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Federal Conservatives start
their initiatives in the GTA’s
Italian community

TORONTO – Liberal MPs have been skittish lately. Polls, internal family issues at the top and Cabinet overhaul have left them distracted. Some of them are giving it one last try to secure a Cabinet or Parliamentary Secretary position while waiting for what will be another, inevitable, pre-election shuffle.

The Conservatives have a different challenge. They need to make themselves credible among the middle class in GTA ridings, where the NDP barely register, and still convey the impression that they are reflective of the Canadian dream. They need to “humanize” the fiscal message attributed to the message of the Conservative Party.

Melissa Lantsman, a first-term MP from Thornhill, thought she would give it a try with the Corriere. We agreed on two conditions: no “gotcha” journalism on our side and no “boilerplate talking points” from hers. What follows is a summary of the exchange.

Are we miscasting politicians of your party as disconnected from the typical immigrant experience the post World War two era?

You are. My family comes from a Russian Jewish background. We believe that hard work and education can lead to the realization of the dreams that invited us to leave our home, from so far away. My Father and mother came here in the mid-1970s. They had to start over again. My dad, a trained engineer with unrecognized professional credentials, drove a cab so that my mother could go back to school. My mom wanted to be a teacher but did not have the language skills, so she became an accountant and eventually a CFO of … you guessed it, an Italian construction company. It may have been a time that one could drive a taxicab, save up to buy a house in a nice neighbourhood to raise kids and be stay safe.

Are you suggesting that is no longer an attainable goal?

Not in the least. But the challenges are different, and the times are changing. The population is aging. Those people like my parents, like their counterparts bordering on Vaughan, now as grandparents, live in homes that their kids – let alone grandkids – cannot afford to buy. It is much more difficult to raise a family to aspire to be better or to be in better circumstances than the one they sacrificed to create. That dream is gone.

Are you saying that it will never come back? If not, how do we bring it back?

I think we have an obligation to bring it back, or to restart the plan that may lead to its restoration. We’d have to build the plan piece by piece. We have to start with a serious effort to “fix the foreign credentials” issue. No advanced country can tolerate having highly-skilled, professionally trained immigrants languishing in “jobs without advancing their careers”. We may have to engage unions and professional associations as never before. The time may be ripe: it is generally accepted that some 20,000 qualified but uncredentialed doctors have made their way into Canada, yet we have a “shortage” of 20,000 family doctors. It can’t take a genius to figure out how to marry the two for a solution.

We could go into a deep dive on immigration. Let’s agree that no serious political party is against planned immigration policies and go to today. If there were one policy on which you, or any one else should concentrate if elected to govern, what would that be?

Lowering the cost of living… getting the inflation crisis under control. I would love to see a tax cut rights across the board; especially eliminate those whose political objectives are difficult to measure and justify. Ours is a big country and any policy taxation that affects transportation will lead to price increases everywhere. People are working more, harder and still not getting further ahead. That’s not the Canadian dream.

That might take us into a series of interviews. We would be happy to engage in those discussions, with you and/or other colleagues.

Thank you. I think we are all committed to reaching out more and more often. We all have a stake in the growth of our country and its people.

From the left: Publisher Joe Volpe, MP Melissa Lantsman and Rabea Allos in Corriere Canadese’s editorial office (photo> Raul Lima)

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