Barrie Chaper: Federal candidates take on a variety of issues at CARP debate

Click here to read ‘Federal candidates take on a variety of issues at CARP debate‘ by Ian McInroy – The Barrie, September 16, 2015

Candidates from the four federal parties for the ridings of Barrie-Innisfil and Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte squared off during a debate this week.

The meeting, organized by the Barrie chapter of CARP (formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Persons), was held Tuesday night at the Steckley Gooderham Funeral Home.

Barrie-Innisfil candidates included Conservative John Brassard, Liberal Colin Wilson, the New Democratic Party’s Myrna Clark and Bonnie North of the Green Party. Canadian Action Party candidate Jeff Sakula was not scheduled to be at the debate, although he was in attendance

Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte candidates included the Green Party’s Marty Lancaster, Ellen White of the NDP, the Liberals’ Brian Tamblyn and Alex Nuttall of the Conservatives. Independent Ram Faerber and Darren Roskam of the Libertarian Party were not scheduled to take part in the debate, although Faerber was in attendance.

Candidates were given five questions to consider prior to the debate: how would you help the economy be less tied to fossil fuel production; how can the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), Old Age Security (OAS) and health care remain viable; plans to balance the budget; implementing health care reform and the federal government’s approach to terrorism and cyber security.

In regards to Bill C-51, Canada’s newly passed anti-terror legislation, Brassard said the primary role of government is to protect its citizens and that the bill — which he said is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — facilitates the sharing of information between government agencies and will ensure Canada is not used as a conduit for terrorism. “This is not the same war, you cannot see the enemy,” he said. “This is to protect the country.”

Wilson acknowledged “there is lots of good” in the bill. “The problem is, our liberties are being thrown out the window because there is no third-party oversight. We need third-party oversight and to change the definition of what constitutes a threat to Canadian society,” he said.

Clark, noting “the Liberals endorsed this draconian policy”, said the bill isn’t necessary. “We have these things in place and they’re working already. This bill is an invasion of privacy and civil rights.”

North said terrorism threats in North America are minimal. “The government … is a merchant of fear… and has overstepped its boundaries into private lives. We need better rules to protect us from hackers rather than more surveillance.”

In regards to weening the country’s dependence on oil, Nuttall said the Conservatives support manufacturing and job creation. “I don’t believe you have to disregard natural resources. There are other areas to improve growth,” he said, citing the party’s business-friendly policies and inroads into international markets.

Tamblyn said Liberals would invest in geo-thermal energy, solar and wind technologies. “We would shift our resource dollars to applied research and expand service-oriented exports.”

White suggested more priority should be given to the auto manufacturing sector in Ontario and tourism across the country. “In regards to fossil fuels, it’s time to broaden our horizons. It’s crazy to bank our future on a resource that is finite. We can be world leaders in the software industry,” she said.

Lancaster said getting the economy away from oil “could have a silver lining. This could be the biggest opportunity Canada has seen to change the causes for jobs. Piping oil out of the tar sands is a pipe dream,” he said.

Changes to CPP and OAS and the viability of the health care system were also discussed.

Tamblyn said as a former member of the Royal Victoria Hospital board of directors, he understands how expensive health can be. “There is a lot of innovation that is needed across the country and the federal government has to play a leadership role. It requires working with the provinces,” he said. “The current prime minister can’t even sit in the same room as the premiers.”

White said CPP and OAS must be made viable and that funding for health care is essential. “We need to balance the money we have in a better way and not give money to corporations. Stephen Harper has seen corporate taxes decrease,” she said.

“The government has changed their minds without consulting Canadians in regards to raising the (age of eligibility for) OAS from 65 to 67.”

Nuttall said those changes in OAS were prudent.

“The raising of the age of eligibility of Old Age Security from 65 to 67 was because of the viability of the plan,” he said, adding the Conservatives are also committed to health transfer payments. Other provinces are spending 5% or 6% of the transfer payments on health care, he said “Why not here in Ontario?”

Lancaster said it is important to get health care correct. “We’ve got to get to the root of the cause. The national leadership is not there. We need to fund innovation and spread it across the country,” he said, adding the Green Party would promote a national pharmacare program, digital medical records and other health care improvements.

Wilson chided the Conservatives on their “partisan advertising” and said voters should consider the choice between smart investments or austerity cuts. “In 2008, Stephen Harper threw billions at communities that weren’t ready. Justin Trudeau is willing to work with communities and have a dialogue, not partisan pockets (of funding) across the country.” He said the Liberals would offer skills training and apprenticeship programs to go along with investments and that planned deficits would be for a short period of time “but the investments will pay off in the long run.”

Brassard said the Conservatives have balanced the budget.

“The economy is dragged down by factors outside our borders. We are lowering taxes in the manufacturing sector (but) we can’t advocate going into debt,” he said, adding the party will continue with its plans to keep taxes low. “We have to create a business-friendly environment and cut red tape. We don’t want to stand in front of business, we need to stand behind it.”

A spokeswoman for CARP said video footage from the debate should be posted this weekend.

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