Election day is drawing closer so several dozen Dorchester voters spent their Friday evening last week hearing where their candidates stand on some of the key issues facing their riding and across the country.
Covering topics that ranged from immigration to economic development in rural communities, 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 Greater Dorchester Moving Forward committee. Vincent Cormier of the Conservative Party, Nancy Mercier of the People’s Party of Canada and Laura Reinsborough of the Green Party were on hand for the event, which drew a large crowd of interested residents.
A representative from the NDP stood in for candidate Jean-Marc Belanger, who was unable to attend; while Liberal incumbent Dominic LeBlanc, who wasn’t able to make it due to health reasons, sent in his responses to several prepared questions.
Here is what the candidates had to say on several of the topics brought to the floor:
On supporting the economic development of rural communities:
Nancy Mercier: What our party is proposing is to cut taxes as much as possible. Farming taxes down to 10 per cent, corporate taxes down to 10 per cent, we want to keep the inflation rate at zero per cent. We want to make it easy for people to get grants and borrow money by keeping those rates low.
And also trying to attract manufacturing businesses that could come to the area. Personally I’m trying to get a hemp industry type business to move into our area. There are lots of fields around here and those could become cash crops quite literally, by growing the hemp and selling it to the manufacturing companies that would be in the area.
Lindsay Cary (for Jean-Marc Belanger): We know that in small communities across our riding and right here In Dorchester, every single job matters. Rural Canada drives at least a third of the country’s economy but successive governments have missed opportunities to engage regional economic development.
In our first mandate, an NDP government will create 300,000 jobs to address the climate crisis while making life better for Canadians. We’ll also make sure that when infrastructure projects are happening in this community, that people living in this community will have access to the good jobs that people create.
Laura Reinsborough: We are rich in nature, we are rich in community, we are rich as people. There’s so much we have to offer and so many opportunities that can be worked on here.
Some ways that we will be working towards better economic development in rural communities is by supporting small businesses; we know that small and medium sized businesses are often the anchors in many small communities and when a dollar is spent on those businesses, it recirculates within that local economy.
It’s about believing in our communities and their own capacity to make their own decisions. From building from the ground up, there’s a real opportunity to be able to invest in our rural communities.
Vincent Cormier: For investors to come into our communities, it’s very important we have an available workforce, that is trained and that is dedicated.
Communities need to be organized, show an interest, be ready to accept employers to come in, have a tax base that doesn’t suffocate, have infrastructure, have a proper transportation system, and have access to schools that will meet the requirements to fill those jobs.
In the next 10 years, we know there’s over 100,000 people that are going to retire in New Brunswick. We also know that the young workforce, the numbers aren’t high enough to replace that. So that’s another thing we have to address.
Dominic LeBlanc (sent-in response): We’ve invested $2 billion in rural infrastructure to support food security, local roads and renewable energy. I worked tirelessly to deliver on the renovation and upgrade of Shepody Healing Centre. This is a multi-million dollar project that will create better jobs right here in the Greater Dorchester area.
We also invested in Canada’s connectivity strategy, our plan to ensure all Canadians have access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet, no matter where they live.
We also increased the federal contribution for infrastructure projects in smaller communities from 50 to 60 per cent. This will directly benefit communities like Dorchester.
On addressing the aging population and the outmigration of youth:
Lindsay Cary (for Belanger): Young people should be able to stay in the communities where they’ve grown up. Seniors should never be forced out of their communities where they’ve spent their lives. And all people in rural Canada deserve better access to services.
Going to the bank and getting your mail can become too difficult. An NDP government will work with Canada Post to put those services back in Dorchester. We will restore door-to-door mail service and equip Canada Post employees to check in on seniors.
The NDP will work with the province to create affordable transit services for this riding.
The New Democrats will put in place a tax credit for graduates to work in designated rural areas and make it easier for employers to hire and retain the workers they need.
Nancy Mercier: People want to remain at home. When we’re sick, we don’t want to be at the hospital, we don’t want to leave our home to go to another care facility.
We would look at privatized and government-funded programs and attracting even more companies like Medavie and Extramural to keep people at home and to care for them at home. That in itself could also keep our youth here because it could create a lot of work.
We’re all talking about immigration and bringing in people . . . just recently, we (Canada) have been named as taking in the most amount of immigrants of all other countries. But what’s the worth of bringing in all these people if our own people have to leave the province to work, if our own people are waiting for homes and places to stay? And we’re just going to bring in more people to do what? Raise our taxes and take up more of our resources that we ourselves don’t have yet? For us, it’s putting Canadians first and it’s ensuring that Canadians have what we need.
On reducing greenhouse gas emissions:
Laura Reinsborough: Here we are in this moment where we know we can’t keep using fossil fuels in the way we have been. And in this election, we have a moment where we need to really reflect on that and try to figure out how our federal government can take action and move forward from here.
Many of us are making those steps in our daily lives, we’re making those efforts to be more environmentally connected. And yet so much of that power is at the federal level. We need to take action at the federal level and the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be and the more expensive it’s going to become.
We have a moment in this election to be able to put forward that positive future that makes it so that we can make a just transition to a more carbon neutral economy. We know the solutions are there. It is not going to happen overnight but we have a small window where we can start that transition.
Vincent Cormier: The first thing we will do is scrap the carbon tax. I don’t think it’s the way that we will change the habits of people, by taxing them. We will invest in technologies that will reduce emissions and will offer credits for more efficient housing.
When it comes to climate change, we all need to all be responsible, in what we do everyday. We have to get our house in order here in Canada but at the end of the day this is a battle that has to be fought on the world stage. We need to address the issues of the strong polluters in the world.
Right now, we are currently importing oil from countries that have very few environmental regulations and abuse human and women’s rights, while we have vast resources in Canada that could benefit our economy and help pay for all our social programs we have.
Dominic LeBlanc: Our government is working hard to build a cleaner, brighter and more prosperous future that will help Canadians save energy, reduce pollution while still creating over 1 million new jobs. We’re taking real climate action now on investing in renewables to get to 90 per cent clean energy by 2030, making zero emission vehicles more affordable and accessible, phasing out coal by 2030, banning harmful single-use plastics, putting a price on pollution so it’s no longer free to pollute anywhere in Canada.
Our commitment: we will set legally-binding, five-year milestones based on the advice of the experts and consultants, with Canadians, to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
I always like to say, if you don’t have a plan for the environment, you don’t have a plan for the economy or the future.