• Carmen Marie Fabio

Federal election English-Language candidates’ debate for Vaudreuil-Soulanges – Part 2


(lLeft to right): Conservative Marc Boudreau, Liberal Peter Scheifke, and NDP Jamie Nicholls took part in a well-attended, lively debate hosted by Your Local Journal October 1 at Westwood Senior High School in Hudson.

Your Local Journal was proud to host the debate between three of the five-area parties October 1 featuring Conservative Marc Boudreau, Liberal Peter Schiefke, and NDP Jamie Nicholls. We also extended invitations to Vincent François of the Bloc Québécois and Jennifer Kaszel of the Green Party, both who declined. Below is Part 2 of the debate featuring questions submitted by Vaudreuil-Soulanges voters.

Q: What is your party's official position concerning the lesser pension, disability and other benefits now being awarded by Veterans Affairs Canada to the new(er) generation of veterans who were engaged in peacekeeping missions and Afghanistan, as contrasted with those currently available to the traditional Veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict?

JN: I’m flabbergasted that these people are putting themselves in harm’s way, coming back (to Canada) and we’re not giving (war veterans) the care that they need. We need to offer better post-traumatic stress disorder programs; we need to give them the pensions they deserve. We need to come up with some kind of program that will allow them to integrate back into Canadian society. When we choose to go to war, we should be taking care of the people that are coming back.

MB: There is a lot of support for the veterans but there’s still a lot to do. Last August 15, the Conservative government presented a new measure by which the veterans would see their financial situation improve. We will also be helping veterans deal with post-trauma. There will be less paperwork, making it simpler to go through all the steps (to get help).

PS: (Justin) Trudeau said all the cuts that have been made to veterans’ programs will be reinstated. There will be a national task force to address PTSD, not just for the men and women who serve our country but also for our first responders. It’s something I had the pleasure of speaking with Hudson firefighters this week. It’s something that we don’t address enough.

Q: What are your views on the sale of 60 per cent of the Canadian Wheat Board?

MB: I can't answer that because I don't have the information available at this time. As a lawyer, people think I should know all the answers. A lawyer's job is to be able to get the answers and I will get the information for you. I'm not going to pretend to have the information if I don't.

PS: The one thing I would say on this subject is not having the information is indicative of this government. There's a transpacific partnership that is on the way right now. The Prime Minister is arranging a deal that will have long-term detrimental effects on our country. And he's not sharing that information with anyone. This is one of the most secretive governments that we've ever had in this country.

JN: What the Wheat Board provided to western grain farmers was stability. If prices went up or down, the Wheat Board could always guarantee a harvest at any price and deal with the logistics of grain distribution. What happened when the system changed, it allowed more private control in the grain industry and the farmers lost the stability that they had. They had a bumper crop one year but couldn't move it to market because the services were no longer there. We have a food policy directed towards smaller producers.

Q: Presently only those with deep pockets - like corporations and unions, win in court simply by virtue of financial might. What will you do to make the legal system accessible to the average public?

PS: There's very little the federal government can do to provide issues to those who can't afford legal representation. It's a provincial issue. To provide the necessary resources for those that don't have them, you have to have a tax structure in place. We're the only party that is proposing to reduce taxes for income earners of less than $200,000 per year by seven per cent, putting an extra $670 in the pockets of the average worker. We're the only ones who have a plan to reduce taxes and give money back to people who need it most. That's how you get the economy moving and that's how you empower all Canadians.

JN: Prior to the Conservative government, the Court Challenges Program allowed people to challenge the official languages act. They had recourse to challenge laws that they found were in violation of their rights and freedoms as minority language groups. We were going to restore it in 2011 because we believe it's a valuable program that allows the average citizen to challenge the government. In terms of the deep pockets of corporations and unions, the federal government should be a strong voice against the abuse of power.

MB: It's not true that the legal system is a provincial jurisdiction - we have federal courts. The administration of justice is a provincial matter. Accessibility needs to be there and I'm going to fighting for accessibility for justice and from Canada, it means subsidies, it means money, and we could offer that in a program to make sure people get access. In Quebec, if you lose your job, you're presented by the Commission des normes du travail (for free). A great job has been done in the last 10 years and I'm going to be fighting for that

Q: The federal government has clout to negotiate prices for drugs and medical devices. How do you see your party improving our national health care (through purchasing and negotiating)?

JN: We want to work with the provinces to bring down the price of medications. We've also fought in parliament to bring down the price of medications in other countries, a motion that was unfortunately voted down. Our party is the only one proposing extended pharmacare program that will cover the cost of drugs. We're not afraid to negotiate with the provinces but would allow Quebec to opt out as it has its own program. If other provinces need the help of the federal government, we'll be there to help out.

MB: Pharmaceutical patents is one concern, pharmaceutic medical care is another problem. How long should we give a patent to a pharmaceutical company? They invest a massive amount of money. They create jobs in order to invent, hopefully, something to cure cancer. We have increased subsidies to the health care system by six per cent per year.

PS: Even though healthcare is a provincial jurisdiction, the federal government has played a role in bringing all the ministers together every single year to discuss how the federal government can provide support to the provinces. Mr. Trudeau wants to find a way for all the provinces to work together to find a stronger, united voice in going to the drug companies and negotiating lower costs, instead of the provinces doing it on their own.

Q: What is your party’s take on Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist bill?

MB: Crime has changed in the last 10 years. Terrorism is not just a problem that concerns other countries; it also concerns us. Mr. Trudeau accused us of trying to scare people. Ask the families of the two men who were killed in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa. We decided to be tougher on terrorists. It's going to be an infraction to leave the country to go support terrorist activities in other countries. It's going to be a criminal infraction to let someone in your house and help him hide if he committed those infractions.

PS: My personal opinion is that it's unfortunate we've come to a point where you're for or against some form of security. We have the Conservatives saying we need this bill to keep our system safe and the NDP saying if we have this bill, we'll lose our rights and freedoms. That's a fear game that's being played here as if there is no middle ground. We've been open and honest about the fact that we feel we need to have some sort of security legislation in place. Jean Chretien imposed a security bill after 9/11. When it expired, C-51 was introduced. The good thing is it allowed us to track terrorists. The bad thing is that it prohibited 'unlawful' protests. Our bill finds a balance between security and protecting our rights and freedoms.

JN: Peter outlines playing on people's fears by saying rights and freedoms are threatened by C-51. There are two words that make this fear justifiable – Maher Arar. He was taken to Syria, tortured, kept confined, because of information our government shared and he was an innocent Canadian. The history of spying on innocent Canadians goes back to the 1950s spying on communists and subversives. Maher Arar was rounded up under the Liberal Government's response to terror in Canada. We have a right to be afraid that our rights and freedoms are being impinged upon because everybody in this room could be a potential suspect under C-51.

Q: What will you do to spur innovation, research & development, and lure back manufacturing in Canada?

PS: We've lost 71 per cent market share in 'green' technology in the last 10 years. We've missed one of the greatest boats we could've ever sailed on and we've lost jobs in the process. We have announced a $200 million investment in clean technology that will help spur growth and help create jobs. We've also announced $100 million in research into green technology. That's an area where we can see significant growth and job creation. We need to invest in the economy of tomorrow and not the economy of yesterday.

JN: We have to make the transition to renewable energy. It's a $5 trillion market that's out there and we've missed the boat on it. We have a very robust aerospace industry but we believe it needs help from the federal government. We need to invest more in basic research and development in the world economic forum. The competitiveness report indicates we still have problems with investments in basic R&D. This is something the government would focus on by increasing investments in key sectors to build the strength of our economy.

MB: The Conservative Government will continue to lower taxes on companies. We all propose subsidies for innovation; however, bringing down the taxation level of companies is a great thing for the economy. The opposition parties both say we're giving money to huge companies or tax credit to petroleum companies – that's not what we're doing. We're giving lower taxation level to all companies and, of course, big companies benefit as well as small companies. We will continue giving subsidies to small companies that create jobs. They will innovate and provide assets and in the end, everyone will benefit.

Q: What are your views on the legalization of marijuana?

JN: The NDP supports the decriminalization, if not the legalization of marijuana. (Alcohol) Prohibition has shown that we need to be ready for the impact it would have on society at large. Smoking marijuana damages the lungs and has health implications but on the other hand, some people suffering from certain conditions need easier access to marijuana. We don't believe in creating an industry right away. We need to take a measured approach and have a discussion as a society.

MB: I totally disagree with accessibility. I come from an era where I don't have enough fingers on both my hands to count how many of my friends committed suicide when they were young – the link between all of them was the use of drugs. I do agree with medical use under supervision, but if you use it on a permanent basis, it has a psychological impact. We need to invest in those who have drug problems. We're not against everybody that uses drugs; we're against those who are making money, those who are selling drugs. With people like that, we can't afford to legalize marijuana.

PS: We can't afford not to change our policy on marijuana. It hasn't worked. Every single government that has tried to fight the marijuana problem by throwing money at it has lost all its money. We saw it under (U.S. President) Ronald Reagan 'Say No to Drugs.' Tens of billions of dollars were invested and the rate of use of marijuana barely budged. Part of the population will smoke marijuana whether it's legal or not. Our plan is to look at what's happening around the world. There are countries who have decriminalized marijuana and have done it successfully. The result is the money has been taken out of the pockets of the crime syndicates.

Q: The niquab – really?

MB: We were clear from the beginning. We don't think that wearing the niquab during the oath of citizenship is a good thing. I was astonished to see how important the subject became - it goes beyond the 40 or 50 people in Montreal who wear a niquab. It's a matter of equality. It's a matter of, when you come to Canada, it's a privilege to be accepted and you have to accept the Canadian values of this great country. If I go to the passport office and someone wearing the niquab is serving me, I don't like it. I don't think (it shows) respect to women and I don't think it shows equality for equal rights.

PS: This is not a question of whether somebody is for or against the niquab. This is a question of if we are for the right of women to wear what they want to wear. The beauty of our country is that no matter who you are, we're going to respect that. Why did this come up three and a half weeks prior to the election? It's a diversion. For it to become a top issue when we have 1.5 million Canadians unemployed, when our environment is less protected than it's ever been since the founding of our country, Mr. Harper has chosen this moment to find this opposition to the niquab and declare it to all Canadians. What's tragic is that we are targeting one community and you see it as a wedge issue in this election.

JN: Mr. Harper is hiding a bad economic record behind the niquab. In history, we've had waves of immigrants who've come over and the specter of intolerance is creeping up. We have a charter of rights and freedoms that protects these women's rights to wear this garment. The daughters and sons of these people will eventually integrate into our society and it's disturbing that we're making a big issue over two women in a country of 30 million. We're saying that they're somehow less Canadian because they won't take off this veil during the citizenship ceremony. How many people in this room have actually had a conversation with someone wearing a niquab and asked them if it was their choice?

To see a taping of the entire debate, filmed by CSur la Télé community television station, go to http://www.csur.tv/federal-election-candidates-debate-vaudreuil-soulanges

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