They lined up patiently behind the microphone at Memorial Arena in St. Thomas, awaiting their opportunity to question a half-dozen of the Elgin-Middlesex-London candidates in the Oct. 21 federal election.
Close to 200 people attended Wednesday’s (Oct. 2) all-candidates meeting hosted by the Aylmer Express, with the hopefuls queried on a wide range of subjects ranging from the national debt and climate change to electoral reform, taxes and freedom of speech.
A no-show for the event was the Green Party’s Ericha Hendel. The Sudbury resident and Laurentian University student was parachuted into the riding after failing in her nomination bid in the federal riding of Nickel Belt.
Addressing climate change and related spinoffs, including the relevance of electric vehicles and support for intercity transit, consumed a good portion of the two-hour meeting.
On the subject of electric vehicles, Liberal candidate Pam Armstrong – a London real estate agent who resides in Malahide – noted the party already has in place rebates for the purchase of these vehicles and solar panels. She stressed the need to encourage the manufacture of cleaner vehicles.
Bob Hargreaves, a retired administrator for mental health programs, noted should the NDP form the next government, the party would turn all government vehicles into zero-emission cars and trucks within a year.
“We believe in carbon pricing and rebates. There can be no more waiting.”
Peoples Party of Canada candidate Donald Helkaa pointed out when it comes to climate change, “We are too alarmed to discuss solutions.”
He is in favour of a trans-Canada pipeline, but added, “There has to be real positive change.”
Peter Redecop, representing the Christian Heritage Party, does not support cap and trade or a carbon tax. The excavator operator argued carbon dioxide – of which increasing levels of CO2 are cited as a major consideration in global climate change – is not proven as a factor and, instead, it is “a natural beneficial gas” found in the atmosphere.
Richard Styve, the Libertarian candidate in last year’s provincial election, made it clear “the government has no role in dealing with climate change.”
Instead, it is up to individuals.
“Don’t raise the cost of living (through a carbon tax or other measures) for those who are struggling financially,” he added.
Conservative MP Karen Vecchio agreed the carbon tax is not beneficial and only results in “less money in your pockets.”
She suggested the need to determine “what can we do locally?” Starting with making homes more energy efficient.
On whether there should be restrictions placed on freedom of speech, Armstrong pointed out, “There is a difference between free speech and hate speech.”
When asked about helping seniors with the high cost of living, Hargreaves stressed the need for a national strategy on dementia and the introduction of caregiver credits.
On the efficient delivery of government programs, Helkaa made it clear he would like to “eliminate as much bureaucracy as I can.”
When dealing with the national debt, Redecop stressed the absolute need to pay off the debt and bring in legislation for mandatory balanced budgets.
On the same topic, Styve pulled no punches.
“One of the first things we would work on is cutting off all foreign aid.”
Vecchio indicated there is a need to sit down with municipal leaders to discuss improvements to intercity transit.
“We need to try out things like Uber (on-demand transportation) especially in rural areas.”
Zeroing in on a key takeaway from the closing remarks of each candidate, Armstrong noted – even though the federal Liberals came into power 2015 – “The past four years have not brought the growth we were hoping for in our community. Let’s re-balance the electoral balance sheet together to make more checks and balances in our riding.”
A curious observation to say the least.
Hargreaves said, “I think the NDP’s platform is to increase services to people. To care about people and do it in the right way. The New Democrats are in this for you.”
Helkaa closed out with this vow. “I wish to cut bureaucracy at the federal level. I really like what has been done locally, but I have a problem with what has been going on in Ottawa.”
Redecop was firm in his claim the Christian Heritage Party is the only party that places the right to life before all other considerations. “An unchanging standard of right and wrong is important to me. I could not serve my constituents properly if my decisions were based on political expediency rather than right and wrong.”
Styve concluded, “We all want the same thing for Canada, we just have a different path to get there. As a Libertarian candidate, I focus on shrinking government. Government has an impact on our everyday life. There is nothing in Canada we can do that isn’t taxed, illegal or regulated.”
Vecchio closed out the evening on a philosophical note.
“All that matters at the end of the day is that we are moving forward in the right direction. In Elgin-Middlesex-London we do things differently. We are about the people and we are about grassroots politics and that is the way I would like to continue.”
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