Clement talks budget balancing with students

Conservative MP Tony Clement gave a talk on 'balancing the books' to Campus Conservatives. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

Conservative MP Tony Clement gave a talk on ‘balancing the books’ to Campus Conservatives. (Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

Tony Clement, Conservative MP and president of Canada’s treasury board, is looking for help from some university students.

In addition to a lecture to Wilfrid Laurier University’s Campus Conservatives Friday afternoon, Clement took the stage earlier in the morning in the KPMG atrium to announce the Canadian Open Data Experience (CODE), a nation-wide appathon where students can use open government statistics to develop user-friendly applications.

“It’s just a chance for young people — well, people of all ages, really — to use government data to create a new app that may be of great help to Canadian citizens,” explained the minister from Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ontario.

“I find it really exciting that we can push this data and have it create useful apps for people. And also just an opportunity to get people engaged in the process.”

Laurier isn’t the only stop for Clement as he unravels this project. He visited the University of Manitoba and the University of Toronto prior to his presentation at Laurier’s Waterloo campus.

“The idea is to really encourage people who know how to code to go into this appathon where there will be cash and prizes, so it’s not just a slap on the back and a ‘well done,’” he added.

Clement mentioned that the project, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 2, 2014, is in relation to the government’s open data initiative. Participants in the appathon will be able to access 200,000 data sets such as federal crime statistics and residency numbers.

However, one student from Clement’s lecture asked about the government’s controversial move to a voluntary National Household Survey and what impact it has had on the data sets. But the minister claimed, “With the voluntary surveys we have found higher return rates.”

After Clement discussed the appathon, he delivered a lecture to young Campus Conservatives explaining how to “balance the books,” as well as noting some of the governments’ plans and expectations, including a federal surplus of $3.7 billion by 2015.

“We thought his portfolio would lend itself well, especially considering that Laurier has a business program. It’s really exciting to see so many students interested in politics,” said Zoë Hupman, president of Laurier’s Campus Conservatives, about Clement’s appearance.

But the appathon and government initiatives weren’t the only things on Clement’s mind.

With the Senate scandal overtaking Parliament Hill and the Conservatives’ push for the Keystone XL pipeline, Clement used some of the lecture time to share his thoughts on the two situations.

“It’s unfortunate when these things happen,” said Clement about the Senate scandal. “But our position is that it’s unacceptable to submit expenses for which you’re not entitled, and this goes for MPs and Senators. That’s why we have created more accountability mechanisms in both houses.”

He mentioned that “the Senate is a nineteenth century institution” that needs reformation “if it’s going to survive.”

“It was deliberately created to be unaccountable,” Clement told The Cord after his talk.

When it came to the Keystone pipeline, it isn’t just the opposing parties that have been hesitant, but also the American government. While hopeful that the American government will eventually budge on the project, Clement said “it defies imagination that people would be opposed” to the Keystone and other oil pipeline projects in Canada.

“Why can’t we use more Alberta oil? Why are we importing it from Venezuela or Saudi Arabia?” he explained. “It’s a lot cheaper and a lot safer than rail, so let’s utilize the technology.”

Clement later attended the University of Waterloo on Friday afternoon and Humber College in Toronto on Monday to talk more about CODE.

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