Discussing the issues

NDP candidate Trevor Peterson makes a point during the all-candidates forum, Oct. 10. He is flanked by the Conservative Party's Jeremy Patzer and Independent Maria Lewans.

The six candidates in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands federal riding made their case to voters during an all-candidates forum hosted by the Swift Current & District Chamber of Commerce at the Living Sky Casino event centre, Oct. 10.

The forum format provided each candidate with a 10-minute opportunity to highlight their election platform. This was followed by a question session to give audience members the chance to ask questions that were answered by all candidates.

The six candidates in the Cypress Hills-Grasslands electoral district for the 2019 federal election are William Caton (Liberal Party), Bill Clary (Green Party), Lee Harding (People’s Party of Canada), Maria Lewans (Independent), Jeremy Patzer (Conservative Party) and Trevor Peterson (New Democratic Party).

Jeremy Patzer was the first candidate to address the audience of over 100 people and those who were watching the online live stream. He is hearing from people in the riding they do not want another four years of Liberal government. 

“They're all frustrated by the lack of respect for western Canada and the main industries that help drive our economy,” he said.

He referred to various measures a Conservative government will take to make life easier for businesses.

“Fiscal responsibility has been one of the most important issues to the constituents of this riding,” he said. “A Conservative government will eliminate $1.5 billion in corporate welfare every year. We have a plan to balance the budget with a focus on economic growth and eliminating wasteful handouts and spending.”

A Conservative government will support the agriculture and energy sectors, which provide employment and business opportunities to Canadians across the country. He highlighted the Conservative Party’s plan to establish a national energy corridor to bring jobs and certainty to the energy sector.

Trevor Peterson said the NDP platform provides an alternative to the policies of successive Conservative and Liberal governments.

“Decades of Liberal and Conservative governments have made life easier for the super rich and the massive corporations, and harder for the rest of us,” he mentioned.

He said the NDP is offering a new deal to people. It will expand Medicare to include a national pharmacare program, universal dental and vision care, and mental health care for all. The NDP will build 500,000 new homes to address the housing crunch, and it will reduce child care cost with an initial investment of $1 billion with the goal of implementing a national child care program. Their goal is to make post secondary education part of the public education system.

The NDP will pay for the new deal through a tax increase on large corporations that will restore the tax rate at the 2010 level of 18 per cent. It will crack down on overseas tax havens, work to close tax loop holes, and implement a one per cent tax on wealth over $20 million.

Maria Lewans said politics is broken, and she felt a broken system cannot be fixed by relying on the same ideas that were used to create it.

“This election I'm challenging you to keep an open mind,” she said. “Listen without judgement and imagine the possibilities of what life could be like if we allow ourselves to think outside the box and demand better.”

She presented a vision for an alternative way of life that will centre around restoring nature and living in greater harmony with the natural world.

“The solutions really aren't as complicated as we like to make them and we like to think, and the possibilities are endless when we allow ourselves to imagine what a better world could look like, and allow ourselves to believe that it is possible,” she said. “We deserve better and it is about time that we demand better.”

Bill Clary spoke about the key issues that set the Green Party apart from the other parties in this election. The key shortcoming in the platforms of the other parties is that it does not have a meaningful response to climate change. The work of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provides the context for the Green Party platform.

“The report tells us in no uncertain terms that the continued use of fossil fuel is destroying the very environment we depend upon for our life,” he emphasized.

The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius would require rapid and far reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, and cities. Global net human caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, and reaching net zero by 2050.

“The Green Party of Canada acknowledges the science, accepts the science, and embraces the science,” he said. “We have put together a platform as well as a document called Mission Possible to bring Canada into alignment with the science and at the same time achieve full employment and a robust social program while doing our part in keeping warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

Lee Harding spoke about the reasons for the establishment of the People's Party of Canada (PPC), which is just over a year old. He said the party founder Maxime Bernier has concluded the Conservative Party was too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed.

According to Harding the PPC platform includes proposals that no other party is putting forward. One of the most important policies in their platform is the need for equalization reform. He noted that several policies in the Conservative Party platform are mild forms of the PPC platform. The PPC wants to stop the practise of taxpayer dollars going to corporations.

“We believe that it is not moral for a government to give money to private companies, to pick winners and losers, because in the end we all become losers,” he said. “We should keep a free market, we should keep adequate but not overbearing regulation, taxes at the right level, and let the businesses sort themselves out.”

The PPC wants to reduce foreign aid significantly more than the Conservative Party’s proposed reduction of 25 per cent. The PPC wants to balance the budget in two years, but the Conservative Party’s goal is five years.

William Caton felt voters are facing a clear choice in this election between the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party.

“The choice in this election is to go back to the failed policies of Stephen Harper or to continue to go forward with Justin Trudeau and the Liberal team,” he said.

He referred to the significant challenges being faced by agricultural producers in southwest Saskatchewan, including international trade disputes and problems with market access.

“A new Liberal government will work at solving these problems with trade agreements like new NAFTA, CETA and TPP, broadening existing markets and working to establish new markets for agricultural goods,” he said. “A new Liberal government will also work with producers and farm organizations to develop safety net programs that actually work for producers.”

He emphasized the need for action to deal with the climate crisis. This requires a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and it is therefore necessary to put a price on these emissions.

He spoke about the Liberal Party’s support for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and the need to get Canadian oil to world markets. At the same time he highlighted the need to transition to renewable energy use.

“A strong economy is essential to the well-being of all Canadians,” he said. “A strong and healthy oil industry is an important part of that strong economy. A strong Canadian economy will have to make the switch to renewable energy, a future of green energy created by wind, solar, and thermal.”

The first question to the candidates was about abortion services and how they would vote on any private member’s bills in Parliament to restrict legal abortion.

“The NDP policy is pretty straightforward,” Peterson said. “We believe in a woman's right to choose.” 

Lewans, Clary and Caton expressed similar sentiments, and they will oppose a private member’s bill to restrict abortion.

Harding said there is a legislative void about the issue of abortion. He supports a proposal by Laura-Lynn Thompson, the PPC candidate in Red Deer. She has suggested a bill that would ban abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, except for extenuating circumstances such as rape or incest or if the life of the mother is at risk.

Patzer said the Conservative Party's stance on abortion is that they will not re-open the debate and that there will not be any private member bills going forward with regard to abortion.

“I think one of the biggest issues is that the conversation has become that abortion is the only choice,” he said. “I think we need to make sure that people have informed choices presented to them, whether it be adoption services to families who cannot have their own children to see if that is an option as well.”

Candidates were asked for their opinions on Canada’s approach to immigration and refugees. Lewans said she will find it hard to turn anybody away who is fleeing from horrifying conditions. Clary noted that the Green Party’s goal to create a green economy will require a large number of workers and immigration will therefore have to increase. He added that Canada will have a moral obligation in the future to help climate refugees who are fleeing from places that are not liveable anymore.

Caton felt the Liberal Party’s current policies on immigration are fair and numbers can probably be increased, because there will be a booming economy going forward. He also supports a policy to allow refugees and immigrants to bring over their parents and grandparents.

Harding said the PPC wants to focus on Canada’s need for economic immigrants, and it wants to cut off family reunification that allows parents and grandparents to come to the country.

Patzer said the Conservative Party does not want to focus on the specific number of immigrants or refugees to bring to Canada, but it wants to ensure immigration offices are properly staffed to handle applications.

Peterson emphasized the importance of keeping families together and the need to assist newcomers to contribute to their communities.

“Trudeau talks a big game on immigration, but their government's policies are keeping families apart and leaving newcomers and refugees behind,” he said. “Newcomers to Canada are still more likely to work at low wage jobs and struggle to find work in their field. Conservatives are playing politics and trying to buy people with immigration. So we need to focus on policies that work for everyone.”

The third question from an audience member asked candidates to state their position on trade agreements and international trade to support the agricultural and energy sectors.

Clary said the burning of fossil fuel will have to stop to reduce carbon emissions, and the Green Party’s plan is to provide training for energy sector workers to find work in the green economy. The Green Party’s approach is to promote sustainable farming with an emphasis on smaller, family farms.

Harding said Canada is caught in the battle between China and Trump’s America, and no Canadian politician will really be able to make any difference. The PPC does not only want to promote free and fair trade in the world, but it also wants to remove interprovincial trade barriers.

Caton felt aggressive diplomacy is required to deal with trade barriers, but there has to be federal government that will put safety nets in place to support farmers and businesses until trade issues are resolved.

Patzer said trade relationships are very important and government ministers need to be in countries to negotiate ways to end trade barriers and to built trade relationships. He blamed the Liberal government for not doing enough to avoid the loss of market access in different countries.

Peterson said Liberal and Conservative governments have not done enough to protect the interests of farmers in international trade deals, and the NDP will stand up for farmers in Ottawa.

Lewans felt there is a need to transition to a localized economy where people are producing for themselves and their neighbours.

The next question asked candidates to state their position on how Canada should help other countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because Canada’s contribution to global emissions is less than two per cent.

Harding did not feel the country should do anything, because the PPC wants Canada to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. He said Canada will benefit from climate change, because it will have access to more land for agricultural use.

Caton, Clary, Lewans and Peterson did not accept the premise of the question, and they felt Canada has a responsibility to address its own greenhouse gas emissions. Caton noted that Canada’s emission levels still make it the ninth worst greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Lewans said Canada shares the responsibility of consuming products that are manufactured in high emission countries such as China.

“If we consume their products, we're also responsible for the pollution that it took to make those,” she noted. “So we shouldn't think we're little angels here sitting in Canada and that our actions and behaviour has no impact on the rest of the world.”

Patzer said Canada’s emission levels is not the real issue in the world, and he gave credit to agricultural producers in Saskatchewan for sequestering 9.46 million tons of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to taking two million cars off the highway. The Conservative Party’s plan will focus on developing green technologies in Canada that can be promoted around the world.

The final question during the all-candidates forum asked candidates if they will support selling arms to Saudi Arabia, given that country’s poor human rights record.

Harding will only support the sales of arms if Saudi Arabia’s human rights record improves. The other candidates all said they will not support the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia. Peterson felt those positions of the Conservative and Liberal candidates are in contradiction with their party’s official positions and past practices.

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