Know your candidate: Likky Lavji, Burnaby South

In the run up to Canada’s federal election, the Beacon is conducting interviews with candidates affiliated with the 4 major parties in Burnaby’s 3 ridings (Burnaby North-Seymour, Burnaby South, and New Westminster-Burnaby).

We asked each candidate for a virtual sit-down interview, followed by a short segment recorded on video. Not all candidates were available to appear on video or agreed to do so. The Beacon will post the segments with the candidates who did appear on video on our social media channels.

Candidate: Likky Lavji (Conservative Party of Canada)

Riding: Burnaby South (read more about the riding here)

Likky Lavji says he’s been watching the struggles of fellow business owners in Burnaby South during the pandemic, and he thinks the Conservative economic recovery plan is one that will help.

He told the Beacon that he thinks some of the problem comes from employees not wanting to work.

“I’ve been walking the Kingsway corridor over the last couple of weeks, and talking to the businesses there … they’re losing employees, they don’t have employees there. We want to bring those employees back. They’re sitting at home right now on CERB we want to bring those back and stimulate the economy,” Lavji said.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provided Canadians who had involuntarily had to stop working because of COVID and had earned less than $1,000 in a 4-week period with $500 a week.

CERB was paused last September, and replaced with the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), which gives Canadians $500 per week if they were unable to work because of COVID or had a 50% reduction in weekly income.

“CRB is still in effect until the end of October. And that’s still a concern for some of these employers. They’re having a hard time trying to get people back into work because it’s easier to stay at home,” Lavji said.

However, it’s important to note that if a person who’s applying for CRB has refused reasonable work within the 2-week period they’re applying for, they’re not actually eligible to receive the benefit and in fact face a penalty of 10 weeks of ineligibility.

Further, after September, the benefit will reduce to $600 ($540 minus taxes) per 2-week period until CRB closes on October 23. Minimum wage in BC is $15.20, meaning that if an employee were to work a 40 hour week they would make roughly the same amount in 1 week as they would on the 2-week benefit.

Lavji agreed that $15.20 is not a livable wage for the Burnaby or Vancouver area, but suggested that if small businesses were able to generate more revenue, they would in turn be able to pay their employees more. 

He touted the Conservative plan to bring in a 25-50% wage subsidy for employers, depending on how long a worker was unemployed for, along with proposed tax benefits to encourage investments into small local businesses.

Climate and Trans Mountain

Lavji’s campaign manager advised the Beacon before our interview that Lavji wouldn’t be able to answer too many questions on the topics of climate change or the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, because he hadn’t received all the relevant materials from the Conservative party

When the Beacon asked Lavji what he could say on the issues, he said “[The Conservatives will] be following the France 2030 guidelines. We believe in climate change. It’s important to make sure that we actually follow all guidelines and also work through the carbon tax that we have, and the pricing mechanism put around that.”

The Conservatives have promised to scrap the Liberal carbon tax in its current form, replacing it with a lower-priced carbon levy not exceeding $50/tonne of greenhouse gas emissions with every purchase of hydrocarbon-based fuel. The levy would go into individual savings accounts for Canadians, and they would be able to apply that money towards green purchases.

Party leader Erin O’Toole has promised that a Conservative government will ensure the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will go through as soon as possible, saying the Liberal government has faced numerous delays in getting the project built.

Those delays include staunch opposition to the project from the City of Burnaby and the provincial government.

Lavji told the Beacon that if elected, he will represent the views of Burnaby South residents in Ottawa.

“I will be the voice for the community and I will stand up for the community no matter what they say,” he said.

“And then work with the federal, municipal, and provincial legislations and what their plans are. But my job is to be the voice for the community.”

Opioid crisis

Lavji also talked up the Conservative party’s plan on mental health and addictions, including its pledge for $325 in funding over the next 3 years for residential treatment beds for people struggling with addiction, along with new recovery community centres across the country.

“That is prevention, that’s helping people get some help, and treating those people not as criminals. And when they’re actually committing a crime, let’s get them some help, as opposed to treating them as criminals.”

Lavji said he wasn’t aware, however, of any specifics around a pledge to decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs in Canada. The Conservative platform likewise contains no concrete plans, although it comes close to the subject.

“Canada’s Conservatives will treat the opioid epidemic as the health issue that it is. We believe that law enforcement should focus on dealers and traffickers. The last thing that those suffering from addiction should have to worry about is being arrested,” the Conservative plan reads. 

“Any interaction the government has with them should focus on keeping them safe and helping them recover.”

The Conservative plan around toxic drugs places huge emphasis on people seeking treatment for drug addiction or substance use disorder.  However, it makes no mention of a safe supply of alternatives to toxic street drugs to help people who may not be diagnosed with a substance use disorder, but could still fall prey to an increasingly dangerous supply of street drugs.

When the Beacon asked Lavji how the Conservative plan would protect those people, he pointed to the party’s promise to provide free Naloxone kits across the country.

Orange vs. blue

Lavji told the Beacon he doesn’t think he has much to worry about in terms of running against federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh in a historically orange riding. The current riding of Burnaby South was only created before the 2015 federal election; but the region itself has been represented by NDP MPs since 1979.

“If I stick to my own values, which are connection and caring for the people, and being a voice for the people that are in the community, I’m not worried about who the opposition is,” Lavji said.