Federal election hopefuls square off at Expositor all candidates’ night

From left is Conservative Party of Canada candidate Dave Williamson, Green Party of Canada candidate Max Chapman, Liberal Party of Canada candidate Heather Wilson, New Democratic Party candidate Carol Hughes and People’s Party of Canada candidate Dave DeLisle. All are vying to become the next member of parliament for the federal riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.

M’CHIGEENG – The five candidates vying for the position of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing Member of Parliament put their party’s best foot forward at an all candidates’ meeting held on the evening of October 2 in the cafetorium of Manitoulin Secondary School. The evening’s proceedings took place under the steady hand of moderator Warren Schlote, a Manitoulin Expositor staff writer and both the audience and the candidates conducted themselves with decorum and respect in what a number of observers characterized as “one of the best in years.”

Mr. Schlote began the evening by laying out the structure for the evening’s program, saying the candidates would each have six minutes in which to outline their candidacy, followed by a three-minute rebuttal opportunity in which to respond to the other candidates’ remarks or expand on their own platforms. Following the speeches, the audience was able to ask questions of the candidates and each candidate was given the opportunity to respond. The order of speaking was drawn at random.

Dave Williamson, the Conservative candidate, won the first speaking slot. His bio stated that he is currently the CAO of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands and that he and his wife, Pam, have raised three children. His bio included considerable economic development experience including time as the manager of the Innovation Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, as well as early years as a miner in Elliot Lake (ending as a shift boss) and the CPR in Chapleau. Mr. Williamson worked in the insurance industry following his stint at the CPR. He holds certification as a certified general accountant (CGR).

Mr. Williamson began his introduction with a story about how, when door knocking across the Island, he was greeted with “come in” and unlocked doors. “This reflects the Manitoulin Island,” he said.

Affordability was the key theme he repeated throughout his address, which included a commitment to repeal the carbon tax, which he said would amount to 4.6 cents a litre at the fuel pumps and will rise in the future, all of which hits the North particularly hard. “If I don’t turn the key, I don’t go to work,” he said.

Mr. Williamson said the Conservatives would lower taxes by $440 per person, take the income tax off of maternity benefits and increase the seniors tax credit to “put $150 more in your pocket.” He also pledged that a Conservative government would increase health transfers to the provinces.

He said he would bring forth his experience and vowed to not grow Canada’s debt.

Incumbent Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP since 2008, NDP candidate Carol Hughes was next up on the firing line. Ms. Hughes is currently the assistant deputy speaker and vice-chair of the All-Party Health Research Caucus. Prior to assuming the deputy speaker role, Ms. Hughes was the NDP critic for First Nations Health. Ms. Hughes is a long-time community volunteer and activist, battling for stronger workplace safety and to make employment insurance available to those who need it the most. Through working with communities and businesses on all manner of federal applications, AMK is in the top three spots in per-capita funding from FedNor in the past four years. She remains committed to building a better Canada for future generations.

Ms. Hughes began by acknowledging the traditional territories and thanking the M’Chigeeng First Nation for “allowing us onto their territory for this debate.” 

Ms. Hughes went on to note that AMK is a riding “designed to bring the voice of small communities to Parliament.”

She said that she, along with her provincial counterpart Algoma-Manitoulin MPP Mike Mantha, “fought hard to save the Chi-Cheemaun ferry.”

As the AMK MP, Ms. Hughes said she fought hard to retain the 10 ridings in Northern Ontario and has worked to ensure funding for municipal infrastructure and small community festivals. “It has been an enriching experience, and I am confident I have been a good representative for this area and have more to offer,” she said.

Ms. Hughes said there are other important issues to be addressed, including “the significant challenges we face preparing for climate change and reimagining our economy so that we can build the low-carbon economy we desperately need,” while ensuring fairness across the country.

The NDP would save families $900 or more a year on energy costs by launching a large-scale retrofit program for homes to bring down costs and lower emissions, as well as build 500,000 affordable homes across Canada, boosting construction with tax relief and building more co-op housing.

She said the underfunding of Indigenous communities disadvantages people for life.

“Add to that the non-stop squeezing of our pocketbooks with costs for … housing, medication, cell phones, hydro, childcare and tuition going up, while governments in Ottawa and Queen’s Park cut the services you and your family rely on,” she said.

She likened Andrew Scheer to being just like Stephen Harper and pointed to the cuts to children’s services and education brought in by the Conservative leader’s provincial counterparts.

Ms. Hughes asserted that years of neglect of the North by successive federal governments have left industry reeling. “The NDP are the only party that has a platform for the North,” she said.

“We will save you hundreds of dollars a year on your phone and internet plans by taking on the big telecoms,” she said, adding the NDP would set a price cap for service plans as well as introducing a “telecom consumers’ bill of rights.”

“You can count on Northern Ontario New Democrats to be on your side—because we are in it for you,” she concluded.

Liberal candidate Heather Wilson is a devoted community leader with a proven record of community service, noted her bio. “As a leader in business and an advocate for gender equality and social justice, she believes Northern Ontario can be a game changer in the evolving global economy. Heather has shown her deep passion and determination to make a real difference for families in the community.” Ms. Wilson is an experienced businesswoman and currently assists businesses with financial services. In addition to working with both public and private organizations for the past 30 years, she and her husband owned and operated a successful tourist resort in Willisville. As a mother of three sons, she has a first hand experience with the challenges middle class families face every day.

Ms. Wilson also began her address by acknowledging the traditional territory of M’Chigeeng. “Acknowledging the traditional territories of the First Peoples of Canada is critical to engaging on a path toward building better relationships between the Federal Government of Canada and the First Nation, Métis and Inuit Peoples of Canada, something that I feel is very important in our region.”

“I, along with the Liberal Party, am in a position to create real change,” she said. “By electing a Liberal MP, AMK will finally be back to having the support of a government in power.”

Ms. Wilson noted that she has been working hard since 2015 to master the French language, including three years of study at College Boreal.

“People are worried about good quality jobs, in the North,” she said, adding that businesses are worried about having a qualified work force and seniors are worried about health care and housing in their communities. She referenced climate change concerns and said her party was in the best position to address all of those worries, with businesses having created over 1,000,000 good jobs since 2015. “We won’t be stopping there.”

“New investments in initiatives like the New Horizons for Seniors were introduced to empower seniors. These programs encourage sharing of knowledge and skills and enhance social well-being and community vitality, especially given our aging population,” she said.

“As of 2019, it is no longer free to pollute anywhere in Canada,” Ms. Wilson said. “The price on pollution will lead to a healthier environment and will put more money back in the pockets of Canadians.” She said carbon pricing is the most effective way to reduce emissions and stimulate clean innovation. Ms. Wilson said that the country would use science and workforce training to best 2030 emission goals and become net-zero emissions by 2050.

Ms. Wilson noted the Liberals have committed to planting two billion trees, protect 25 percent of Canada’s oceans by 2025, to ban single-use plastics and work with other levels of government to protect fresh water.

On the First Nations’ front, Ms. Wilson noted that “Justin Trudeau and the current government has done more work on Indigenous issues in four years than the previous government did in 10. In fact, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde recently said that never has this amount of resources been committed to First Nations Peoples.”

She asked the audience to embrace positivity in the face of growing populism at home and abroad.

“Justin Trudeau has said ‘A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream, it can be a powerful force for change’,” said Ms. Wilson. “This is what I stand for and what will guide me in representing you.”

Green Party candidate Max Chapman lives in Little Current. He was raised on Manitoulin and considers himself to have been shaped by the rural landscapes and community driven lifestyle of the Island. A graduate of Manitoulin Secondary School and a student at Queen’s University, he was motivated to run for the Green Party of Canada by a commitment to make his community an even more compassionate and inspiring place to live. 

Mr. Chapman comes from a family of commercial fishermen on Lake Huron that embraced connecting to the environment in work and play. He said that clean and safe food, air, water and soil are key to prosperity and that creativity and imagination are integral to innovation and a future where all Canadians can thrive. Mr. Chapman understands firsthand the negative impacts that climate change and poor governance have on rural and farming communities.

“I chose to enter politics because I am tired of waiting,” said Mr. Chapman. “I’m tired of watching my community suffer because politicians lack the courage to do what’s right and put the interests of everyday people before the interests of corporations.”

Mr. Chapman said he wanted AMK to grow and prosper so it could support families, grow a strong sustainable economy and protect the natural world and servicing community needs.

Mr. Chapman said the Green Party “has the strongest plan to transition off of fossil fuels in time to stop runaway climate change. We are committed to protecting workers by investing in green energy projects and new infrastructure nationwide.” He projected that oil and gas workers would transition to skilled labour jobs, retrofitting buildings to improve efficiency. This “will help Northerners cut the costs of heating and hydro while also creating four million new jobs in the process.”

As for the North, Mr. Chapman said his party would help the forestry and mining sector by refocusing Natural Resources Canada away from fossil fuels and toward greener products. “We will restore the National Forest Strategy that was dropped by the Harper government and ignored by the Liberals,” he said. A move that would encourage responsible logging into the future. He added that he wants to see more value-added timber manufacturing in the riding to strengthen the local economy.

The Greens, he said, would invest $40 million into a Northern Ontario mining innovation cluster to help the industry become more efficient and increase standards of employment for miners.

“The Green Party will stand up to protect our local farmers and producers,” he continued. “We want to make it possible for young farmers to operate in their communities by making investments in Canadian agriculture. These changes include ensuring prime agricultural land stays accessible and affordable, giving farmers the right to save their seeds and foster a local food market. “We aim to replace one third of imported food with Canadian products and in the process return an estimated 15 billion dollars in revenue to communities across Canada,” he said.

The Greens will protect 30 percent of land, oceans and fresh water by 2030, he promised. He also committed to national pharma care and a switch to proportional representation for Canadian elections. 

The Green Party will continue toward reconciliation and building a better relationship with Indigenous peoples, he said.

“The Green Party is not a one-issue party,” concluded Mr. Chapman. “We are fighting to make sure that Canadians have a government focused on Canadians. In this election we have a choice: continuing with failed policies and a piecemeal approach to tackling issues or choosing a new path in the Green Party. A path of honest, ethical, and caring leadership.”

People’s Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Dave DeLisle has been married for 15 years and has a blended family that includes six adult children and one grandchild. He describes himself as “just an average person who understands the day-to-day struggles we all face.” Born in Windsor, Mr. DeLisle has called Smooth Rock Falls home for the past two-and-a-half years, where he is an avid sportsman. An outspoken champion of free speech, Mr. DeLisle has worked in a variety of blue collar jobs, working his way up to managerial positions. He said that he is “of First Nations heritage.”

“I have spent most of my life out of doors,” he said. “Growing up I understood that you have to be up front with people. I am who I am; if you can’t accept that you are not worth the time of day.”

Mr. DeLisle noted that the PPC foundation is built upon respect and fairness. “We believe all people should be judged on character and who they really are, regardless of race, colour or any of that. But we need to take care of Canadians first. If we are not handling our citizens, how are we going to take care of anybody else?” he queried. 

“We must all work together as one family,” he said. “We must all work together to clean up our environment.”

Mr. DeLisle noted that when it comes to the environment, “every other party is going to take your money.”

The PPC “believe that the first $15,000 of anyone’s income should not be taxed,” said Mr. DeLisle.

Mr. DeLisle said that his party would “get rid of the carbon tax and get rid of the dairy cartel” adding that people would then finally be able to afford milk. 

He pointed to the other parties as wanting to bring in some other carbon control plan such as cap and trade. Human-caused climate change, he asserted, is a global hoax. “It’s cyclical,” he said, adding that 500 scientists had recently debunked the theory. “Do the research,” he said. “I have.”

“Our party has a Canadian- and Canada-first platform,” he said. “Please think and look at the issues and the other platforms. Look at the PPC platform.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see next week’s edition of The Expositor for further coverage of audience questions from all candidates’ night.