Update: A few words were omitted when we reported on comments by Conservative candidate Pierre Lemieux on agriculture and supply management. Lemieux is in favour of agriculture and supply management and says they play an important role for families operating family farms. The Review apologies for the error.
Lively discussion and a few fiery moments typified a federal all-candidates meeting in Rockland on October 3. Five of the six Glengarry-Prescott-Russell candidates seeking election on October 21 were present. Jean-Jacques Desgranges of the People’s Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada candidate Francis Drouin, Pierre Lemieux of the Conservative Party of Canada, Green Party of Canada candidate Marthe Lépine, and Konstantine Malakos, the New Democratic Party’s Konstantine Malakos were present. The meeting was sponsored by the Association canadienne française de l’Ontario Prescott-Russell and moderated by Benjamin Vachet.
(Note Lépine is still on the ballot, but is no longer representing the Green Party.)
Drouin said unemployment in the riding has declined during the four years he has served as its Member of Parliament (MP) and noted recent federal investments in Ivaco Rolling Mills and Ecolomondo as examples of local industrial expansion.
Malakos and Lépine both highlighted the need for green jobs and manufacturing.
Desgranges said job creation is not the government’s job and is the responsibility of entrepreneurs.
Access to reliable internet in rural areas is a problem, according to Lépine. Drouin said he has—and will, continue to work to bring better service to the region.
Lemieux called small business “an economic engine of the region” and said the Liberals only see small businesses as a source of tax revenue.
During the course of the debate, Drouin stressed the importance of government supporting local festivals, which bring economic benefits to the region.
Lemieux said that agriculture and supply management play a very important role with respect to tourism as it relates to the local economy and that and we need to support family farms so that they can be vibrant and healthy and can earn the revenue they need to raise their families. The festivals which bring visitors to the region are often connected to local farms, Lemieux said.
In response, Malakos repeatedly highlighted the 8.4 per cent in market share supply-managed dairy farmers have had to relinquish to imports under both Liberal and Conservative governments.
Lemieux promoted the Conservative plan that would replace the carbon tax.
“We have a climate crisis,” said Malakos. Desgranges questioned if it is a crisis. Drouin said there is scientific evidence to prove it.
Malakos questioned if Desgranges obtained his scientific education from Trump University.
Lemieux interjected and said that Canada should only be responsible for its own share of carbon dioxide output, which he said is only two per cent, compared to China’s which is much higher.
“Greenhouse gases don’t respect boundaries,” Lemieux stated.
Drouin accused “the right” of ignoring the facts.
Desgranges responded by complaining of the “alarmism” surrounding climate change.
Lemieux said Conservative promises to reduce income taxes and repeal the carbon tax would help low income people the best. He said the tax is an attack on the region’s poor.
Drouin defended the Liberal child benefit program and removal of the income tax on it.
Malakos said the NDP plan for national pharmacare would help people living in poverty.
Drouin said cuts by Premier Doug Ford’s conservative government in Ontario have affected the poor.
“This is a federal election,” the Conservative candidate said back to Drouin.
On immigration, Drouin, Lemieux, and Malakos all spoke highly of the need to welcome and integrate immigrants into local communities, especially francophone immigrants.
Desgranges said he supports only legal immigration based on the potential of people to contribute to Canada’s economy and society.
Lépine suggested the system do better to fill the agricultural labour shortage. Lemieux also acknowledged the shortage but said the application system needs to operate more efficiently.
Drouin criticized the Conservative and People’s Party immigration plans to reduce the number of new arrivals in Canada. He said immigrants are needed to fulfill labour demands.
Another opportunity to meet the candidates in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is on October 15 at 6 p.m. at La Cité Golf Club in Hawkesbury.
You can watch the debate here: