Did you happen to miss the recent election debate? On Wednesday, September 16th, Vanier hosted a bilingual election debate in the auditorium. Present was a candidate from each of the parties, Jim Hughes from the Green Party (Ville-Marie-Le Sud-Ouest–Île-des-Sœurs), Mario Beaulieu from the Bloc Québécois (La Pointe-de-l’Île), Stéphane Dion from the Liberal Party (St. Laurent/Cartierville), Daniel Green from the Green Party (NDG/Westmount), and Rodolphe Husny from the Conservative Party (Outremont). Various topics were approached in the debate, such as youth employment and the economy, environmental issues, aboriginal affairs, as well as foreign affairs. For most topics, candidates were only given about three minutes to debate among themselves.
Youth unemployment in Canada currently stands around 13%, so it was no surprise that the first topic of debate was youth employment. Beaulieu, who only spoke in French, began by promising to invest 50 million into Employment Canada, saying it would add three million jobs each year, while also promising to invest more into scientific research. The NDP promised to create 40,000 jobs while at the same time increasing the number of paid internships, and the minimum wage to 15 per hour. The Liberals interjected by arguing that this new wage would only apply for “a small percentage” of Canadians (33, 000). In an interview with the Insider, the NDP later mentioned that the wage would apply to 100,000 Canadians. The Green party committed to making more jobs for electricians, plumbers, and renovators, while the Conservatives, with not much time left to argue, quickly discussed their plan to create more jobs in the export industry.
The debate on the economy was mostly between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The liberals argued that the decisions made previously in the Harper government were not transparent enough. The conservatives rebutted by saying that other parties’ portrayal of them has been misleading, and that if they stay on budget, the budget will balance itself. They mentioned that in the last fiscal year they had achieved a 1.9 million surplus, and argued that liberals would “bring us back into deficit”. The green party said if Canada used their budget, that there would be surpluses for the next 5 years, as a result of them giving higher taxes and no tax breaks to corporations. The liberals on the other hand said that balancing the budget was an “unrealistic goal”. An argument over how much ought to be put into infrastructure also ensued, with conservatives arguing that liberals were planning to invest far too much (125 billion) into infrastructure. They currently plan on investing 80 billion, in hopes that it’ll help balance the budget.
The Conservatives maintained that under the liberal government, greenhouse gases had gone up, and that under Harper, GHGs in 2013 were 3.4 % lower than they were in 2005. On the other hand, the Green party claims this is only because of the financial crash of 2008.
Although Conservatives are supporters of pipelines, their current goal is to reduce GHGs by 30% by 2030 (based on the 2005 levels), and to present this goal at the Paris Conference in December (the United Nations Conference on Climate Change). “It’s our economy” they said, arguing that this plan would work as long as they respect the environment by being safe and investing in “green technology”. They were not clear on their definition of green technology.
The Green Party rebutted, saying “I hope nobody believes what he’s saying”. They denounced the exploitation of coal and oil, saying it “should not be part of the environment”, and mentioned their plan for Canada to rejoin the Kyoto Protocol (an international treaty focused on reducing GHGs) as well as the Paris Conference.
Beaulieu was not hesitant to bring up the NDP’s ambiguity on their stance with the proposed Energy East pipeline. “They are not being transparent [with their decision]” he said, “it’s too dangerous”. In an interview with the Insider later on, the NDP confirmed that their stance on the pipeline was still not determined. If the pipeline was approved, it would costly approximately 12 billion dollars, and would be the longest yet in Canada, stretching from Alberta to as far as Quebec.
The NDP began by saying that “conditions on reserves are the result of having liberal and conservative governments for over 50 years”. Their plan, like the Green Party and Liberal party, is to invest into infrastructure on reserves. They would also instate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which consists of 94 recommendations that aim at protecting the rights of native people, as well as a commission of inquiry on lost and murdered aboriginal women. The Bloc swore that they would treat aboriginal people as a nation, and would sign a rights bill with them.
The Liberals claimed that the amount (2.6 million) the NDP was planning to invest in aboriginal affairs was not enough, emphasizing that we need to invest much more money in education (including post-secondary education), skills/employment training, safe drinking water, mental healthcare, community safety, and policing, rather than just having an inquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and good infrastructure.
The Conservatives, with little time left, stressed the “sincere apologies” they had made with Aboriginals in the past, and were against having an inquiry, saying that the current court of law was enough to deal with the problem.
The debate on foreign affairs revolved mostly around the current refugee crisis coming out of Syria. The Conservatives said they would accept 10,000 refuges into Canada and would invest 5 million into their needs. Their military coalition with Britain and the US in the fight against the Islamic State would continue. The Liberals said they would take in 20,000 this year, while maintaining a small role in the coalition with the US and Britain (2% of the airstrikes). The Green Party, Bloc, and NDP all firmly promised to end all military intervention with the Islamic State.
Later on, the Insider took the opportunity to interview the Green Party and the NDP on their stance on the new terrorism bill (C 51) and dual citizenship bill (C 24). Under C-51, CSIS and the RCMP would be able to access private information without the use of a warrant, and terrorist offences would be broadly defined as any action that interferes with “critical infrastructure” or the “economic and financial stability of Canada”. The NDP and Green Party are both for revoking it. The Liberal Party and Bloc are for amending it, but we were not able meet with Dion or Beaulieu on the specifics of that amendment.
Under C- 24, a new dual citizenship has been made for Canadians born outside of Canada. Under various conditions, these Canadians could be at risk of having their citizenship revoked. The NDP and Green Party said they were against the bill, with The Green Party arguing that Canadian citizens outside of Canada should even have the right to participate in federal elections.
We were not able to meet with the other parties for interviews.
Was there an obvious winner in this debate? Between the Liberals, NDP, and Green Party, it’s hard to say. Was there a loser? Most would likely say the Conservatives, who were often on the defense, and repeatedly not able to get their full point across due to time constraints.
Elections take place October 19th, to learn how to vote visit Elections.ca.
Written By: Miriam Lafontaine
Originally Published: September 2015