Martin C. Barry
In a riding like Vimy, which is home to a great many cultures and ethnicities that make up the Canadian mosaic, getting the support of each is always crucial to winning any election.
Getting out the vote
So if for a while last week during Vimy Liberal candidate Annie Koutrakis’ campaign launch members of the Armenian and Lebanese communities seemed well represented, supporters from the Greek community arrived a little late, but made up for it with their warmth and enthusiasm.
“I truly believe that the people who are going to vote for me are going to go out and all the communities will be there for me equally,” Koutrakis said in an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia.
“It’s nice to see such a good turnout by the Armenians and the Lebanese. And the Greek community was also here. I thank them all for coming out to support me and my team and my campaign.”
Off to a bumpy start
Koutrakis’ recent induction to federal politics was not without turbulence. Among other things, there was controversy over the Liberal Party’s decision not to renew former Vimy MP Eva Nassif’s nomination. Then the riding association distanced itself from Koutrakis along with campaign funds.
There were also rumblings in Montreal’s Greek community, with insinuations that Koutrakis, who won the presidency of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal (HCGM) over the summer, used the position to perform a leap-frog manoeuvre and secure the Liberal nomination in Vimy.
However, all that seemed very distant during her campaign launch as supporters, family members (including her mother and father) and longtime friends gathered. Koutrakis draws inspiration from Barack Obama.
Likes to quote Obama
“It’s easier to be cynical, to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter,” she said in a speech, quoting the former U.S. president. “But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future.”
Why did she decide to run for the Liberals? “Because as far back as I can remember, I have always been a Liberal,” she continued. “I have always been in favour of political ideas that help the middle class and above all, families.
“You know, I am a woman who values family very much, I am a mother of two children who have gone to school here in Laval and I believe we must invest in our children. We must respond to the challenges they will face tomorrow.”
More funding for Laval
Koutrakis said that in addition to current transfers from the federal gasoline tax fund, the City of Laval stands to benefit directly from a portion of stable annual funding of $3 billion from Ottawa to support public transit initiatives.
“Our communities need this, Laval needs this,” she said. “Traffic costs us more than $15 billion in lost productivity per year. We have a duty to do something. It makes economic sense.”
Koutrakis said the difficulties families have in making ends meet are among her biggest concerns. “Actions speak louder than words,” she said, maintaining that the incumbent government’s tax-free Canada Child Benefit has helped more than 20,400 children in Vimy alone.
“This measure is working so well that we have decided to improve it by up to $360 a year,” she added. “Bringing it to a total maximum of $6,639 for children under six years old. The Liberal Party chose to lift nearly 300,000 children out of poverty in Canada.”
Criticizes former PM Harper
As well, she claimed that the Liberal Party’s first time home buyer incentive will help more than 100,000 first time home buyers by lowering their mortgage payment by up to $286 a month.
“For those who know me, you know that I am optimistic and that I rarely attack, because I try to act rather than criticize,” continued Koutrakis. “But there is something I cannot ignore.
“I want to talk to you about Stephen Harper’s move to raise the retirement age to 67. That is such an irresponsible and financially unnecessary decision. A great disrespect for our seniors. The Liberal Party did the right thing and brought the retirement age back to 65.”
Carbon emissions policy
Regarding the incumbent Liberal government’s policy on carbon emissions, Koutrakis said, “We have to put a price on carbon that makes polluters responsible for reimbursing the cost of their pollution.” She said this would be accomplished through reimbursements to Canadian taxpayers through tax rebates across Canada.
Referring to the Montreal Climate March, which took place a week earlier and in which Koutrakis said she participated, she stated, “We must do more, especially for our children. We [the Liberals] have already committed to planting two billion trees in ten years, a great commitment for the future. We have a duty to meet the challenges that future generations will face. And we are the only ones who can act on this matter as government.”