Huntsville’s Algonquin Theatre played host to the fourth federal all-candidates forum last night with the debate centering in on Bill C-51, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), jobs growth and, for the first time, climate change.
Hosted by the Huntsville/Lake of Bays chamber of commerce and moderated by chamber president Kelly Haywood, all six federal candidates squared off with Liberal candidate Trisha Cowie fielding the first question. Cowie was asked how her party can defend their support for Bill C-51 and why someone should vote for a leader who is “without principle.”
Cowie defended the Liberal’s stance on the national security bill calling the Liberal’s perspective the only balanced one among the major parties.
“I am very proud of the position that our leader took, it was a very difficult decision and his position is very nuanced,” Cowie said. “At the end of the day we’re the only party saying that we need to be balanced; we need to balance our security and balance our charter rights.”
Cowie went on to add that Bill C-51 requires significant amendments including oversight and a sunset clause and blamed the NDP’s lack of support for the bill as the reason the Liberal’s amendments didn’t go through.
New Democrat Matt McCarthy fired back at Cowie saying that the NDP is vehemently opposed to the bill and proposed over 200 amendments to the bill.
“The NDP has opposed bill C-51 from the start,” McCarthy told the crowd. “To hear the Liberal candidate tell us that it was the NDPs fault that they couldn’t get their amendments passed is simply preposterous… When [our amendments] were rejected, we voted against it.”
Economic growth and jobs creation was also on the menu for the evening with Conservative incumbent Tony Clement being asked what he would do to recover jobs lost in Parry Sound – Muskoka under his watch as Minister of Industry.
“You’re right, we have had losses of jobs there is no question about it,” Clement said. “We were hit hard when the great recession happened – but I’m here to talk about the great successes that are happening in Parry Sound – Muskoka, too.”
Clement touted job creation such in the area like Parry Sound’s Crofter’s Organics and Muskoka Roastery in Huntsville before going on to say that while the riding has experienced some hits, it’s also had some great successes.
Green Candidate Glen Hodgson took the opportunity to speak on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and its impact on jobs creation in Canada.
“They’re negotiating a secret treaty, the TPP, and if those treaties go through… They threaten our sovereignty and result in tonnes of job losses and an essential race towards the bottom of environmental standards and in terms of working standards as jobs flow out of our country,” Hodgson said. Adding that the Green Party is invested in a “think small” initiative that would empower small and medium sized businesses in Canada.
Environmental issues were also on voter’s minds last night, seemingly for the first time in the series of Parry Sound – Muskoka debates, starting with the issue of whether or not genetically modified food (GMOs) should be labelled as well as how to best combat climate change.
Clement said that his Conservative governments agricultural policies, including those around mandatory GMO-labeling and banning, were based on science and called other countries policies of banning GMOs “junk science.”
Canadian Action Party (CAP) candidate Gordie Merton called for the banning of GMO products outright, while most other candidates, including the Greens and the Liberals, agreed that the idea of labeling genetically modified products was a positive step that allowed consumers to make an informed choice and shouldn’t be a controversial idea.
Trisha Cowie said that any reasonable person would support the idea of labeling of GMO products so that people know what’s in their food but also chimed in on some of the benefits of genetically modified products like their use in combating poverty and hunger in certain parts of the world.
Matt McCarthy insisted on proper funding for any new form of food production and called for reinvestment in food inspection and support for local agriculture saying that the NDP has a national food strategy to support these initiatives.
The night’s final question gave Green Glen Hodgson a chance to shine, being the first question to deal specifically with the challenges of climate change. Candidates were asked how they would encourage a transition from fossil fuels and other climate-impacting methods of energy production, to a clean-tech, green approach to energy.
Incumbent Tony Clement said that it was important to have a reasonable and balanced climate strategy saying,
“Canada has committed already to the Paris initiative to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, just as the U.S., China, France and Germany. We are in line with our other trade partners as we should be.” Adding that we need to make sure the polluter pays and investing in green technology through a secure economy that can power that transition.
Glen Hodgson, in perhaps his feistiest moment of the night, took on Clements comments saying,
“Please don’t tell me that you believe that our current Conservative government is one of the leaders in addressing Climate change. I just can’t hold my tongue there, that’s not true.”
Hodgson lamented the old-line parties saying that regardless of their stances they are all in favour of pipelines,
“Those pipelines are going to bring tar sands oil out of the ground and send it to markets which will increase carbon emissions,” he said. “We need to put a price on carbon, the time has come… If we put a price on carbon we can start addressing climate change seriously.”
The fifth and final debate, The Lake of Bays debate, will be held in Dwight on Oct. 5.