A local Member of Parliament held a number of “Coffee With Dave” stops last week in Ridgetown to discuss a wide range of topics.
MP Dave Epp of the Conservative Party of Canada was in Ridgetown last week to host the coffee meet and greet at Yeck’s Smokehouse Grill.
Epp made stops on May 24 and May 25 around Chatham-Kent as part of a two-day event. He spoke and heard from many regarding issues ranging from the economy, affordability, inflation, housing, vaccine mandates, and the conservative leadership process.
While discussing many topics and hearing from many in attendance, Epp clarified why he supports Jean Charest for the party’s leadership.
“I am supporting John Charest. And the reason for that is quite frank, I think he has the best opportunity for us to replace Justin Trudeau,” said Epp.
The Member of Parliament posted a video on his Facebook page last week offering his endorsement of the former Quebec premier, who also served as a leader for the former Progressive Conservatives before the federal party’s merger with the Canadian Alliance.
“There was one question above all others that would determine my decision,” Epp said. “That question was who would be the most effective leader to represent the broad blue tent and articulate what we as Conservatives believe?”
In addition to Charest, who served as Quebec premier as a Liberal, the other candidates seeking the Conservative leadership are Scott Aitchison, Roman Baber, Patrick Brown, Leslyn Lewis and Pierre Poilievre.
He believes the party must consider the bigger picture of a general election, particularly reaching out to potential supporters in the “vote-rich (Greater Toronto Area) and other urban centres.”
“Believing in change but not having the power to change is something we all know too well,” Epp said, “together we must save Canada from Justin Trudeau.”
Candidates vying to become the next Conservative leader have until June 3 to sign up new members. The new leader will be announced on Sept. 10.
Epp also spoke to residents with concerns regarding how businesses will bounce back from being affected by shutdowns during the pandemic.
According to Epp, in almost every sector, he hears mainly from the business community about an acute labour shortage, meaning they can’t find enough people to work.
He said the average business took on an additional $160,000 of additional business debt during the pandemic.
He said this problem also ties into the housing problems.
“We can’t find enough people to build the houses to address the affordability aspect. There’s a number of factors, but there is a supply and demand imbalance,” he said. “Our supply chains are so interwoven that we’re going to have to look at shortening and making some of them far more domestic.”
Epp also said while he likes to get out and listen, he’s happy he’s also had the opportunity throughout the pandemic to conduct several surveys. He added he reads every one.
“As a member of Parliament, my job right now is to represent approximately 109,640 people. How do I do that when even the feedback at times is diametrically opposed,” he said.
He highlighted that the surveys allow people to ask for more spending in a certain area specifically. He noticed there’s a large recurring theme on the surveys.
“There is a broad consensus, particularly within our healthcare system, that we need more,” he said.
However, Epp explained to those in attendance that every government is faced with a similar problem.
“Where should it come from? Where do we cut, or do we raise higher? The reality is prior to the pandemic, we added $112 billion to our federal debt. Now, with the pandemic, we’re sitting at $1.2 trillion in federal debt. And that servicing cost alone, right now, is going to be passing $40 billion a year, which is not going toward health care, housing, or anything else, simply to service the cost of our debt. So this is one of the conundrums that every government is facing. How do we do that? How and where would you suggest that we’d not spend to reorient?” he said
Epp has been a Member of the House of Commons of Canada since 2019.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News