An outdoor federal election candidates meeting for the Argenteuil-La Petite Nation riding was held on September 12 at the Avoca Community Centre in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.
Four out of the six candidates running in the riding were present. They were Yves Destroismaisons of the Bloc Québécois (BQ), Liberal candidate Stéphane Lauzon, Conservative candidate Marie Louis-Seize, and New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate Michel Welt. Names were drawn for the speaking order, each candidate was allowed up to 10 minutes to speak, and then audience members could ask questions.
Louis-Seize defended her party’s plan to reduce expenses for citizens, including the plan to allocate parents money for childcare rather than having a directly subsidized program. She also emphasized the need for the federal government to act responsibly on climate change, and respect provincial jurisdiction on language and culture in Québec.
Welt outlined NDP plans to invest more in health, long-term care, childcare, housing, and adopt more aggressive measures to counter climate change.
Destroismaisons said he is making efforts to improve his English skills.
“We represent all Quebecers in Ottawa,” he said.
Destroismaisons highlighted BQ efforts to defend Québec business and trade interests at the federal level and said the federal government needs to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry and focus on the electrification of transportation and agriculture. He said there should be no conditions placed on federal health transfer payments to provinces.
Lauzon defended his achievements as the riding’s Member of Parliament (MP) since 2015.
“I instigated the rural caucus!” he said, highlighting changes it advocated which resulted in more small municipalities being eligible for federal funding. Lauzon said he has secured approximately $400 million in federal funding for the riding since being elected in 2015. He compared that to the approximately $17 million the riding received when it was represented by a BQ MP from 2006 to 2011.
Lauzon also highlighted the announcement made during the past summer of federal funding to bring reliable, high-speed internet to the entire region.
“That started in the rural caucus.”
Lauzon also defended the Liberal government’s pandemic response. He said he supports the efforts by the MRC d’Argenteuil to re-establish passenger transportation on the Quebec-Québec Railway line through the region.
Lauzon cast the Liberal party as the best defender of English-language rights in Québec.
“We recognize that English-speaking minority communities are vulnerable.”
Deer farm disagreement
One of the questions from the small audience of 20 was about federal action on having a local deer farm decontaminated after Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was discovered in the domestic herd there in 2018. A substantial deer cull of both the domestic herd and wild deer in the surrounding territory followed. The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for ensuring the site is properly cleaned up to ensure any traces of CWD are removed. The municipality of Grenville-sur-la-Rouge has continually pressured the federal government to complete the work.
“We always back the municipality. This is a complicated file,” said Lauzon.
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Mayor Tom Arnold was in the audience and complained about the speed at which the government is moving on the issue. He asked Lauzon when he last looked at the deer farm file, asked if the cleanup is being done.
“We’re working with the owner,” Lauzon responded.
“Why isn’t your government transparent?” asked Arnold, stating the municipality has been waiting for more than a year for the site cleanup to happen, and he wants to be sure the property owner pays for the cleanup and not taxpayers.
“The owner has lots of responsibilities,” said Lauzon, but Arnold was not satisfied.
“His proposal was to leave the shit there and plant trees on it, and your government approved it!” exclaimed Arnold. He added the owner’s proposal is against the laws of the municipality.
“You had better talk to your civil servants!” said Arnold. He noted there is a risk of birds and other wildlife spreading potentially contaminated materials into the food chain.
Destroismaisons agreed with Arnold’s concerns.
“If they pollute, they should pay,” he commented.
Welt, who is not a resident of the riding, admitted he is not familiar with the situation.
Arnold apologized to Lauzon for getting angry.
Louis-Seize said she will listen to the municipality’s concerns if elected and referred to her past work as a union leader as a precedent for standing up to others.
“I’m not scared of the rich people! Shut up and pay!”
Climate change and other environmental issues dominated the remainder of the discussion.
“We are the only government to have a broad environmental strategy,” said Lauzon, who defended the carbon tax introduced by the Liberal government.
“What about the $13 million for the Trans Mountain (pipeline)?” asked a woman in the audience.
“We still need gas until we make this transition (away from fossil fuels),” Lauzon responded.
Destroismaisons noted greenhouse gas emissions have increased under the Liberal government.
Welt said the NDP has the most ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which include ending subsidies to the oil industry, ending all exploration for oil, gas, and coal, and supporting the electrification of transportation.
An audience member commented that graphite used in batteries for electric vehicles comes from mines. A proposed graphite mine in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge has led to considerable controversy in recent years.
Lauzon said better technologies now exist for graphite to be recycled. Destroismaisons said it is up to the provincial government to decide which areas are acceptable for mining.
“There is nothing ecological about a graphite mine,” said Welt. He said it should not be developed if there is no social acceptability for the project.