Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer promises to appoint Kevin Falcon to cochair commission on corporate welfare

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      Opponents of the Conservative party often accuse it of being in the back pocket of big business.

      This weekend, leader Andrew Scheer tried to blunt these attacks by promising a "Commission on the Reduction of Government Subsidy Programs to Corporations".

      The cochairs would be former B.C. Liberal finance minister Kevin Falcon and former VIA Rail president and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano.

      Scheer said that if he becomes prime minister, this commission would have a mandate to reduce corporate subsidies by $1.5 billion per year. It would also recommend performance metrics for corporate welfare programs.

      “You shouldn’t have to be a billionaire to get your government’s attention,” Scheer said in a news release. “You deserve a government, and a prime minister, whose first priority will be to help you get ahead.”

      Falcon came second in the race to succeed Gordon Campbell as B.C. Liberal leader, narrowly losing to Christy Clark in 2011.

      A special prosecutor later alleged there were voting irregularities by members of Clark's team. And Falcon himself has since called for third-party oversight of party leadership races.

      Clark has been a vocal federal Liberal in the past and worked as an aide to a federal Liberal cabinet minister during the 1990s.

      Falcon is currently the executive vice president of Anthem Properties Group. Its porfolio includes 3.5 million square feet of commercial space, 16 hectares of developable land in urban and suburban areas, and 3,500 condos either in the design or development phase or under construction.

      “There is a truism I’ve learned watching governments of all stripes throw taxpayer dollars at undeserving corporations," Falcon said in the Conservative news release. "Governments have a terrible record of picking between winners and losers. I’m proud to have been part of a government that eliminated all corporate subsidies, grants and equity investments to individual for-profit businesses. I applaud the Conservative party and Andrew Scheer for their commitment to scale back this corporate welfare and redirect it where it belongs, in the pockets of Canadian families."

      Desjardins-Siciliano said he's "honoured" to cochair the review and expressed confidence that it would yield the expected benefits.

      TransLink Mayors' Council chair Jonathan Cote says the Conservative platform could lead to the delay of funding for rapid-transit extensions to Surrey's Fleetwood area and to UBC's Point Grey campus.

      Platform raises questions about SkyTrain extensions

      The announcement came a day after Scheer unveiled the Conservatives' fully costed platform, which extended the Investing in Canada Plan for spending $187 billion on infrastructure from 12 to 15 years.

      It commits the Conservatives to providing funds for the George Massey Tunnel Replacement Project and all projects already committed to by the Liberal government.

      There are no federal commitments for extending the Millennium Line from Arbutus Street in Vancouver to UBC's Point Grey campus and the Expo Line from King George Station to Fleetwood.

      Both of these projects are supported by the TransLink Mayors' Council.

      That's prompted its chair, New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote, to warn that the Conservative platform could delay these two rapid-transit projects indefinitely.

      It's too early to say whether Scheer's promised commission into corporate welfare will examine federal programs benefiting two large Montreal-based corporations, SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier Inc..

      Each has won huge contracts in the past to develop SkyTrain lines or provide SkyTrain cars. Bombardier's Berlin-based subsidiary, Bombardier Transportation, manufactures SkyTrain vehicles.

      But it's worth noting that both Desjardins-Siciliano and Falcon have a great deal of familiarity with amount of public money going into train travel in Canada.

      Falcon spent six years as B.C.'s minister of transportation and infrastructure, so he's well aware of the role that SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier have played in the expansion of Metro Vancouver's rapid-transit system.

      He was a cabinet minister when the B.C. Liberal government decided to build, finance, and operate the $2-billion Canada Line through a public-private partnership that included SNC-Lavalin.

      SNC-Lavalin was also chosen as the primary contractor for the Evergreen Extension linking Lougheed Station with Coquitlam Centre in October 2012.

      This occurred just over a month after Falcon quit as B.C.'s finance minister and announced that he wouldn't seek reelection in 2013.

      It's also worth noting that Scheer's reelection campaign has focused a great deal of attention on Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's efforts to prevent SNC-Lavalin from facing criminal charges on corruption-related offences.

      Earlier in the campaign, Scheer promised a judicial inquiry into this situation.

      The Conservative leader has also pledged to introduce legislation to permit the RCMP to seek judicial review to investigate cases in which "cabinet confidence" has been cited to thwart police probes.

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