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Local all-candidates debates heat up as election date draws near
by Sandy Lindsay

October 4, 2015

Federal

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There is no doubt that the all-candidates 'debates' are heating up as the Election date draws near and is only two weeks away.

The recently held 'debate' in Walkerton drew more than 100 people to the Victoria Jubilee theatre where candidates from all four parties fielded questions from the audience.

From questions that pertained to local issues to broader issues, audience members wanted answers from each candidate and the following are only a few of the questions and answers.

The first local issue raised referred to the government's divestiture of airports and, in particular, those that serve smaller, more rural communities.  "Maintaining airports is a large burden for small community local governments," said one questioner, who continued to ask if what each party would do to maintain a national airport policy to support small community airports and what they were prepared to do for infrastructure programs for community airports.

Conservative (Ben Lobb):

Lobb said that the (C) government has provided support to airports of all sizes and, since 2006, there have been "... tremendous dollars spent on small airports to improve runways and surrounding space each year.  Municipalities own the airports and it's their perogative to put in applications.   You don't have to go far in this region to see the funding that has been provided to small airports."

At this point, the questioner stridently disagreed with the answer and the candidate (Lobb) asked if this was in fact a debate with audience members.

"This government has done nothing for airports," said the audience member, "and no airport in this area has received funding because of the restrictions."

Green Party (Jutta Splestoesser):

"I honestly don't know our Party's position on small airports or a national policy," said the candidate, "but I will look into it.  What I can say is that in our municipal election, I looked at the airport in the municipality of Kincardine and it would have been $14million for expansion, which is not possible for a small community.  There was a discussion to apply for 'Canada Build' funding and I think this issue has to be addressed in this riding."

Liberal (Allan Thompson):

"Infrastructure of all kinds is important in any community but especially important in a rural community where we are not serviced by other forms of public transit or trains.  Therefore, I think local airports are very important, are a part of our infrastructure. 

One of the most significant parts of the platform that Justin Trudeau has put forward is an historic investment in infrastructure of all kinds, double what is currently being spent.  A Liberal government is going to turn to communities and ask 'what is most important to you and what matters to your community?'  I would think that having a well-functioning airport in a rural community is a critical part of the economy."

NDP (Gerard Creces):

"As a former reporter at the municipal level, I have seen 'bubblegum fixes' and we have to stop doing this. 
We need long-term planning.   If added another 'cent' into the gas tax fund, that money could go back into the municipalities."

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The questioning then turned to the broader issue of the proposed deep geologic repository (DGR) at the Bruce Power nuclear site.

Local resident, John Mann, asked the candidates if they could answer why two DGRs were being proposed - one for low and intermediate waste that included  "clothes worn by workers" and another for spent fuel.  Mann asked why one DGR couldn't accommodate both and went on to ask, as he has many times in the past, about alleged 'secret meetings' between Bruce County Council and those in the nuclear industry.

NDP (Creces):

Creces said that there was a difference between the levels - low and intermediate and high level waste.  "Right now, all of it is above ground.  It is a difficult situation but both parties have to be willing to sit down and talk.  In the past, they were talking about shipping steam generators to Sweden to have them recycled.  We should develop that technology here.  People ask that another plan be explored and then they don't like that plan either.  A community vote is the first and most important step but we have to establish the size of the community ... is it Bruce County, is it the Great Lakes Basin, or even wider, is it anyone who draws water from that basin?  Both sides really have to sit down and hash out an agreement.  We have to think about this as high level and that something has to be done.  If this (fuel) is going to be retrievable in the future, then that is where I want to see the money invested.  Why ship to Sweden when we can build here and recycle and process?"

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Conservative (Lobb):

"We are a federation and respect each jurisdiction ... municipal, county and provincial.  The municipality of Kincardine and elected Council wanted to be a host community for low and intermediate waste with the support of Bruce County Council at the time, and that support is still there.  All the low and intermediate waste is currently at the Bruce Power site managed by OPG at the Western Waste Management facility.  The project was approved by Canadian Environmental Assessment. The community has spoken.  The scientists have spoken.  Current Council continues to support the program.  Regarding spent fuel, technology is being worked on to recycle and CANDU is excited about those opportunities.  As a country with nuclear energy, we have a long-term commitment to find long-term storage for spent fuel and, hopefully, we find a way to recycle and re-purpose through technology.

Green Party (Splestoesser):

"Why are we building two DRGs?" said Splestoesser of the Green Party, "because it was planned.  The CNSC, OPG and our local mayors worked together.  How do we get involved? By educating ourselves.  What I keep hearing is that there are too many Canadians and, even here, local residents who still don't know what it's all about.  There is the DGR (deep geologic repository) and APM (adaptive phase management) for spent fuel.  Over 30 years, five local municipalities were promised to get paid $35million but the licensing still has not been given and, whoever is elected, will have the decision making but we still have a voice.  The Green Party has a position ... there should be no nuclear waste burial in the Great Lakes basin.  Water and nuclear waste do not mix." 

Liberal (AllanThompson:

"When it comes to low and intermediate waste there are two things that are of utmost importance - the continued safety and security of our communities and the support of nuclear energy as a safe, clean source of energy and it is the backbone of our local economy.   As to the two-track decision making process for the DGR,  I come back to the central point of our Liberal campaign ... government has to abide by evidence-based policy making.  A policy was made to go on these two tracks - dealing with low and intermediate waste first and to deal later on a much longer time line with the more complicated and vexed question of spent fuel and can we find a use for it before it comes time to dispose of it in storage.  Government needs to abide by this two-track program and evidence-based policy making. "

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There were many other contentious issues raised, including the issue of Bill C51 and the stripping of Canadian citizenship.

Southampton resident, Ken Robertson, said that he supports Stephen Harper who is part of a government designed to address concerns about terrorism.  "There is proposed legislation that will see convicted terrorists who have dual citizenship have their Canadian citizenship revoked ... I think that is leadership. I ask the Liberal candidate what he thinks and that these people should remain in Canada."

Liberal (Allan Thompson):

"A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian," said Thompson adamantly. "This is a fundamental aspect of our country and of our Charter of Rights and our Rule of Law.  If you are born here, as was I, your are a Canadian citizen.  If I make the choice to move to this country and I am admitted to Canada legally and I am granted Canadian citizenship ... then, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.  If I commit a heinous crime, I should go to jail and that's where I should stay.  It's our responsibility, whether we like it or not, that if someone is admitted to this country legally and is a member of our society, then that person should go to jail.  Why should you strip anyone of their citizenship and deport them to 'god' knows where?  Why would you do that? Why would you send a person back to Iraq or Somalia or Syria ... for what?  To be a Canadian defends a fundamental principle of our society and when we start creating second-class citizens, everyone who is not born in this country but chooses this country, will start looking over their shoulder asking ... am I next?  What crime is now going to warrant stripping Canadian citizenship? ... a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian."

Thompson received wide applause from the audience.

Conservative (Lobb):

Candidate Lobb disagreed with the Liberal candidate.  "If you are out door knocking, I wouldn't try that line on residents here in Bruce, you will find out real quick that the vast majority of people in this riding  ... if you have dual citizenship and you commit an act of terror, you are out of here! 

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Overall, the debates have obviously began to heat up and the next one is October 8th in Port Elgin at the PLEX.


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