Complete Federal All-Candidates meeting available
October 11, 2015
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Federal Candidates 2015
(L-R) Ben Lobb (Conservative incumbent), Allan Thompson (Liberal) Jutta Splettstoesser (Green Party) and Gerard Creces (NDP)
Rotary Hall was filled to capacity to hear Federal candidates
It was standing room only as close to 300 people filled Rotary Hall at the Plex in Port Elgin (Saugeen Shores) on Thursday, October 8th (2015) for another in the series of Federal all-candidates meetings leading up to the Federal Election on October 19th.
The meeting was organized by the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and the Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce to introduce candidates in the Huron Bruce riding to residents and to give residents the opportunity to pose questions to them.
The questions ranged widely in content from health care to women's issues, the deep geologic repository (DGR) to Veterans Affairs, water protection and the recent TransPacific Partnership to omnibus bills.
Carolyn Day of Southampton extended a question directly to incumbent Ben Lobb regarding fresh water protection as she has been involved with committees for 10 years regarding the subject. "When your government took office," she said, "there were approximately 2.5 million rivers and lakes protected by law. Following two omnibus bills, the repeal of the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Act, there are now only 159 lakes and rivers that retain protection. Are you (Lobb) ok with this? Why did your government feel it necessary to strip the protection of lakes and rivers?"
Conservative Ben Lobb said that there has been a lot of misinformation and rivers such as the Bayfield and Saugeen no longer had 'shipping' and, with regard to species at risk, he referred to red tape when it came to farmers' drains.
He said that his government was trying to avoid duplication of services through the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of the Environment. "It used to be that two Environmental Assessments, Federal and Provincial, were required and that is a waste. Engineering companies are competent enough to provide one assessment. It is about protecting both the environment and our pocketbooks. We protect the waters where navigation takes place and the only navigation we see on our rivers is in the spring by canoe and if you're lucky, it doesn't tip."
NDP Gerard Creces weighed in saying that just because a river such a the Bayfield doesn't have shipping doesn't mean that the water should not be protected. Just because cargo is not shipped doesn't mean it doesn't have value and that's the same with all rivers and streams across this country. Our approach to water is simple. Treat it as a resource and not a commodity. We (NDP) also want to create a clean water strategy as all Canadians have a right to clean, fresh and accessible drinking water."
Jutta Splettstoesser of the Green Party said that her Party's philosophy regarding water is to keep it, conserve it and protect it.
"Water exports should not be allowed and we are worried about that with this new trade agreement. Also, Environmental Assessments are needed. By changing it and not protecting our rivers, we are basically making it easier for industry to access our waters and, obviously, Canadians want protection"
"This community is essentially a coastal area traversed by a number of rivers and important watersheds," said Liberal candidate Allan Thompson. "Therefore, we simply cannot do enough to protect our fresh water resources. This previous government has cut in this area and it is well known the disregard of science and for evidence-based policy making. A Liberal government would increase by ten times across the country a reinvestment in research and science devoted to our fresh water and oceans."
Although a question was raised around attracting doctors to rural communities and the fact that it is a provincial issue, Jutta Splettstoesser raised the point that it is a Federal issue when it comes to allowing doctors from other countries to enter the country and practice. "Our barriers are also becoming larger for refugees to enter."
Liberal candidate Thompson said that although health care is delivered by the province it is a joint responsibility. "When knocking on doors, the second most discussed area of concern is health care, without question. There is a very real concern and it stems from living in a rural community, a long way from specialists, and is one of the most important policy issues to deal with ... and it's not enough to blame the provinces. I think we need a prime minister who would take a leadership role on such an important issue and look for ways to bring about Federal-Provincial cooperation to bring forward some sort of change in the improvement of health care. A member of parliament representing a rural area like Huron Bruce should make it an absolute priority to try and address and make others address the situation in rural communities. This is not unique to this area but we don't have a real sense of national best practices and what is working in other places and other provinces. That's because there's not a lot of conversation going on because we have a prime minister who is not taking a leadership role on critical files like health care and that has to change."
NDP's Creces said his party would build new clinics across the country and he said that the Federal government's role is work with the provinces. "The government's role is to not let a $36Billion accord expire and then refuse to sit down with them and that's exactly what has happened. We want to help 7,000 new doctors and nurses and develop a mental health strategy for young adults. Right now, there are one and a half million young adults under 24 who don't have adequate mental health services and, in a rural riding such as this, it hits harder because there is a lack of transportation and there is isolation." He said that it is paramount to get the health accord that Harper let expire back in shape.
Lobb immediately put the blame on the Ontario premier. "We are transferring record amounts of money to the province for health care - $34billion this year and that's up significantly at six per cent per year. Unfortunately, successive premiers McGuinty and Wynne increased health care at 1.5 per cent so the other 4.5 they are keeping for something else other than health care." He went on to say that Ontario needs a premier who respects doctors and health care and starts to provide health care in the province. He also said that the government is working with student loan forgiveness for doctors willing to work in rural areas and fundraising efforts. "The Gateway Centre provides rural health promotion and that has been very effective to encourage doctors to come here and for research. In Huron Bruce, Kincardine and Walkerton Hospitals have signed on with Gateway, as well as other hospitals, and it is a doctor recruiting tool that has worked very effectively."
Art Grady of Southampton asked about omnibus bills and specifically whether each candidate was for or against them, their reasons for their decision and, if against, what change they would incur for democracy, transparency and reasonable debate.
Liberal candidate Thompson, said that just before the election process began, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau put forward a plan for open government and democratic reform and one of the key elements was to end the abuse of omnibus bills and the prorogation of parliament.
"There should not be a situation where a prime minister can prorogue parliament at his own convenience. There was a time and a place in another century when omnibus bills was used to perhaps expedite a certain measure with 'like' measures in a certain bill. We almost need a new word for this kind of legislation as omnibus doesn't capture it. Some of these pieces of legislation are hundreds of pages in length and it is simply not possible for parliament to play a meaningful role in reviewing legislation when omnibus bills are used to cram measures through parliament. It is not a way to be more efficient or expedite the rule of law. It is a way to 'hoodwink' and to jam measures through parliament and not give members of parliament time to do their job, which is to be our eyes and ears and review legislation as it's put forward. Therefore, we should not allow the use of omnibus bills."
Creces (NDP) said that omnibus bills is simply a way to get things passed that should never be passed and the government does that time and again.
"There is not enough time to read the hundreds of pages, they are just sent through and then everybody votes. It is a real problem when there are so many things crammed into one bill that you can't read it and probably won't debate it . Where is the responsibility there? Why isn't anyone trying to take responsibility? [For instance] why is a budget as big as 'War and Peace'? That should sound alarm bells and I'll put that to the guy next to me." (Lobb)
Lobb replied that omnibus bills do happen and that both the previous Liberal government and Mulcair, when in Quebec, had used them. "I would challenge anyone here to find one piece of legislation that has been negative as a result of those bills. You just won't find it. We have stronger and more effective environmental protection than we've ever had. On the issue of debate, we have 308 MPs and we'll have 338 after this election, and each member is allowed to debate for 20 minutes with 10 minutes of question and answer at first and second readings. That's plenty of debate. My observations in my seven years is that the opposition members who come to speak to a bill never speak about what is actually in the bill. Nobody's perfect but if opposition members are so consumed about the details in an omnibus bill, I would encourage them to actually speak to one. With regard to committees, we have been more than fair under the leadership of the prime minister to break out pieces to difference committees and committee members are able to discuss at great length items and topics inside the budget or other pieces of legislation."
Splettstoesser (Green Party) also said that she is against omnibus bills and we are committed to reverse as much damage as possible that has been done. The problem is, if amendments would be accepted then that would be fine but, what is the record? Ninety-nine per cent of amendments are denied. It is very difficult to have a debate when an amendment is not allowed. That is very poor democracy and it is very difficult to get any text through. A good example is Bill C51 that covers five different laws. Our Leader, Elizabeth May and five former prime ministers are also against it and there are a number of people who recognize that freedom of speech is being restricted and CISIS gets a lot of power. This law does not give us more security that would be beneficial and you (people) and I could be branded terrorists before we even know it."
There were several more questions and answers during the meeting and to view the meeting in its entirety, see below.
Huron-Bruce Federal All-Candidates meeting Saugeen Shores 2015
Moderator, John Divinski, ran a tight ship as he ensured that audience members with questions and candidates who answered them adhered to pre-set timelines. This enabled candidates the opportunity to field more questions from the audience.
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Monday, October 12, 2015