Saugeen Shores All Candidates Meeting: Segment 2

As we get closer to Election day 2019, we are taking another look at the recent All Candidates meeting held in Port Elgin and the issues that were raised.

As in Segment 1, there were many residents who asked questions of the four candidates: incumbent Conservative Ben Lobb, NDP’s Tony McQuail, Liberal Allan Thompson and People’s Party of Canada (PPC) Kevin Klerks.

Luz Maria Wilson who works with seniors asked the candidates if they saw the opportunity for collaboration with provincial governments to improve standards for seniors around issues such as transportation, affordable housing and shortage of of PSWs (personal service workers).

NDP Tony McQuail said that his party has  a “New Deal for People” that would work on affordable housing and making medications free .  Liberal Allan Thompson said that his party has proposed raising seniors pension (OAS) by 10 per cent for those over 7th and to increase survivor benefits by 25 per cent.  “There is no doubt that we will need collaboration with the provincial governments and there is no doubt that we need to do everything we can to help those who need it most.”  Kevin Klerks of the PPC said that veterans and seniors have been neglected.  “Many seniors live alone and who have to pay to have a weekly visit.  The higher cost of groceries and a carbon tax will not help. We also think though that we have to give more control over health care to the Provinces.”  Incumbent Ben Lobb agreed that there is a shortage of PSWs and the need for more education.  “We also have to look at temporary workers to address the rising labour shortage.  We also need to work with provinces and municipalities to ensure land is opened up for building various types of housing.”

Jane Pritchard-Bowers said that there are profound concerns over the Conservative cuts to education and asked what each party would propose.

Liberal Allan Thompson pointed out that at the Federal level government has the most impact on post-secondary education.  “How do we try to establish national standards for education and make the overall system better.”  PPC’s Kevin Klerks said there should be national standards when it comes to the quality of education.  “The Federal government should help through subsidizing and grants for students.”  Incumbent Ben Lobb agreed that schoolboards play the major role when it comes to local education.  “Spending in Education has actually increased with $13B for new schools.  NDP’s Tony McQuail said that every Canadian should have an opportunity for education.  “Young people should never have to graduate under crushing debt.  People have choices.   Get active at election time to ensure fair taxes.  Job training and life-long education should be available to develop skills for employment opportunities.”

Teacher Kim Lake asked the candidates what issue will impact the local community.

Klerks said the key issue is too much tax and carbon tax won’t help.  “We think there should be a 15 per cent tax across the board for everyone earning from $15,000 – $100,000.  When it comes to affordable housing, we have too many people coming into the country and we can’t provide the housing for residents we already have.  Nuclear is very important in this region but we really need to diversify.  Let’s bring some recycling industry here.”  Incumbent Lobb said that the Conservatives brought $140million into the region. Labour shortage is a major issue and we have to address it.  We need re-training and economic immigration through the temporary foreign workers program for small businesses with a pathway to citizenship.  We will also cut the GST for home heating.”  It was at this point that NDPs McQuail brought out the ‘layered cake’ approach.  “Instead of a pie-chart approach, we need the layered cake approach by economist Hazel Henderson, where each layer depends on the layer below it.  We also need a system to spread the wealth out. We need to get creative when it comes to using less energy.”  Liberal Thompson said that it’s fair for the electorate to choose the person who will be their MP.  “What do you expect from your member of parliament?  You need someone who will work the hardest for you. Who wants to hear your voices.   Rural voices are not being heard at the national level and it’s important.   We need to hear from everyone and reach out.  There are 14 municipalities across Huron Bruce and I would like to see more communication, perhaps through town hall meetings in different communities or monthly conference calls with politicians at every level.  We all need to work together to find solutions to the problems we will be facing.”

Retired lawyer John Mann said that he was tired of the constant bickering between parties and came up with the unique idea of doing away with elections and having names drawn through a random lottery from the citizenry to represent communities.

Incumbent Lobb agreed that there is bickering in Parliament.  “Maybe it is time for a different system. There is way too much power at the top and proportional representation might help with collaboration around all parties. It could be time for a change in the way we elect a government that represents all the people.  Individual members of change can effect change in a lot of lives.”  NDP McQuail said that his party supports a Citizens’ Assembly to develop Proportional representation is recommending a current electoral system encourages bickering and is destructive.  “Every citizen’s vote should count so that we do not have a phony government where 35 per cent represent 100 per cent of the population.  The value of democracy gives us the chance for discussion.  This current system is very destructive.”  “How we govern our society is not just about elections but what kind of system we want,” said Liberal Thompson.  “If we move to change the electoral system, I want to know what happens in rural communities.  What happens with proportional representation is that ridings become very large. I think people want to know their representative.  I would really need to take a look at what the change would mean.  We definitely could use more collaboration, discussion, cooperation and a less toxic environment in the House of Commons.  We should all make a commitment to work in that direction.”  PPC’s Klerks said that the present system of ‘first past the post’ is terrible.  “There should be a recall system.  If a member doesn’t do the job,they should be recalled.  One vote should mean one vote. When it comes to election day, no announcements should be made until all poles are closed.  We also believe in smaller government. I would also like to see more ’round the kitchen table’ meetings where members of the communities are involved with their representatives. Community committees should be involved.”

One of the most impressive moments came when Saugeen District Secondary School (SDSS) Gr. 12 student, Jamie Kuhl said that this will be the first time he can vote.  “My main concern is not just Climate change, it is a crisis. My future is based on your decisions but that should be my generation’s responsibility, because we are going to have to make incredible changes.”

NDP McQuail said “The voting age should be lowered to 16 because you have the highest stake in the future. The challenge we are facing is that we have developed machines that rely on fossil fuels and our system needs a change.  We will work hard with different ministries to help us dramatically lower our energy use through things like sequestering carbon in the soil.”  Liberal Thompson said that “We owe your generation a huge debt to make us realize what is staring us in the face..  We are the first to realize the Climate crisis and the last to still have time to do something about it.  When young people engage in the political process and take to the streets, political leaders should be standing beside you to cheer you on to get this message across.  We can reach zero emissions in a generation We proposed that we legislate this with five-year bench marks.  It’s also about investing billions of dollars in alternative energy sources, such as hydrogen and others.”  PPC Klerks said “There is a lot of hysteria but we see no solutions.  We are dependent on fossil fuels and can we stop using them?  Absolutely not.  Let’s start with something simple like recycling plastic bottles.  i remember when paper bags were phased out for plastic bags.  Why can we not learn from the lesson of 30 years ago of reduce, reuse and recycle.”  Incumbent Lobb said that 15 years ago there was no platform for the environment by any party.  “Today, however it’s serious. We have a comprehensive plan.  Domestically, we can continue to work on green technologies and export these around the world. We have a great opportunity to transfer our technology to other countries like China and India.  Locally, local agriculture is doing terrific things like farm drainage improvements,crop rotation and there is a lot more we can do with our technology.”

Educator Nancy Darlington-Smith brought forward the idea of having a non-partisan cabinet when it comes to Climate change.  “We are increasingly disconnected from nature, others, science and facts … emissions have gone up not down … what is your stance on forming a non-partisan Climate cabinet as suggested by Ms May? (Green Party Leader)

Liberal Thompson said he thought there were a lot of good ideas and that working across the aisle was important but was unsure of a Climate cabinet  “Those looking at Climate change in this election are looking very closely at the Liberals, NDPs and the Greens and their environmental platforms.  There are important elements in each and we should be cooperating.  PPC Klerks said he realized that climate is changing but that ” …. we need to be more sensible and responsible in our efforts to combat it and adapt to it. If a Climate Cabinet takes our dependence away from the U.N. (United Nations) then, absolutely. Everything we do now is dependent on what the U.N. tells us to do.  We have a lot of smart people here in this country and, from a national internal level, we can find our solutions.” Incumbent Lobb said he thought it a good idea.  “Too much time is spent on the two,three and five per cent party differences and not enough on the 95 per cent where we agree.  Proportional representation might change that. Maybe it’s time to do things differently and maybe it’s time to look at all the options.”  NDP McQuail affirmed that he has long supported proportional representation.  “I want all parties at the table as we need everyone to be working together.  But we can’t just rely on Otttawa.  We need to work locally in our own communities on solutions that make sense for our local areas and ecologies.  There isn’t one solution that fits all.  We need to come up with solutions that determine the kind of community we want and the kind of eco-sytem we live in so that both prosper. Our economy that is directing us off a cliff has become divorced from ecological and social reality.”

Peggy Corrigan Dench raised the question of doctor shortages across Canada given that the Federal level of government looks at post-secondary education and the foreign students are funding residency spaces at universities.

PPC Klerks reinstated that economic immigration includes the medical professions. “Only 26 per cent of the people that we brought into the county are benefiting our economy.  I have personally been waiting for two year for a doctor.  As a federal government we would redirect the GST into the medical education field.  Bring immigrants in who have the skills and also utilizing those with the skills who are already here but working in low paying jobs.”  Incumbent Lobb said that it has been a long-standing issue.  “Successive governments have looked at encouraging doctors to take up residency in rural communities.  One issue is that doctor recruitment is very competitive and we should be graduating more doctors and that our Canadian students should be first in the queue over foreign students.  Gateway Centre in Goderich is a rural research hub where aspiring medical field students can work while continuing their education in university.  NDP McQuail said that support for students as part of the public school system who are interested in the long process of becoming a medical professional will have the opportunity without incurring a huge debt load.  Spaces also have to be created .  Over the last number of years there have been cuts, cuts, cuts.  We also have to look at the Canada Health Act .  We are going to have to graduate more doctors and for those entering the field, it’s a long hall so we have to look at the costs involved.  Liberal Thompson said no family should have to choose between putting food on the table and accessing health care.  “It is incumbent on anyone who wants to be a community leader to try to collapse these differences across levels of government and just get it done.  We are proposing another $6Billion in health care and to collaborate with the provinces and find ways to find family doctors.  Communities like Goderich were extremely successful in recruiting doctors to the community but it becomes very competitive among communities.  Political leadership needs to step up and we should be in touch with all hospitals and hospital boards around this question of their needs and how they are approaching recruitment.  We should look at strategies where communities don’t compete against each other to attract doctors.”