To even begin to break down a three-hour public meeting that is a question-and-answer (Q&A) is daunting. However, we are going to attempt to break the all-candidates meeting held in Port Elgin on Wednesday (Oct. 2) into two segments, particularly, for those who could not attend.
It was clear at the meeting that there were consistently major issues that included climate change and nuclear energy but there were also others such as affordable housing, help for seniors and veterans and doctor shortages.
Four of the five Huron-Bruce candidates attended the public meeting at the Plex that was hosted by the Saugeen Shores Chamber of Commerce with the assistance of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) and that was moderated by radio personality John Divinski.
It was standing room only as more than 200 residents came out to hear what the candidates had to say and to have the opportunity to ask them questions.
Incumbent Conservative Ben Lobb, NDP’s Tony McQuail, Liberal Allan Thompson and Peoples’ Party of Canada (PPC) Kevin Klerks attended and answered questions with a two-minute time limit on each. (Green Party Nicholas Wendler did not attend but sent a written statement read by CFUW past-President Heather Conlin).
The meeting began with each candidate having three minutes to introduce themselves.
PPC candidate Kevin Klerks: I am a social media consultant and live in Inverhuron but was born in Chesley, Ontario. I have lived throughout Canada in Nunavut and Alberta and Ohio in the U.S. Our party platform is based on freedom, respect, personal responsibility and fairness. The Peoples’ Party is a grass roots party of Canada.
Incumbent Conservative Ben Lobb: The Conservative party is looking at building relationships with other countries such as China and India. I want rural communities to become a priority. We are going to cut the GST on home heating, cut the carbon tax, increase the old-age credit for seniors and will put one billion dollars into CT scans and MRIs. We want to make it easier for first-time home buyers and to encourage investment to come back to resources in Canada. We want to encourage the rest of the world to invest in Canada.
NDP Tony McQuail: I started on a farm at the age of 18 and then went to the University of Waterloo where I graduated in Environmental Studies. I’ve been farming since 1973 and worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and was a school board trustee. I also ran as an NDP in previous elections and am running again because of my children and grandchildren. Our party’s focus is representation, regeneration and re-distribution of wealth.
Liberal Allan Thompson: Events like this are very important for democracy. Having been raised on a farm in Glammis, Bruce County, I learned from my parents to be positive and to work hard. I went on to become a journalist and teacher and it was my job to listen to people. Huron-Bruce needs a serious voice in Ottawa. As a candidate, I am trying to visit every small community and I want to be a voice for rural government.
(Absent) Green Party Nicholas Wendler: There has to be carbon pricing and we want to create more energy efficiency in all buildings. We also feel there has to be electoral reform and want to be energy efficient by 2030 and to protect 30 per cent of our fresh water.
People lined up to ask questions of the candidates that revolved around many topics. Fred Kuntz of OPG and resident of Port Elgin started the questions off asking how each candidate/party saw the role of nuclear.
All four candidates expressed support for nuclear energy, including NDP Tony McQuail who said that “… nuclear is going to play a very important role in the transition away from fossil fuels but the waste is an issue that must be dealt with.” Allan Thompson agreed saying that Huron Bruce is becoming ‘… home to alternative energy including solar and wind and we could be the centre of innovation for nuclear energy.” “As chair of the Conservative Nuclear Caucus,” said incumbent Ben Lobb, “I have long supported nuclear and the future is very bright for nuclear, CANDU and Bruce Power.” PPC’s Kevin Klerks agreed that nuclear is the most efficient but also said that more has to be done to dispose of the waste.
The question of food insecurity was also raised by Cheryl Grace on behalf of Kathryn Forsyth of Southampton citing that 20 per cent of households in Bruce County live with food insecurity and 21 percent of children under 17 live in food insecure homes.
Lobb pointed out that the need for Food Banks is increasing and the cost of groceries keeps going up. “We want to make life more affordable by cutting the carbon tax, taking the GST off as there are people who work two and three jobs just to make ends meet.” McQuail said that the NDP have a Canada Food Strategy and that there should be a one per cent wealth tax on the wealthy that can then be invested in health care, Pharmacre and dental care. Housing has also been neglected and there has to be more affordable housing but we have a comprehensive program. We need a whole package including increasing the minimum wage. Thompson said food insecure is very real. “We see that when we are out knocking on doors and we need to address it in every way that we can by focusing all of our efforts by narrowing that gap between those who are wealthy and those in lower income brackets. The Child Tax Benefit created by the Trudeau government is a lifeline for many families. Everyday I meet with young families or a young mother whose very survival depends on that program. Seniors also talk about affordability so we say lower taxes for those in the lower and middle-income bracket, the people who really need it. There is a real labour shortage because people who work cannot afford to live where the jobs are. We really need to be looking for local solutions.” Klerks said that he has to live with friends because he cannot afford his own place. “We are the only party that has a firm plan to reduce taxation for everyone, especially low income and seniors. One of the things we are looking at is phasing out ‘supply management’ that raises food prices such as dairy products. We are also looking at immigration numbers. The more people we bring into this country, the less housing there is for everyone else. There are many different ways to look at food insecurity and one of them is through taxation.”
Doug Fleet of Walkerton, retired from the military asked why government was not doing more for veterans and seniors.
McQuail said that the NDP party has been working on the issue for a long time and it is “… very unfair to nickel and dime our veterans and seniors.” Thompson said it is really an important issue. “There are a lot of myths and misinformation. The Liberal government has invested more than $10 million and re-opened nine Veterans’ Affairs offices across the country that were closed by the previous government. There are problems with wait-times as in any bureaucracy and we need to do better. There is more staff being added. We need to honour and respect those who have put their lives on the line and a way to do that is to offer a pension for life if they suffer a disability and the Liberal government re-instated that instead of a one-time payout initiated by the previous government.” Klerks said that “It is sad that we are even discussing this. We are going to re-instate the Fair Pensions Act and review the Charter currently in place to see what can be kept and what can be gotten rid of. There are other countries that take better care of their veterans than we do.” Lobb said he had served on the Veterans Affairs Committee. “If there are men and women who put their lives on the line, the least that government and civil society can do is to support everyone of them when they return and provide the support and training they need to lead a productive life. We digitized all the records and the backlog of over 24 months is unacceptable. We need to support the veterans and give the power back to the Veterans’ ombudsman and we have to be serious about rehabilitation, therapy and training.”
Lisa Rondo asked the candidates what their positions were on the Carbon Tax and is it necessary and should each province decide.
Thompson said that if it were left up to each province and jurisdiction, “… nothing would get done. The decision was made at the National level and is a way to encourage everyone to use less fossil fuels. The way it is structured is that nine out of ten people get the money back on their taxes. It’s part of our culture to do the right thing. We (Liberal party) have a very solid record on Climate change and are willing to step up that fight to move to net zero emissions by 2050. We will also provide tax incentives for companies to invest in green technologies in the transition away from fossil fuels. Talk to your grandchildren. Climate change is going to define this election. There is a very serious choice we have to make and there is a serious risk that a conservative policy would roll back everything that has been accomplished in the last few years in the battle against Climate change. We just can’t afford to go back, We have to keep moving forward.” Klerks maintains that “Until we have an infrastructure, we have no choice but to drive and the biggest part of Climate change is the hysteria around it. In the 1970s, we had global cooling, in the 80s we had acid rain, in the 90s we had conservation, in the 2000s we had global warming and, when that didn’t work, we went to Climate change. Our biggest problem is to get around the hysteria and sit down to look at real solutions like reducing carbon emisions and get back to reducing and recycling that we learned in the 80s. A lot of the recyclables are not even being recycled. We shouldalso go after the large emitters. The people who have the knowledge and expertise live in the provinces and they should be making the decisions for their province.” Lobb said that “… a carbon tax is a bad idea and hypocritical of the Liberal government that said each province could opt in or opt out of Pharmacare but not the carbon tax. Ontario is one of the only provinces that will meet its Paris agreement and did it with nuclear energy. The proof is we don’t need a tax to reduce emissions, we need initiatives like nuclear energy. Conservatives now have the best environmental plan that will work with businesses and focus on green technology and a cleaner environment. We have the highest labour standards and we should push our success story out to the world. We are also going to introduce a national recycling program that will be different and ban cities from dumping raw sewage into our waters.” McQuail said, “Talk is cheap. Our emissions have been going up. A carbon tax is a tax on pollution but we need climate plans that are locally appropriate. In rural Ontario, we have to get creative on how to reduce our energy intensity. Why can’t we do things like car pooling or establish a community ‘Uber’. Agriculture also has a huge role to play through crop and cattle management that will put carbon back into the soil. We propose a Climate change bank.”
Terry Rondo raised the question that Ontario has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs and there is a need for infrastructure and why is it apparently a ‘cheque-book politics’ of spend, spend spend. Why is there bickering and how do we bring the green energy to market?
Klerks said that the PPC is the only party that wants to impose the pipelines on provinces that do not want them. “If the private sector agrees with pipelines (east and west), we are going to put them through. I would like to see nothing better than to put a pipeline from the west coast to the east coast and even, perhaps, build a refinery on the east coast. To pay for things, we will stop wasteful spending. No more corporate bail-outs like Bombardier or hand-outs to corporations like Loblaws of $12 million for freezers, lowering taxation, cutting farm-aid, smaller government and many others ways to ‘cut the fat’.” Lobb agreed saying that people are concerned with the spending. “Interest will be the largest government spendicure and we are in a serious situation. We could have paid down our debt for a rainy day, but we have not done that. Then, there is red tape. We need a pipeline to St. John on the east coast and on the west coast We are selling our oil at a discount to the U.S. We should be maximizing our resources and our jobs. We need to get rid of ‘corporate fat’.” McQuail said that a one per cent tax on the wealthy should be spread around, close loop-holes for tax evaders and those who move money off-shore. Use the money to invest in health care, green new jobs and support small businesses. You can’t have it both ways. Everybody wants to ‘cut the fat’ but have no reduction in services. I’m sorry. Tax cuts don’t benefit those earning under $15,000. Taxing those who benefit from the Conservative government’s tax cuts will help them.” Thompson pointed out that, “You have a choice and it’s a really important one. We have reached a crossroads. Do we cut or … do we invest in our young people, seniors, education and jobs? This government decided to invest and has created over one million jobs in the last four years. We have a shortage of workers with unemployment at the lowest in history. There is a choice … do we continue to invest in our economy and our young people, our innovators, our seniors and we see the rewards of that with good productive jobs. Be very careful of Conservatives who say we should live within our means. When Doug Ford said that, we got cuts to healthcare and education. When Mr. Lobb talks about putting money away, the two largest contributors to Canada’s national debt were Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper by far. Be very careful when making this choice, there is a very solid record of when we investment in our economy, our young people and our seniors, we see the rewards of that.”