With less than one week to go before election day (October 21) seven of the eight Glengarry-Prescott-Russell federal election candidates gathered at La Cite Golf Club for a meet-the-candidates meeting.

Jean-Jacques Desgranges (People’s Party of Canada), Marc-Antoine Gagnier (Rhinoceros Party), Francis Drouin (Liberal Party), Pierre Lemieux (Conservative Party), Konstantine Malakos (New Democratic Party), Daniel Fey (independent) and Darcy Neal Donnelly (Libertarian Party) were present. Independent candidate Marthe Lepine was absent.

There was an informal 30-minute segment at the beginning of the meeting, during which anyone could meet the candidates at their tables. About 40 people were present at the event, organized by Hawkesbury citizen Karen Mingarelli.

A random draw dictated the order in which candidates could give brief opening states at the beginning of the one-hour question period which began at 4:30 p.m.

Here are a few highlights.
(We should note that due to acoustics and lack of microphones, it was especially difficult to hear Rhinoceros candidate Marc-Antoine Gagnier as well as, at times, independent candidate Daniel Fey, despite requests from the audience for people to speak louder. )

Independent candidate Daniel Fey was the first to give his opening statement and said that he was running because people with good ideas are often held back.

Fey said he would work to enable people to, “bring your voice forward.”

Libertarian Party candidate Darcy Neal Donnelly said he has aligned himself with this party because he agrees with the party principles.

“I am a truck driver but now I am a politically-active truck driver,” Donnelly said, adding that he believes in freedom and entrepreneurial power.

Liberal Party candidate Francis Drouin mentioned community engagement, services that benefit people and lower classes for the middle class, along with keeping the retirement age at 65, as well as ensuring the rights of Franco-Ontarians.

“I am there to listen to you,” said Drouin, who is seeking re-election as MP.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Jean-Jacques Desgranges spoke about his work experience in trades, as a farm hand and now, as a lawyer. He is an advocate for free speech.

Conservative Party candidate Pierre Lemieux pointed to his 10-year history as a “good MP” before Drouin’s term of office.
“I worked to improve our riding (during that time),” Lemieux said, as he mentioned his 20-year Armed Forces career and being the father of five children.

“In the past four years, I have seen that Justin Trudeau is not what he seems to be. We can deliver the change. One vote at a time,” Lemieux said.

After opening statements, emcee Leeça St-Aubin outlined the rules and posed questions that each candidate could answer.

The first question was about how to encourage investments in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell (GPR).

Desgranges said that the People’s Party of Canada would support lowering corporate taxes for small businesses. He pointed to GPR’s geographic opportunities as being located between Montreal and Ottawa. But he also mentioned that there is an opportunity for the processing of agricultural products here — and to sell those in the major cities that are close by.

Liberal candidate Francis Drouin said that land with water and sewage services is crucial to investments, along with high-speed internet in the region.

“Municipalities have to be ready for businesses,” Drouin said, adding that those three things have to be in place. He pointed to the federal governments $400 million for green businesses and said that his government had supported the building of the new Ecolomondo plant in Hawkesbury, which will create new jobs in the region and is a business which is removing tires from the waste stream.

“The region needs an MP who knows how to collaborate with the regional and municipal governments, Drouin said.

Conservative candidate Pierre Lemieux said that strong economies create jobs and attract investment.

“We need to build on the strengths of Hawkesbury. We have access to two skilled labour pools,” Lemieux said, referring to Montreal and Ottawa.

“Small businesses need an injection to get going,” Lemieux continued, adding that federal, provincial and municipal governments need to work together as a team effort.

Lemieux immediately moved on to the Conservative Party’s goal of eliminating the carbon tax.

“Ontarians don’t want the carbon tax. Why can’t the federal government do what Ontarians want?” Lemieux asked.

Lemieux said that the savings on carbon tax would put money in taxpayers pockets which they could spend in the region and that would also stimulate the local economy.

New Democratic Party candidate Konstantin Malakos advocated for the federal government’s involvement in renewable technology.

“We need to bring renewable energy to Hawkesbury,” Malakos said, mentioning that solar panels and e-cars could be made in Hawkesbury.

He also referred to Climate Change goals but said that we need to develop new businesses while we protect what is already here.

“I see Hawkesbury as a beautiful town and I see it becoming a hub of green development,” Malakos said.

“Our party’s plan is 300,000 renewable jobs across the country and I want to fight for that here,” Malakos said.

Independent candidate Daniel Fey pointed out that there are 100 small communities within the riding and said that because Hawkesbury is in a prime location between Montreal and Ottawa, it was well-positioned. But he emphasized the need for rural services and said that a transit system — or mass transit — could change the region.

“We hear a lot of promises from the parties, but no information. There are many, many problems. Referring to the St-Albert Cheese Co-operative, Fey asked by a soya-based manufacturing facility could not be located in Hawkesbury.

Libertarian candidate Darcy Neal Donnelly said that the one ingredient needed for investment was entrepreneurs.

“We need to reduce the barriers and remove the disincentives,” Donnelly said. Free entreprise with no government control is needed.

“Society is deteriorating and entrepreneurs are tired of being punished,” Donnelly said, adding that there needs to be a reduction in the controls exerted on free markets, as well as a reduction of investment taxes.

“We need to make investors look at what we are offering,” Donnelly said.

Tourism initiatives

Drouin says that there are 4,000 jobs in tourism in GPR and that there needs to be support for local festivals, like the St-Albert Curd Festival, which draw thousands to the region.

“We need services, restaurants … for tourists. I have heard since I was a one-year-old that we are well-situated,” Drouin said, adding that a tourist strategy in urban centres and agri-food locations are important.

Outdoor festivals are great but nature can be a nasty beast when it does not cooperate, Drouin said.

Gagnier suggested allowing aliens to visit the region.

Lemieux pointed to past investments by the Conservative government in GPR during his term of office, mentioning the Centre culturel Le Chenail, the Festival du Curd, L’Echo d’un peuple, Festival Western Wendover and Centre culturel les trois p’tits points. Capitalizing on the multi-cultural aspects of the region is important and these festivals bring tourist dollars to food, gas and lodging establishments.

He also mentioned the $600,000 investment in the local cycling path and said that federal funding is important to tourism initiatives.

Malakos said investment in local organizations was important and mentioned the need for transportation in between communities. We need a campaign to promote this region to tourists.

“The festivals here are unbelievable,” Malakos said. Rural public transit and moving workers around by transit were two items stressed by Malakos.

Fey said that while the region cannot compete with casinos, it could encourage safe family activities locally and local businesses could be promoted while visitors are here. When asked to clarify, Fey said that camping sites, family venues, resorts — more family-oriented activities would be a boon.

Donnelly once again focused on the need for entrepreneurial initiatives and the need to get rid of corporate welfare as a spur to investment in tourist attractions and businesses.

“Everyone is talking about investing . . . with money that we don’t have,” Desgranges began.

If Canada is going to invest, it should be for a “central thing”, Desgranges continued, something like a Caledonia Springs Hotel — a large hotel or a a casino. People also love the agri-tourism sector and learning how things are done on a farm.

If taxes were lowered by 10 per cent, that would help investment. There could be a wine industry in this corner of the riding, Desgranges pointed out.

Affordable housing

When candidates were asked about the need for affordable housing, Liberal candidate Francis Drouin was first in line to answer and pointed to a recent meeting organized in Hawkesbury with land owners, developers, builders and the Town of Hawkesbury to discuss initiatives for building mixed residential housing.

“We need to give incentives to entrepreneurs,” said Drouin.

Lemieux pointed again to the carbon tax when discussing the people who need affordable housing. Eliminating the carbon tax would give people a break on their electricity bill, home heating and food costs. The carbon tax is affecting everyone — from farmers to consumers, all of whom are paying carbon tax on fuel, according to Lemieux.

Lemieux said his party is the only party that would eliminate carbon tax.

NDP candidate Konstantin Malakos says the NDP party will create 500,000 new units of affordable housing, working with municipalities whenever possible. He says his part believes in rent subsidies in cases where rent is more than 30 per cent of what is earned by the household.

Independent candidate Daniel Fey said that there is an envelope of funds that should be accessed to benefit the entire riding.

“If we don’t use that funding it goes to other projects in other ridings,” he said.

Donnelly questioned the idea of spending government money to solve problems caused by government.

“It takes investment to build housing. In a free market, people will build it (housing) themselves,” Donnelly said.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Jean-Jacques Desgranges said the issue of affordable housing is complex. He was not against having government assist at the local level, but emphasized that there is no “blank cheque” available.

A question was asked related to the under-representation of women in politics and how to encourage women to become involved.

Malakos said he found it disgusting that all of the candidates in the room were male. He knows it is not like that everywhere, but said he found it “really bizarre”.

Referring to access to proper health care and the persisting wage gap, Malakos said that we need to find ways to encourage women but that the reality is the bulk of child care and home responsibilities still to women.

“Women still bear the brunt of responsibility. We have to get more people to present themselves,” Malakos said.

Daniel said that women have to get their voices out there and that even if they cannot become involved in a specific political party, women could become independent candidates (as he did).

“Maybe there is a fear of stepping outside of their traditional roles — or a fear of being heard,” Fey said.

“If you are asking where I stand on abortion, it is a women’s decision and it is our responsibility to make sure it is done carefully and with compassion,” Fey said.

Donnelly said the question was related to all women’s rights.

Women have the right to feel safe, Donnelly said, adding that if a woman does not feel safe, “She should have the right to carry a firearm.”

“The president of our party is a woman. It takes courage to overcome the fear and yes, they have extra responsibilities. They are the mothers . . . we try to take on as much as we can and we’re trying,” Donnelly said.

All women can step forward to present themselves and that is what he encourages, said Donnelly.

Desgranges said that it was a matter of personal choice for women and that the opportunities are there for them to present themselves. Women can stay at home or go out and work, he said.

Emcee Leeça Aubin interjected with a question. “Are you saying that the only barriers are personal barriers?”

Desgranges replied that it was his point of view that running for office was a personal choice.

Drouin referred to having conversations with women about getting involved in politics. There should be values and examples for young girls in school.

Lemieux said that it was a good question. But he added that the Conservative Party has more women running than ever before.

“Women bring a view to the table,” Lemieux said.

“I think that in order to understand what the barriers are we need to ask women. It is not for me to say. We need an open and fair process to encourage them and they may think there are barriers that are not there,” Lemieux said. There has been a lot of positive change in the House of Commons, Lemieux ended.