As the federal election draws closer, candidates competing for the Thunder Bay-Rainy River seat are trying to win over voters.
All five parties vying to win the federal election on Oct. 22 recently squared off at all-candidates' forum in Stratton last Thursday (Oct. 3), where they spoke about their platforms and policies. The forum was organized by the Rainy River Federation of Agriculture.
In response to a question from the audience about the federal debt and deficit “running rampant,” Liberal Party of Canada candidate Marcus Powlowski said a lot of economists argue the debt-to-GDP ratio is what matters most.
The ratio is based on a country's debt in proportion to the size of their economy, and in Canada it's 34 percent—the lowest net debt-to-GDP among the G7 nations.
“The debt really isn't all that bad compared to most country's and I think the Liberals are dedicated to reducing it,” Powlowski noted.
NDP candidate Yuk Sem-Won said while a nearly $700 billion federal deficit is a problem, the larger issue is how taxpayer money is being spent.
She criticized the liberals for spending $4.5 billion on the Trans Canada Pipeline and for instances of corporate welfare, such as the $12 million that went to Loblaws to install energy-efficient fridges.
“To give billions of dollars in loan forgiveness and subsidies, that's a ridiculous way to spend money when we are finding it harder and harder just to pay our bills,” Won charged.
“It's about choices and priorities and the New Democrats know that the priority has to be people in the communities not corporations and pipelines.”
Won said federal funds should be directed towards offsetting costs of medications, education, transportation, and infrastructure.
Conservative candidate Linda Rydholm said her party is also against corporate welfare and will reduce subsidies to corporations by $1.5 billion per year, if elected.
“Today's debts are tomorrows taxes,” she said, adding that reducing the debt and deficit are two key areas of focus for the Conservatives.
Over a five-year period, the Conservatives have promised to bring the deficit down to zero, while the People's Party of Canada (PPC) argue they can do it in two years.
“We're more moderate thinking five years,” Rydholm remarked.
PPC candidate Andrew Hartnell said the PPC is also strongly against corporate welfare and providing bailouts to large companies while workers are laid off.
Eliminating foreign aid is another big part of the party's platform.
“We need to actually focus on Canada right now . . . take a step back and get rid of the foreign aid. . . because the deficit is out of control,” Hartnell charged.
Amanda Moddejonge of the Green Party, said Canada's spending more than it has too and would like to see a change in policy.
“How many more taxes are we going to go through? There's no need for us to have this deficit,” she remarked.
Meanwhile, attendees of the forum also asked how Canada will comply with the Paris Agreement, which is the U.N's framework for dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions.
Moddejonge said Canada has to transition to a greener economy to deal with climate change.
“We have to do it smoothly and in a way that's not going to kill everybody financially, so we don't actually end up dying from climate change,” she stressed.
“We have to start looking at the types of pollution that we're over-emitting and what we're putting into the cities.”
Moddejonge also noted science and technology will play a large role in Canada becoming more environmentally stable.
Powloski said the Liberals have a policy towards climate change that involves a lot more than just the carbon tax, including 50 different measures to address the problem.
Some measures include increasing energy efficiency within communities, banning single-use plastics, and better protecting Canada's lakes and oceans.
In regards to the carbon tax, Powloski said it has been considered one of the best ways to deal with climate change by many, including the World Bank, some Republican politicians, and certain Progressive Conservatives.
“It's an effective way of changing people's behaviour because when you get that carbon tax and you only get 70 percent back in a rebate . . . you're going to look to ways you can reduce the amount of fossil fuels you use. And that's the way it works,” he noted.
Won said the NDP will make life more affordable while also addressing climate change.
“The NDPs plan has more than one way to address climate, it's not just carbon [pricing] but that is one part, just to be able to ensure that penalty is there for the industries,” she explained.
“But the other things is that we have to help people transition away from fossil fuel and be able to get to cleaner, more sustainable energy.”
Bringing back Greyhound or Northlander to northwestern Ontario, creating 300,000 new jobs related to clean, sustainable energy, and retrofitting homes to boost energy efficiency are other areas of focus for the NDP regarding climate, according to Won.
Rydholm said the Conservatives are staunchly against the carbon tax and if elected, their first piece of legislation will cancel it.
“It's an unfair tax and if things go the way they are planned right now, increasing the amount of carbon tax, by 2022 it will be approximately $1,100 per household,” she remarked.
“Everything, pretty well, is trucked into northwestern Ontario so that carbon tax is added to the food we buy, clothing we buy—everything.”
The Conservative plan has three areas of focus: green technology; environmental cleanup; and getting bigger polluters to co-operate with reductions in emissions, Rydholm noted.
She said greenhouse gas emissions are low in Canada because of the population and land size while countries like India and China need to get on board for a global solution to climate change.
Hartnell said the PPC will also eliminate the carbon tax.
“Our party actually wants to get out of the U.N. Paris Agreement and take a step back and see what we can do to change it,” he remarked.
The PPC isn't against climate change according to Hartnell, but he said the current system isn't working.
“A tax is not going to clean the waters and make fresh air; that's not what it's there for. It basically is a cash grab, that's all it is,” he charged.
The federal election is slated for Oct. 21. Before then, votes can be cast in person at the Elections Canada office, located at 540 King's Highway, in Unit B of the Rainy Lake Plaza.