skinner
Pictured: Michael Skinner

Arthur: Does your party have any plans to address the issue of student debt? On average, our nation’s youth is $27k in the hole after completing an undergraduate degree. A contributing factor to this may be due to Ontario’s inflated tuition rates when considering provinces such as Newfoundland and Quebec.

Skinner: From a federal point of view, our whole objective is to create more jobs. A week ago, our Prime Minister spoke about how we are going to work with companies in generating another 1.3 million jobs. The intent is that when students come out of school, they can go into a job. We haven’t seen that necessarily, especially in Ontario, where we’ve seen lots of problems. So, from a federal point of view, we’re just going to keep pushing job creation.

As a local MP, that is my number one priority. I think the economy is very important. We’ve set aside about $65 million to work with universities and colleges to make sure they’re lined up with what employers want. I was on the Trent Business council last year and that is why I joined.
I wanted to make sure the business program lined up with what businesses actually need. You go to school for four years, you want to make sure your skills are matched. Peterborough is a perfect example.

There’s almost 5,000 people on unemployment here, but there are actually around 2,000 positions that remain unfilled. They are unfilled because the people that are graduating from school don’t have the right skills to fill those jobs. So, I think if we better align the universities and college system with employers, we can get people to get through that barrier.

The other thing is we have got a lot of paid intern programs, and we have increased the number of them as a part of our platform as well as another 5,000 positions. So I think these are really the big pieces to put in place.

Arthur: Would one of the big pieces be to meet with the premiers more often?

Skinner: Unfortunately, we cannot fix the provinces issues. People forget that the federal government gets elected just like the provincial government, just like the municipal government. The provincial government doesn’t report to the federal government and I think that’s a misconception that people have.

All three governments work for us. I’ll give you a perfect example. We graduate with 9,000 teachers each year, the provincial government pays for every teacher, hires every teacher, and we have 5,000 teaching positions. We subsidize those 9,000 positions, so why is the Ontario government graduating this many teachers if there are only 5,000 jobs? The province needs to rethink how they are doing things from an education point of view.

If you graduate from electrical engineering, you’ve got a job. It’s one of those positions that has a big void. I’d rather see our province subsidize 5,000 teachers and basically have free engineers and take the other 4,000 people who are benefiting from subsidy and actually apply it.

Like you said, education costs are very high. Students coming from abroad, typically they’re coming and paying more for university. So, it allows a lot more money to be injected into that university and college which should bring the cost down.

As we bring the cost down by bringing in more international students, the savings gets passed along to the students and so hopefully they will have less debt. It’s a long answer to your question. Lots of our graduates from Trent are traveling internationally, I’ve known a lot of them and they are going off and teaching.

There are some great provinces that understand education, and I think if Kathleen was to meet with some of the other premiers who are doing a good job, there are lots of studies out there.

Does the federal government need to pay a facilitation role? I almost hope not. I would hope that if you’re a premier, you could identify a province that’s doing a great job. Why not go and sit down with that premier, or even the minister of education, and say, “Listen, let’s look at your program.”

If I was the premier, that’s what I would do. I would say, “Hey, you’re doing a good job with healthcare, I’m going to sit down and learn from you.”

Arthur: Peterborough has one of the highest unemployment rates in all of Canada.What does your party have planned to eradicate the unemployment rate and get jobs back?

Skinner: We range from 6.5-12% and bounce up and down almost like a heart meter. It’s been that way since I joined the Peterborough economic board four years ago. We need to fix our unemployment. It’s why I’m running. I’m someone who has built a number of companies in Peterborough and I’ve built companies internationally.

Businesses create jobs. If you’ve got a company that wants to grow internationally … a lot of it is making sure the administrative cost is low. Every time we raise taxes on small businesses, it affects them directly.

I always believe in a low tax balanced budget plan. It’s the Conservative model. That’s what I need as someone who has built companies. I need the government to stop taking away the profit that I’m gathering so that I can reinvest it back into my people, and my products. I’m growing my business but I’m also hiring people. There is a direct relationship between low tax and the growth of companies.

You’ll hear from other parties where some focus on small business, some focus on large business [but] you can’t break those apart. A lot of large business have small business in their supply chain, so if you go after large businesses with higher taxes, you will affect the supply chain.

If you go after small businesses, you’ll affect their ability to create product for larger businesses, so to me, we need to just let business do what business does.

We’ve just talked about the TPP. It was a big announcement, and if you think about what we’re doing, the government is removing trade barriers. We’re removing government from business that’s already there. How do you drive most companies? You do it by driving low administrative costs, and Ontario is bad [for it].

Arthur: People are concerned with getting rid of the deficit and what to do with the taxes. Some people are concerned that this will result in the cutting of social programs because of this.

Skinner: We have increased the RRSP contribution. We did it back in 2012 and now we’re doing it again, so basically increasing the amount of money people can put away. TFSA’s as well, we’ve just increased that from $5,000 to $10,000.

Even healthcare transfers, we’ve been increasing every year; it is a balance in maintaining the economy. The best way to increase the amount of money the government gets is to create jobs as there’s a direct 1:1 ratio.

The more people working, and the more people paying taxes, means one of two things: either the government has more money, or they don’t have to collect as much tax.

I don’t believe in deficit spending personally. We have a plan to reduce the GDP ratio. I think it’s down to 25% but the intent is to lower debt because we pay interest on that debt.

Arthur: There’s been a lot on talk in the last few weeks regarding the necessary steps to take regarding the nations security. What steps does your party plan to take? How this will translate to the safety of our First Nation population, specifically women?

Skinner: There has been a call for an inquiry, and around 40 documents have been written on this subject. The reality is that we know the problem. I think it’s a matter of focusing on action. We have been focusing on investing in the RCMP to handle a lot of the crimes being committed against all women, not only indigenous women, but definitely First Nations in terms of ratio.

We have had a weaker system in terms of enforcement so I think what we’re doing is sending a clear message to the perpetrators who commit these crimes against women, First Nations or not, that enough is enough.

We’re definitely seeing it as due to some of the cultural problems we’ve had with First Nations. I think it’s more prevalent, as well as some of the conditions on some of the reserves being not as good as they are in other parts of Canada. I think there’s a lot of contributing factors. We have taken the stance of, “Let’s solve the problem and stop talking about it.”

If we know what the root problem is, let’s fix it. Let’s not spend a bunch of money on lawyers and consultants to write another document that’s going to sit on the shelf somewhere. These are crimes that are being committed and we need to spend the money on policing to make sure that they are being solved and corrected.

Arthur: You knew we were probably going to ask, going back to security, but Bill C-51? Go ahead.

Skinner: We created bill C-51 and there has been some controversy over it, for sure. It has been a major topic of conversation over the course of this election. I wish we didn’t have to have security, it would be nice to live in a world that we don’t.

I do believe that sharing information between the RCMP and CSIS is important. During 9/11, one of the big things they said was that if the departments were able to communicate, they would have been able to prevent it.

If we had had proper communication, we would have had a better chance. We have always been monitoring, we have just had a much stronger control going through to get [warrants].

This is allowing communication to go through much quicker because if there was an attack, you want to make sure that communication is going through.

I know there have been discussions on how much parliamentary oversight there should be. I know that as someone who is going to be an MP, I would trust the RCMP and CSIS to make better judgment calls than me as an MP.

Now with CSIS, I know that they have agreements to share information with other countries, and that has caused some controversy on whether or not information about Canadians will be shared with multiple sources. You have to remember that these are Canadians that are under investigation for terrorism. It’s not simple crimes, it’s very specific.

These parties are trying to do the maximum they can with the resources they have, so I believe that they are always going to be focusing on legitimate threats and not just random people.

Arthur: Can you speak to the controversy surrounding Bill- C51 and First Nations?

Skinner: Yes, if you look at the Indian act as well as the Williams act, both of those agreements have something called the Duty to Consult, and the challenge with the duty to consult is that it doesn’t actually say anywhere that it requires permission, it just requires notification.

In the past, it has come to the point where some First Nations have performed acts of civil disobedience, and so the worry is that bill C-51 will be targeted at them.

It’s only going to be targeted at them if they begin to commit terrorist acts, acts where they are blowing up buildings or pipelines, that’s the level that it would need to get to before it would get to them.

This is about nation-to-nation negotiations. Let’s get to a point where we can build a strong relationship with our First Nations and our federal government before it ever gets to a point of civil disobedience as an answer. I think as a country, we’re beyond that.

Arthur: Why Stephen Harper and the Conservative party?

Skinner: We’ve spent the last nine years running the economy. I think Stephen Harper really understands how to drive our economy. The Conservative platform of low taxes and a balanced budget is something that I believe in.

It’s all about jobs, that’s why I’m running here in Peterborough. Jobs are my number one priority. My son is 2 and when I was 20, I had to move away from Peterborough due to a lack of jobs. I don’t want my son to have to do the same. I think we’ve got some great, talented people that come to school here whether it’s Trent, Sir Sanford Fleming, and now Seneca.

We have great resources, and a beautiful environment. Anyone who takes a look at the 401 on a Friday looks at all the people coming up here to enjoy what we have. The reason we aren’t keeping them is because we don’t have the jobs, it’s as simple as that.

If I can work within the framework of the Conservative party to generate more jobs, that’s what I’m going to do. By using the Conservative platform, I think I will be able to support businesses who will in turn generate jobs. At the end of the day, it’s a combination of getting government out of business and allowing business to grow.