Hull-Aylmer and Pontiac candidates debated at the British
Ten of the twelve candidates running for the Hull-Aylmer and Pontiac ridings came to the British on the evening of October 2 to debate and answer questions from the public just weeks before the official October 21 vote.
Conservative Pontiac candidates Dave Blackburn and Bloc Québécois' Jonathan Carreiro-Benoit were unable to attend.
Moderated by Didier Péries, Bulletin editorialist and Linton Garner, director of the Regional Association of West Quebecers, the debate covered local economy issues and their priorities if they were elected. It was co-hosted by the Bulletin d’Aylmer and the British Pub.
The public question period allowed the candidates to further discuss environmental issues, the Chalk River low frequency nuclear waste facility, humanitarian aid, immigration, Bill 21, transportation, and providing assistance to small businesses.
Here is a limited selection of debate highlights.
Greg Fergus, who has been a big supporter of the light rail project in the west end of the city, said there was going to be some big news coming up soon concerning the project. When asked about the long-term viability of the proposed technology, both Liberal candidates stated that the choice of technology was entirely in the hands of the STO and the city of Gatineau.
The Liberals assured that the proposal for a low-emission nuclear dump project near Chalk River has not yet been formalized. "We want to protect the river, let's be clear, the project as we know it is not finalized. More than 200 questions have been asked by five different government departments and so far the proponent has no answer. Until they do, the project will not go any further," said William Amos, who represents the party in the Pontiac riding.
On the environment, the Liberals said they would fight for the elimination of single-use plastics, enforce a heftier tax on CO2 emitters and continue to invest in Nature Conservancy Canada’s (NCC) territorial protection programs.
In April, Justin Trudeau's government allocated $100 million to the NCC dedicated to the protection and conservation of 200 hectares of land and species that occupy it in southern Canada.
The Liberals also promised to continue to lower the tax burden on the middle class and increase the tax rate for individuals with incomes above $200,000 a year.
The Conservative party was represented in both counties by Mike Duggan, David Blackburn being absent due to prior engagements.
The municipal councillor for the district of Deschenes insisted on improving the road system and public transport in order to reduce the time lost in transit. According to Mr. Duggan, the federal government should ensure that the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau are treated as a whole when it comes to transportation issues. He cites a lack of communication and thinking about bridges, highways and public transportation.
On immigration, the Conservatives encourage immigration, but say they want to tighten government mechanisms to make the system more effective. This tightening would reduce the number of migrants but, according to the Conservatives, would ensure a better quality of migrants in the system for a shorter time.
On the Chalk River file, Mr. Duggan emphasized the public's patience with the record that the low-level radioactive waste that is the product of important medical research is already on the scene and that it would be more dangerous to move it than to build the mechanisms on site to ensure their safety.
When speaking of the environment, the Conservatives say they want to leverage incentives for the development of green technology rather than imposing "punitive measures" on carbon emitters here in Canada.
The Conservatives insisted on improving and increasing the effectiveness of existing programs and social infrastructure before investing massively in new programs.
The New Democrats said that they were in favour of the light rail project and that they firmly oppose the Chalk River nuclear dump installment with the Pontiac candidate, Denise Giroux, stating that the project was corrupt and that "the federal government allowed the SNC-Lavalin consortium to freely draw on the $8 billion fund with which Canada hoped to solve its longstanding problem of radioactive waste scattered throughout Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
The NDP were committed to creating 300,000 green jobs that would transition Canada into a greener economy and provide Canadians with viable long-term jobs, stating that this transition would be achieved by providing better access to higher education and by making the labor market more bilingual.
Nicolas Thibodeau, who is running in Hull-Aylmer, assured that the NDP would try to limit the credit rates that banks impose on citizens in order to reduce the tax burden on middle-class families.
Mr. Thibodeau, a LEED-certified architect, also stated the NDP wanted to focus on building more innovative green structures and restructuring military budgets to encourage the purchase of peacekeeping and humanitarian vehicles and equipment.
The Green Party says it supports the implementation of the light rail project. Josée-Poirier Défoy, candidate in Hull-Aylmer, also expressed that the Greens would like to encourage measures that promote cycling and teleworking from home in order to reduce the ecological footprint of commuting.
Claude Bertrand, who represents the Greens in the Pontiac, expressed the Party's categorical opposition to the “disgusting” Chalk River nuclear dump. The Greens have also focused on the greening of the economy through the specialization of the workforce. Both candidates expressed that they wanted to put in place a measure that facilitates access to higher education for rural communities and low-income families.
Greater access to healthy and local food as well plans to support various community based environmental initiatives were also put forward by the Green Party candidates.
People's Party of Canada
On the environment, Mario Belec, who represents the PPC in the Pontiac, expressed that his party would like to invest in the development of local ecological industries, such as factories producing wooden utensils to replace plastic ones.
The PCC wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 15% to 10% and increase the annual basic exemption for income tax from $12,000 to $15,000 for workers. These measures would help them address the labour shortage by stimulating growth for employers and increasing work incentives for workers.
People's Party candidates were not asked about the Chalk River nuclear dump.
Hull-Aylmer's candidate, Rowan Tanguay, captured the public's attention with his promise to fight for a drug decriminalization program similar to the one set up in Portugal in 2001.
Bloc Québécois candidate Joanie Riopel said she wanted Ottawa to "finally spit out the envelope for the light rail project like the Quebec government did". She criticized the delays in funding the project, accusing the federal government of prioritizing other projects elsewhere in Canada to the detriment of this project in Quebec.
The Bloc expressed that Gatineau "deserved better than being a mere suburb of Ottawa" and that more public service offices should be established on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River.
Yves-François Blanchet's party strongly opposed the Chalk River project.