WINCHESTER – A crowd of about 130 people gathered at the Joel Steele Community Centre in Winchester October 10 for the only all candidates meeting in Dundas County for the upcoming federal election.
The meeting featured a question and answer session with local candidates Eric Duncan, Heather Megill, Raheem Aman, Sabile Trimm and Kelsey Catherine Schmitz, who are all vying for the Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry Member of Parliament seat which will be decided on election day October 21st.
The meeting hosted by the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce and the Dundas Federation of Agriculture was structured such that those asking questions could direct them to two candidates of their choosing. By the end of the meeting 18 questions were asked of the candidates covering various topics.
Questions about support for agriculture and support for business were asked most often (7) followed by budget and spending (4). Climate change/environment related questions were asked twice as were questions relating to governance. Single questions were asked relating to veterans affairs, long term care and youth involvement.
It was NDP candidate Schmitz who those asking questions wanted to hear from most often. Schmitz was called on to answer 10 of the 18 questions.
Schmitz, who spoke often of her party’s plan to bring universal pharmacare and dental to all Canadians and increase child care availability, was asked what the plan is to pay for that.
“We have a plan to increase the wealth tax on those earning $20 million a year or more,” answered Schmitz, explaining that it’s a one per cent increase, which has been economist reviewed. “The review shows that folks won’t uproot and leave the country because of it,” said Schmitz. “They should be just as interested in investing in Canada and our well-being and making sure our country is the best in the world as we are,” she said. She went on to say if the top 10 wealthiest families in Canada were asked to pay just one per cent extra wealth tax there would be $1.3 billion dollars more in our coffers.
“When we talk about spending we have to talk about priorities,” said Schmitz. A common theme for her responses was: “We need to ensure people are being well taken care of … We need to advocate for each other and take care of each other. That’s what being a good Canadian is about.”
Conservative party candidate Eric Duncan and Liberal candidate Heather Megill were each called on to answer eight questions. Five times questions were asked of the two to respond head-to-head.
The question regarding climate change drew the most well-prepared answers from both Duncan and Megill.
“On climate change I’m proud of our party and how we’ve responded to the urgency and action that needs to be taken, not only in Canada, but around the world,” said Duncan. The party released an environmental platform in June with 55 concrete measures to combat climate change. “Our whole theme of that is embracing green technology, not taxes,” said Duncan. “I don’t believe a carbon tax is effective particularly in an area like ours,” said Duncan. “I find it disproportionately affects people in rural communities. People are penalized to drive to work.”
“We’re going to put major investments into green patent technologies to encourage businesses and large emitters,” said Duncan. “It goes after polluters and not commuters when it comes to climate change. We have a role to play in Canada but the world has to play one as well.”
Megill said that the climate change crisis is the number one issue that people have been raising with her on the campaign trail. “People are worried about the future we’re leaving for our children and our grandchildren.”
On the Liberal party plan Megill said, “We’re looking towards a net zero emissions future. That’s really critical so we put a price on carbon because we want to de-incentivize going to our vehicles, driving, and driving up the amount of carbon going into the atmosphere. The price is going up on gas and its going to be going up every year. They’ve done this across Europe and it’s really had an impact on people thinking how we are going to change and make the world a better place. What we’re calling on people to do is look at their own way of operating their homes. We’re going to help support you but we have to put a price on carbon. We feel it’s the best way to call attention to this crisis.
The two were also called on to address the budget and spending.
“I don’t think we have runaway debt and interest rates at this point. We may be heading that way,” said Megill in response to a question about reducing debt.
“Things are going to get tough in the next little while,” continued Megill. “I think that the way to get the economy rolling is to start innovating. I know that people in the rural areas are great innovators. We know that big business has failed us. So we’re going down to people locally.” She said that Ross Video in Iroquois is a great example of this type of innovation and added that we need more of that. She then spoke again about the ongoing environmental crisis and said that it can’t be ignored. “We have to deal with that and look at innovation,” she said.
Duncan pointed out that the spending forecast of the current government means that the budget will not be balanced until 2040. “If any business or household spent more money than they took in until the year 2040, you’d be bankrupt.”
He went on to speak about running deficits. “Deficits need to be timely, targeted and temporary. The reality is you have to live within your means and there has to be a spending plan. Deficits should be for rainy days. They should be for recessions. If things are as great as they are now, you should not be running $14 billion deficits.”
Duncan went on the explain that he is very frustrated by promises being made by the current PM for further spending. “He made a platform commitment that if you are a new or young Canadian he’s going to give you $2,000 to go on a camping trip across Canada. I love camping. I’m sure many of us do. But, when we’re in the fiscal situation we have right now, a camping trip is an out of touch priority.”
Green party candidate Raheem Aman was asked to respond to five questions and while able to deliver strong party message in relation to any subject he shone with the environmental questions.
Asked about land clearing Aman said, “We have got to do better.” He said that the Green party will pass legislation to give Canadians the right to a healthy environment. They will also fully restore the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.
He also spoke about ensuring the ecological integrity of parks and ensuring heritage sites are fully protected and maintained. “This is our forté. It’s everything we stand for. We have a job to do and I’m glad that everyone is taking this seriously. It’s all hands on deck. We will work across parties to get this done.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Sabile Trimm was called on to respond to audience questions four times.
She spoke most passionately when asked about why people should stop voting for the two main parties and vote for someone else.
If we go to proportional representation it would get more young people engaged,” said Trimm. “There are adults who don’t vote because they feel like what’s the point. I hate hearing the words you’re going to split the vote. When someone tells you that you are wasting your vote they are recognizing that they don’t care about you. It’s a selfish statement. They are saying that your beliefs aren’t worth being represented, that you should silence your voice so that theirs can be louder. Vote your conscience and not someone else’s politics. I strongly believe in that. I think you should vote your principles.”
“Your vote does count,” she said, explaining that for the smaller parties like hers if they can get past 10 per cent support it opens the door for subsidies that mean, “In the next election, I can have a more proper campaign.”
October 21st is election day.
Locally, polling stations are open October 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.