• Nick Zacharias

Local candidates debate


(Left to right): Peter Schiefke (Liberal), Amanda MacDonald (NDP), Karen Cox (Conservative), Kaylin Tam (PPC), and Cameron Stiff (Green) sparred on a number of topics from environment to economics at a federal candidates’ debate last week sponsored by The Journal. If you weren’t able to attend, you can still access the video on our Facebook page.

Last Thursday evening October 10, The Journal played host to a federal debate in Saint-Lazare by candidates for the riding of Vaudreuil-Soulanges. The debate took place in English, and was attended by local candidates for all parties with the exception of the Bloc Québécois (Noémie Rouillard was invited but declined to attend). The debate covered a range of topics from budgets to past party performances, but the hottest issue of the night was the environment.

Climate change the dominant issue

Amanda MacDonald and Cameron Stiff, for the NDP and Green parties respectively, were quick to take Liberal Peter Schiefke to task on his party’s record on the environment, specifically the purchase of a pipeline and the tax on carbon. Both argued that current Liberal measures do not go far enough to curb emissions.

Said Stiff, “We’ve had governments that closed libraries and bought pipelines. I guess the question is, are we going to take the steps we need to in order to protect our environment?”

For his part, Schiefke defended the “price on pollution” and the purchase of the pipeline in order to get a fair price for Canadian oil and to use the revenue to finance environmental initiatives. He further said that the Liberals have put in place measures that mean Canada is already 75 per cent of the way to meeting its obligations under the Paris Accord, and has plans to meet the remaining 25 per cent by 2030.

Karen Cox, for the Conservatives, came out against the carbon tax as a measure to curb emissions, supporting instead more spending on “green technologies.” She was the first to admit that the Conservatives under Stephen Harper had, “…the weakest environmental plan of anyone” but insisted that things are different now. “Parties can change, and we are a new party. The crisis is real and we have a comprehensive plan.” She did not detail how the plan would be financed.

People’s Party candidate Kaylin Tam had a different take, painting most reactions to climate change as alarmist. “Look, the world is not going to end, it just might not look the same.” His focus was more on the financial climate and national debt.

Division over federal subsidies

Some of the evening’s more heated exchanges came over the topic of subsidies.

MacDonald asserted that the NDP would put an immediate stop to all federal subsidies (for farms, fossil fuels, corporations, etc.) “on day one.” Schiefke countered that subsidies were a necessary tool for helping large companies like Bombardier remain competitive with corporations that receive financial support from other governments. He said the same of subsidising the dairy industry. “We have to protect our farmers.”

To this Tam objected, saying that, “supply management is a bad idea,” and referred to the Canadian Dairy Commission as “The dairy cartel.” Cox also took aim at dairy subsidies, saying, “I’ve spoken to farmers, and they are mad at the Liberals.” Her party’s plan also includes dropping subsidies.

“You can’t just blanket cut subsidies,” Schiefke shot back at MacDonald, citing as an example the subsidy for diesel fuel in Iqaluit, where it is the only means of generating electricity and lives depend on it.

Great local access

A few scathing comments aside, the evening saw a generally peaceable and civilized debate. And while some candidates occasionally slid into sloganism and pat talking points, for the most part there was a lively exchange of viewpoints and ideas, and it was an opportunity to hear what the local candidates had to say. For many in attendance in fact the highlight came at the end of the night, when the candidates stuck around as the crowd approached and informally fielded questions one on one – something that just doesn’t happen at the leaders’ debates.

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