Parry Sound North Star
PARRY SOUND – The various Parry Sound-Muskoka riding MP hopefuls sparred over issues ranging from poverty, gender equality and youth engagement to the Syrian refugee crisis Tuesday evening.
The Parry Sound all-candidates’ debate, featuring five federal candidates for Parry Sound-Muskoka, was held at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, presented by the Parry Sound Area Chamber of Commerce in conjunction with the various media outlets of the West Parry Sound District. Over 300 people from the area attended the debate, where they were first able to listen to questions asked by a pre-selected panel and then offered the opportunity to ask questions of their own.
The meeting began with opening statements, beginning first with incumbent Conservative candidate, Tony Clement, who spoke about his successes both nationally and locally.
“Nationally our low taxes and job growth plan are working. The auditor general confirmed that we are near a $2 billion dollar surplus in last fiscal year, one year ahead of schedule, exports are up by point 23 per cent in July, the country saw 500,000 new full-time jobs in August,” said Clement. “Meanwhile, we have cut taxes for families, for seniors, and for small businesses and we will do more.”
Clement then switched gears to address his local successes, citing that he made a promise four years ago to focus on the Parry Sound economy and said that there have been some successes.
“I recently announced support for Crofters Organic, helping them expand and add quality jobs in the region,” said Clement. “We have seen additions of Eagle Aircraft and Outpost Media to name another two. I also announced support to enhance the infrastructure of the Parry Sound Airport and the Coast Guard base.”
While Clement held strong to what he called proven leadership and results, Liberal candidate Trisha Cowie said the Harper-led Conservative government is not working.
“After a decade of Steven Harper, Canadians’ faith in government has never been lower. People here in Parry Sound-Muskoka and across the country know that Ottawa is broken and we need a government that trusts Canadians,” said Cowie. “Steven Harper’s plan and his leadership are not proven. They have failed. Tom Mulcair has no answers on the economy, he irresponsibly supports Harper’s plan to give more to millionaires and he will cut billions of dollars in public investments.”
Cowie stated that Canada is a great country and deserves better leadership and Canadians will find that with the liberal leadership under Justin Trudeau.
Cowie cited that the party has a three-point plan to deliver real change for Canadians that includes creating jobs, growing the middle class, and helping those working hard to join it.
Marxist-Leninist candidate Albert Gray Smith touched on the issue of the economy, stating that “a new human thinking about the economy and its direction, who it should serve and its relation with the social and natural environment needs to come into being.”
Green Party candidate Glen Hodgson lightened the mood momentarily, thanking the nearly full Stockey venue for attending the event on a quintessential Parry Sound day, especially when a Blue Jays game was taking place. Hodgson said he would accept people “flashing” him the score but did not receive any takers by the end of the night.
Returning to the debate proceedings, Hodgson said that he, in representing the Green Party, offers voters the alternative to the old-school politics.
“Greens are different. Let me explain a few of the things that make us different,” began Hodgson. “Greens, unlike any of the other parties up here, will not whip votes. That means, we are the only party that can commit to you, that when elected MP, I will act in your best interest. Greens will not be told by their party leader, or by the party, how to vote, or what to do, or how to represent our constituents. We work for you.”
Hodgson went on further to say that the Green Party is the party of choice for those concerned about the environment and the effects of climate change.
The final candidate to offer opening remarks was the youngest on the panel, New Democratic Party candidate, Matt McCarthy.
McCarthy, echoing the comments of Liberal candidate Trisha Cowie, said that Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has failed Canadians, citing that it has the worst economic record since the Great Depression.
“The NDP will ask corporations to pay their fair share to invest in improvements, things that matter to all of us like healthcare, childcare, infrastructure and a secure retirement,” said McCarthy. “We’re going to help small business owners by cutting the tax rate, we’re going to bring in a national $15 dollar-a-day daycare…we’re going to get it done. Because Tom Mulcair has the experience and the plan to get it done.”
Opening statements were followed by questions from a pre-chosen panel, featuring representatives from event sponsors Rez91, the Parry Sound and Area Chamber of Commerce, the Parry Sound North Star, MooseFM, and Cogeco Cable.
The panel asked a variety of questions, ranging from social issues to economics and to gender equality.
Andrew Ryeland, president of the Parry Sound and Area Chamber of Commerce, asked the candidates what they will do to bring fibre optic based broadband connectivity to the West Parry Sound District. Ryeland said that various announcements have been made about broadband initiatives, but have unfortunately targeted the Muskoka side of the riding, a comment which was met with applause from the audience.
Hodgson, said that he could personally relate to this problem, living a mere five minutes from the Town of Parry Sound and not having access to reliable and affordable internet.
“If you want the candidate who will be the most committed to this you should probably go with the candidate who actually needs it,” said Hodgson.
Clement said he had previously worked with the Parry Sound Community SMART Initiative, and despite setbacks, the people of the West Parry Sound District will continue to have his support.
“I am quite confident that this is an excellent project,” said Clement. “It is important for new business growth, new jobs, new opportunity in the area – and it has my full support.” Clement further stated that the people of West Parry Sound need someone who knows how to champion, someone who has previous success and knows how to get things done, and concluded that that was his commitment moving forward.
Questions submitted from the audience and chosen by random draw followed questions from the panel. Questions from the audience tackled both local and global issues.
Audience member Glenda Clayton asked the candidates how their respective parties are prepared to deal with Syrian Refugee Crisis, which was met with sounds of agreement and applause from the audience.
The first to answer was the Green Party’s Glen Hodgson, who saidthe first thing that the Green Party would do was communicate with the other parties and agencies involved to establish a plan, first and foremost.
“It is terrible what is going on over there,” said Hodgson. “We as Canadians used to lead this country in terms of humanitarian crisis. We were the ones that world used to look for when they were looking for solutions to these things. Now, we just turn our backs or come up with excuses not to get involved.”
Marxist-Leninist Party candidate Albert Gray Smith began his response in saying: “The first thing we should do is stop creating refugees,” a comment which was met with cheers and applause from the audience.
“Canada has played a part in this,” said Smith. “…We participated in the bombing of Syria, which created Syrian refugees, and we should stop participating in these wars of intervention in sovereign countries.”
The meeting concluded with closing statements from all the candidates, where they reiterated their respective parties’ platforms and both their local and national goals as MPs if elected.
Election day is on October 19.