bribable. Trust me.
Ok. My last question- Does the popularity of the NDP party have you at all concerned about re-election for yourself? And associated with that question, what do you think of the other two candidates?
I’ll talk about the other two local candidates first. I will go on the record as saying that I have the utmost respect for anybody that will put their name out there and seek public office. And obviously Terry has done that with City Council and I’ve been on Council with Terry. And I have great respect for Terry. He’s a great guy, a great family man. I have no issue with Terry. Skip Morrison- I don’t know him very well as a person, but again he’s putting it out there and good for him. People need to put their belief system out there and I wish more people would be more engaged in voting and following their own belief system to see which party best matches their belief system. In terms of the NDP popularity- what happened, they had a little jump in the polls after Albertans voted for the NDP. But I don’t think that was them voting for the NDP, I think that was them taking a stance perhaps because they were angry that an election was called in the first place and I think maybe they were pointing the finger at Jim Prentice. And I think the challenge in Alberta is there basically two Conservative parties- the Wild Rose and the PC’s and the NDP sort of slid up the middle. I think if we look at the NDP record, in Ontario they lasted a term, in Albert I believe they will last a term. I think when I campaign I will be clearly pointing out the differences in Conservative policy and NDP policy and I believe that residents of Sault Ste. Marie will understand the NDP high tax agenda and now is not the time for high taxes. We’re going to balance the budget. We have legislation moving forward that says we’re going to continue to balance the budget- or that all parties must balance the budget unless there is some extenuating circumstance and I think it’s important that we do balance the budget right now. And a lot of people share that. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has quoted that they are very supportive of the Government’s effort to eliminate the deficit in 2015 and return to a balanced budget. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives has said that in this challenging environment that it is vital the Canadian Government stays focused on balancing its budget. And you’re not going to balance the budget on the backs of its taxpayers. We have a low tax agenda that is working. And some people are saying the federal government’s economic policy aren’t working because we’re moving in to another recession. I just want to remind people that it was this government that guided Canada through the past recession. I think it would be a grave mistake if we are in fact moving into a recession to change leadership simply for the sake of change. I think you need a steady hand, I think you need experience and that is what this government brings. I believe that Canadians, when it is all said and done, will very clearly understand that.