With only a few weeks remaining before voters head to the polls, Sackville and area residents had a prime opportunity last Wednesday night to hear where their candidates stand on some key issues facing the nation.
From the climate change crisis to the economy, from education to health care, three of the five candidates who are running in the Beausejour riding in the upcoming federal election took part in last week’s debate, hosted by the Mount Allison Students’ Union at Convocation Hall in Sackville.
Vincent Cormier of the Conservative Party, Laura Reinsborough of the Green Party and Jean-Marc Belanger of the New Democratic Party covered a wide range of topics during the debate, answering questions on everything from bilingualism to their favourite pizza topping. The Liberal incumbent Dominic LeBlanc was unable to attend due to health reasons. People’s Party candidate Nancy Mercier also missed the forum.
Here is what the candidates had to say on several of the topics brought to the floor:
On climate change and what steps your government will take to address the global crisis:
Jean-Marc Belanger: “Our platform on climate change shows there’s an urgency here. We have a target in place to be able to reduce the emissions by 2030. In this particular instance, we also have policies that will be put into place by taxing corporation that are the big polluters.”
“It’s tragic to see young people who are basically telling us, please stop.”
Vincent Cormier: “The fact of the matter is, climate change is a global problem. We need to have all the countries on board. Canada’s creating less than two per cent of the world’s carbon emissions. Two countries account for more than 50 per cent - China and India.”
“To tax communities on a world problem with the current carbon tax I find very challenging.”
“I think it’s very important we become responsible of our footprint, even though we’re not the mass culprits. But if we’re going to get on the world stage and ask the world for their cooperation in addressing this issue, we need to at least have our house in order.”
Laura Reinsborough: “The Green Party platform . . . sets a target to achieve 60 per cent greenhouse gas emission reductions from the baseline of our 2005 emissions by 2030 and to be net zero by 2050.
“We will do this with a just transition for workers who are already working in oil, coal and gas . . . with a solid vision to develop renewables. We know that it’s possible, we have the solutions.”
“We have signed pledge after pledge here in Canada to be accountable for our emissions and we have failed on those actions. But now we know better. Now we are waking up. And now we have a chance to prove ourselves.”
On post-secondary education and addressing student debt:
Vincent Cormier: Our job as government is really important to address student issues because they are future of this country.
I don’t believe in free tuition. Everything that is given for free is not respected. However, interest-free loans should be in place and tuition rebates should be in place. We need to help our students out.
Laura Reinsborough: “When it comes to free tuition to relieve student debt, we firmly believe that a public that is informed, that is skilled, that is well educated is something that benefits us all.”
“We know that even in an incredible institution like Mount Allison University, it is difficult to actually fill up the number of spots available. There are not enough people being able to access education and we know there are ways that we can put solutions in place so that is not a barrier.”
Jean-Marc Belanger: “An NDP government would immediately eliminate the interest on student loans, which averages out to about $4,000 immediate savings.
“The plan is to start working on having access to post-secondary education with no tuition fees. To be able to achieve that so that our children becoming young adults can go from kindergarten to a university career without having to get into the workforce already in debt.”
“We need to understand that this is an investment in our future and it’s not a cost we’re putting on us. It’s an investment because we’re generating more people into the workforce.”
On why they are running in this election:
Laura Reinsborough: “This election, the single biggest issue has been and will be the climate crisis. That’s the core of why I have chosen to step up and make a change at the federal level. We need positive change.”
Jean-Marc Belanger: “I’m entering politics at this stage in my life because throughout my career I have met many people, many of them students, who wanted things to be better for Canadians. I felt the opportunity was here to advocate for the most oppressed, underprivileged, and vulnerable people of our society.”
Vincent Cormier: “I’ve lived and worked in Beausejour all my life. And I’m here for you. It’s time for me to give back.”
“I want to be present, I want to listen and I want to be your voice. And I want to fight for Beausjour.”
To view the entire debate, visit the Mount Allison Students’ Union Facebook page.