The five local federal candidates battled it out once again — this time at a debate in Iroquois Falls Wednesday night.
The town’s chamber of commerce hosted the candidates for the Timmins-James Bay riding at the Community Hall for a Meet the Candidates debate.
Charlie Angus, the New Democratic Party candidate, Michelle Boileau of the Liberal Party of Canada, Kraymr Grenke of the Conservative Party of Canada, Max Kennedy of the Green Party of Canada, and Renaud Roy of the People’s Party of Canada were questioned by residents, the chamber and the media on where they stand on issues such as northern economic development and tourism, small businesses, health care, homelessness and northern resources.
Around 150 people attended the debate.
Each candidate was given three minutes for an opening statement, one minute to answer each question, and three minutes for a closing statement.
Here are some of the questions that were asked by the audiences and the candidates’ responses.
What will your party do about the power dams that were sold in 2007 by Resolute Forest Products? Many members of the community believe it was not the company’s right to sell the dams.
Kennedy: “How feasible it is (to bring back the dams), I don’t know. There’s been a lot of changes. It’s certainly something that we need to consider. Here in Iroquois Falls, the mill that dam was built for doesn’t exist anymore. We do need energy at reasonable costs. It’s been rig the North, take everything and give it to the south. We’re not for that. I can’t promise you that we’d return those energy sources to the North. I don’t know what the legalities of that would be, but we would certainly work to see that you have good, clean, affordable energy so that our businesses here are not penalized.”
Roy: “We’re strong believers in the private sector and we want to encourage that. We want communities to create incentives for the private sector to succeed and to thrive because they will be the ones that will generate revenue they will be the ones who will create jobs.”
Angus: “What we need to do about it is stop the privatization of hydro that’s still ongoing. It started under Kathleen Wynne and it’s caused so much heartache and so (many) inefficiencies. If public power belongs to the people it must be returned to the people.”
Boileau: “It’s definitely our communities that feel the impacts of these dams on our rivers and so should the other communities that are benefiting from these dams being on our rivers. We feel the impacts, we should be reaping the rewards from all of that.”
Grenke: “To say we’re fortunate enough to have power generation like we do in the North is an understatement. I think it creates jobs and it creates natural electricity that we could produce here in the North. The resources that are developed here in the North should stay in the North. We have the ability to create these power processing plants and to ensure our viability stays strong.”
What is your party’s plan to address and finally deal with this issue of people living on our streets?
Angus: “We have pushed for a national housing strategy and we’ve put a number of 500,000 units. We need to get serious. This crisis has been coming since the 1990s when Paul Martin said the private sector would pick up the slack and they didn’t. And all the cooperative units that have been built up, all the seniors housing, the feds walked away. Once we started talking about it, Justin Trudeau started talking about it and he says he’s got (a strategy) but according to the parliamentary budget office, it’s less money than Stephen Harper put in. We’ve got to get serious about this. With 2,000 (homeless people) in the City of Timmins, we need actual clear targets and that’s what we will deliver.”
Boileau: “I sit on (a number of boards) and this is a topic that comes up at every one of our meetings and we’re trying to find solutions locally. Nationally, the Liberal government introduced the first National Housing Strategy. We put in place a strategy; we recognize that we’ll continue to build on it. We’ve invested (over) $55 billion with a 10-year plan and that 10-year plan will cut homelessness by 50 per cent. What I want to do is with the northern perspective that I have, with that local perspective, I want to make sure that the chronic homelessness that we’re seeing in Timmins-James Bay is cut by 50 per cent and more as well.”
Grenke: “We need to invest to ensure that these issues are not becoming more and more prevalent in our community. Two thousand out of 43,000 people in Timmins is quite a staggering number but this is a we problem that we need to address and this is exactly how we’re going to do it. We need to invest in our communities and it all comes back to a Conservative policy that we’re going with right now that Canadians need to take care of Canadians. For far too long, we’ve been sending money overseas and taking care of other parts of the world when ultimately we have social issues here at home. We have infrastructure that’s crumbling and we need to ensure that money is staying here in Canada to ensure all Canadians can get ahead.”
Kennedy: “(We have homelessness for) mainly two reasons: poverty and mental health issues. I’ve already mentioned the guaranteed livable income that will address the poverty issue quite succinctly. We’re looking at strengthening a main national housing strategy that will bring 15,000 new and renovated units each year to be affordable housing so people can get off the streets. We’re looking at putting over $750 million a year into those kinds of things for rent assistance which will help 125,000 people in Canada every year. We’re also looking at developing a mental health strategy, including a dementia strategy for strategy for seniors.”
Roy: “It’s sad anyone should be homeless anywhere in Canada, there’s no reason for that. What I find a little bit puzzling is that in this very small town here we have signs on some store windows that there are people looking for work so there’s a disconnect. I believe community organizations would be best because they know exactly what’s available here in town. (We could connect the homeless people in Timmins) with these jobs. I believe community organizations are much better because they’re right there close by to offer assistance to these people.”
What is your party’s plan for addressing the aging population and long-term care situation?
Roy: “My wife and I, we don’t have doctors here and there’s some shortages that I think could be resolved. One of the problems is there’s always this blame game going on between the province and the federal (government). The provinces are saying ‘we’re not being transferred enough money’ and the federal (government) says ‘you’re not running your business effectively.’ As a party one of the things that we want to do (is) we want to give up the GST part and we want to give that completely over (to the provinces) because that would be about the equivalent which is about $40 billion and then have (the provinces) be fully accountable to their residents.”
Angus: “One of the devastating impacts that we’ve seen was the decision by the (Stephen) Harper government to change the health care transfers to the provinces which benefited growing regions and older, rural regions like ours. That hole is anywhere from $13-30 billion in the health care system and it’s affecting us. We also need to start dealing with the pharmacare crisis. We need to deliver and we need to move on dental care. It’s time. Dental care is a major health issue facing many people in the North and in this country.”
Boileau: “We hear that story often in our communities where people have to travel or move just to have better access to health care. That’s something that the Liberal government has been trying to address and that’s why we’ve announced that we’re going to invest another $6 billion into the health care systems specifically to make sure that our rural communities have access to family doctors and have access to better home care. We are working on the pharmacare; we’re talking to the provinces. We’ve joined a pan-Canadian alliance to make buying medication in bulk easier and more affordable. When you buy in bulk, we’re getting our prescription drugs cheaper, making it easier for everyday Canadians to be able to get their treatments.”
Grenke: “The health-care needs in our region have been growing. We want to invest in our seniors and invest in home care to ensure that seniors have the ability to stay in the regions when they need care here in the North. We want to ensure that all Canadians have access to medical needs. We talked about pharmacare, but understanding that a lot of Canadians have access to a pharmacare plan. By simply giving it to everybody doesn’t make it easier. We want to ensure the people that need to bridge that gap … have pharmacare and they have the health needs they need to succeed and carry on as everyday Canadians.”
Kennedy: “When there’s free medication, especially to seniors, its use goes up by 44 per cent, which decreases the impact on our emergency health care system tremendously. It also helps to make ends meet. It increases that by 160 per cent which means they’re able to afford nutritional food, they’re able to afford to live in their house, their heat, their hydro. All of that affects their health tremendously. Pharmacare is a $26.8 billion commitment that the Greens are making to everyone. Poverty is the single greatest determinant of health in the senior population. We’re looking to increase income replacement to 50 per cent from 25 per cent by CPP (Canada Pension Plan) and institute a guaranteed livable income.”
What is your party going to do to help small business in Northern Ontario?
Boileau: “We know that seven out of 10 Canadians are working for small or medium businesses especially in our communities in Timmins-James Bay. Our small and medium businesses are really the backbone of these communities. In the past four years, the Liberal government reduced the corporate tax for small and medium businesses from 11 per cent to nine per cent and we want to keep building on that. We’re going to make grants available to be able to help digitize our services. We know how important that is in our northern communities to stay connected and to be able to trade amongst ourselves and work with each other, providing more tools and again working with that Ministry of Rural Economic Development to make sure that our small and medium businesses have the resources they need to thrive.”
Grenke: “We don’t have the big business world here in Northern Ontario. Small business has built and will continue to build this region and move it forward. We want to reduce small business tax to nine per cent and ultimately the carbon tax. That is a direct effect onto small businesses. Every small business that I talk to, that has been a direct effect that hasn’t helped them, that hasn’t helped reduce their emissions at this point. We want to move away from that to ensure that yes we want to become environmentally friendly but we want to ensure that costs stay low and that small businesses can succeed. They’re the people that are going to employ people here in the North and continue to reinvest in their communities. They’re the ones that are going to sponsor hockey teams and sponsor dance academies. Those are the ones that are going to drive our communities forward and continue to help Canadians get ahead.”
Kennedy: “Small businesses face a lot of barriers. One of them is recruiting and training talent and keeping them here. The Green Party will provide free tuition, guaranteed livable income so students can focus on their education, $10 billion in Canadian sustainable generations fund for trades and apprenticeships. Another barrier is regulation. It’s needed to keep us safe, but it needs to be concise and streamlined. Competitor jurisdictions (such as China), we need to reform trade. Trade cannot be free trade it needs to be fair trade. It needs to recognize all the costs that are involved. Access to capital. We need to also make it possible for people with good ideas to access those funds without a lot of red tape.”
Roy: “We want to eliminate supply management which is really governmental control of the supply of eggs, poultry and dairy. This will help the restaurant industry a lot because we are actually paying approximately twice the price for what we should be paying so these are inflated prices. Obviously this will help businesses in the food processing (industry) as well as restaurants. Since I didn’t touch on the tourism aspect in the last question, I would love to see a road built to our First Nations communities up north. Personally, I would love to drive there and a the same time it would also make life a lot better and a lot easier for our First Nations communities up there.”
Angus: “The New Democrats will certainly continue to work with our dairy sector and support them because it’s the backbone of agriculture in our region. When you have a solid backbone, you can build other value added such as the work we did to save and build Thornloe Cheese. And then to talk about the huge opportunities that are growing in agriculture in our region right now which were not even imaginable 15 years ago. We (the NDP) are committed to putting investments into the new agriculture to get to markets, to use microcredits to actually offer young entrepreneurs to start jobs to see if they can actually make an idea come to fruition without coming into heavy amounts of debt. It’s about being creative and we have a real opportunity with the economy in the North right now.”
What is your party’s economic and tourism agenda?
Angus: “The key element that we use for economic development in the North is FedNor and in the last four years, Timmins-James Bay outscored Sudbury, Kenora, Thunder Bay, Nickel Belt, Parry Sound, in FedNor funding. But the problem with FedNor funding is that the Liberals and Conservatives have refused to make it a standalone agency just like all the other economic development agencies. In fact, we’ve seen cuts to FedNor and what we need to do is augment its role and make it a standalone development agency for the north, that way it can do its job.”
Boileau: “Studies show that there is a potential for $60 billion in revenue with increased tourism in Canada. That’s revenue that we could be taking advantage of and that we could be getting back here in Northeastern Ontario as well. I haven’t seen the same numbers as Mr. Angus because I have not seen those figures showing that Timmins-James Bay has received more FedNor (funding) than all those other regions. We (the Liberals) did put in place a Ministry of Rural Economic Development and under that minister, we were able to focus on economic development specifically for rural economies and part of that will be tourism. Regional collaboration by banding together and working on one cohesive tourism strategy for the region is what we’re going to want to look at with that minister of rural economic development.”
Grenke: “The North will always and always has been a fighting force in Ontario and in Canada and will continue to be so. I would like to acknowledge the work of the small businesses that receive FedNor funding because they’re the reasons that FedNor funding comes to this region. FedNor is based on merit and that is exactly the kinds of businesses that we have here in the North. When we’re talking about rural economic development ministers, unfortunately the current prime minister took him three years to appoint that minister. We (the Conservatives) want to bring economic development back to this region by having a member of parliament on the government side working at that table and understanding the needs of the North to ensure the funding can return here to Timmins-James Bay.”
Kennedy: “(FedNor) is a program modality for industry Canada. It’s very limited in what it can do. It does need to become an independent source and that way it can integrate its programs with the (Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines) and with the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. Right now the programs are at a piece meal and do not work together. Tourism (is) what brings people here. Right now, that’s under threat. Global warming will affect our waters, it will affect our fishing, it will affect the animals for hunting, it will affect the diseases that come to us. We need to address this and if we don’t, we won’t have tourism. Greens will (address it).”
Roy: “Ontario lost 170,000 manufacturing jobs since 2007 while Michigan added 47,000 new jobs. Usually Ontario always outperforms Michigan, and for the last little while, Michigan added so many jobs because they had some comprehensive policy reform. They created an environment that was positive for business to thrive. We (the PPC) will be cutting business tax and small farm tax from 15 per cent to 10 per cent. We want to (make a level playing field) fair for everybody. We want to stop and eliminate big corporate bailouts and corporate welfare because then you are taking from the small businesses where they will never be helped like the big businesses are.”