Andrew Scheer sits down for Q&A with the Star

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Young families trying to start a business are among those facing red tape and dwindling supports. Where does entrepreneurship land on your priority last?

I paid my way through university waiting tables at a restaurant that the owner had cashed in savings and opened. I benefited from that risk — the multiplier effect is huge. Our party will recognize the benefits of entrepreneurship and promote it. Corresponding with that is a tax regime that allows them to benefit from those risk. When things like Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance rates go up, that really is a double whammy on the self-employed. That’s why we’ve been vocal in our opposition to a payroll tax that takes out of the bottom line.

There are young families who are forced to decide between buying groceries or paying utilities, or are unable to afford transit or gas to get to work. What’s your plan to address this disparity?

There’s a study I saw that half of Canadian families are nearly $200 away from not being able to pay their bills. We can make sure that we’re lowering taxes as much as possible so people are keeping as much of their income as we can possibly get to. We can eliminate the carbon tax, so things like groceries are less expensive. We can look at things that increase competition, that make sure that Canadians have access to cheaper goods and better services at lower prices.

Home ownership is becoming increasingly elusive for young families. What are you proposing to help millennials buy their first homes?

We’re going to talk about measures that bring down the cost of housing. It’s about development times. It’s about regulatory red tape that adds to the costs, meaning that it’s harder to get new supply out to the market. We’re talking about how there is not a national housing market — there are many regional housing markets and the government needs to have some flexibility — and addressing the negative aspects of the government’s stress test on mortgages, which has pushed the ability to qualify for a mortgages out of the hands of many young families.

Where do immigrant families fit into the Conservatives’ picture of a prosperous Canada?

Some tangible things government can do is ensuring that there is access to language training and foreign credential recognition — there is still a lot of work that needs to be done there. We want to work with the provinces to recognize the benefits when there are more professionals to ply their trade, and the individuals have better outcomes when they are able to work in the field they are trained in.

Young Indigenous families seem to feel increasingly left out of the Canadian dream of a sustainable middle-class living. What can you do to keep them on track?

That’s a huge challenge. (We will invest) extra resources for programs like skills training and development. A lot of that is going to have to be accomplished through partnerships with Indigenous leaders. That’s why we’re so disappointed when Justin Trudeau cancelled the Northern Gateway pipeline. There are contracts that are signed that provide a source of revenue to the bands themselves, who then are able to design their own programs for dealing with stabilizing life on the reserve. Our government will champion the types of projects, the types of investments and types of natural resource exploration that will benefit Indigenous Canadians.

How will you make it easier for young Canadians to access post-secondary education without taking on large levels of debt?

A federal Conservative government would only increase those transfer payments to provinces for post-secondary education. That’s an increase of at least 3 per cent per year. That baseline funding is there that will help at least stabilize tuition rates, if not facilitate the reduction, because the province will know their funding is going up every year. We will have a specific proposal during the campaign about helping people save for post-secondary education.

What will you do to make child care affordable for young families? Any plans to introduce a national child care plan?

We’re going to continue to increase funding for those social programs at 3 per cent per year. The Canadian Child Care Benefit is actually a Conservative idea and we’re going to maintain that. We’re going to continue to follow the path of direct supports to parents as the preferred option.

How will you convince the next generation, who care about climate change, that it’s a threat to their future that you take seriously?

We unveiled our real plan for the environment, which focuses on technology, not taxes. It has over 50 specific proposals aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and incentivizing research and development. We’re the only party that’s talking about banning the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers, lakes and oceans. Also conservation, ensuring that Canada is setting aside significant percentages of our territory to be left in its natural habitat.

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We’ve been promoting flexibility in government programs for new moms, to recognize that taking time away from work is often a challenge financially. That’s why our proposal to make maternity leave benefits tax free is very popular.

Many Toronto voters are concerned about rising gun violence, the highest housing costs in the country and the impact of provincial funding cuts. Given that Toronto’s 25 ridings are key to your success, what are your top priorities for Torontonians?

Our priorities are to make sure that federal dollars are there for big infrastructure projects that will help people get around the city, deal with traffic congestion and improve public transit. We have a plan for a safer Canada, that goes after the criminals, that makes it easier for police to get convictions when it’s related to gang offences. We’re listening to the experts on this. The chiefs are asking for reforms to bail. All the Liberals are talking about is a ban on certain types of firearms.

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