Candidates face voters at election forum

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Added: Wed, 10/09/2019 - 9:46pm
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Allyson Beauregard

CAMPBELL’S BAY – Fewer than 50 people attended a forum with five of the Pontiac’s federal election candidates, September 26, hosted by the Pontiac Chamber of Commerce and CHIP 101.9 FM at the Campbell’s Bay RA Hall.
 Mario Bélec (People’s Party), Denise Giroux (New Democratic Party), Claude Bertrand (Green), William Amos (Liberal) and David Blackburn (Conservative)  introduced themselves before responding to three questions from the hosts. Public questions ended the evening.  (See individual candidate information in earlier editions of the Journal.)
Jonathan Carreiro-Benoit from Bloc Québécois, Louis Lang from the Marxist-Leninist Party, and Shawn Stewart from the Veterans Coalition Party of Canada did not attend.
Question 1: What is your plan to encourage the region’s economy and Pontiac’s recovery?
Bélec and the PPC will encourage interprovincial free markets; reduce immigrants, but favour those with skills and encourage them to settle in rural regions; attract new residents and industries by improving public transit and internet and cell phone services.
Giroux called for “more planning and less talking”; the NDP proposes creating 300,000 green jobs.  Chalk River’s Near Surface Disposal proposal will harm the region’s attractiveness, and she calls for better support for local media and existing businesses. 
Bertrand will establish a task force with all levels of government, community groups, native peoples and businesses to “kick start the economy”. He stressed recouping local jobs by keeping the Pontiac’s timber here and encouraging agriculture via more education and easier family-farm transfers.
Amos, the incumbent, claimed the Pontiac is better off than four years ago; he credited this with his government’s support of local projects like Shawville’s abattoir, increased SADC funding, lowering the retirement age, doubling Summer Jobs funding, and “$20.7 million in internet investments” in the riding.
Blackburn said his party’s priority is internet and cell phone service -- “as important as hydro”. He will encourage economic development using “six pillars”: collaborating with local actors; a 5-10 year plan with regional specializations; infrastructure improvement; academic training specific to the region; opening up interprovincial trade; and increasing public service jobs in Pontiac.
Question 2: How to better manage the Ottawa River’s water levels?
Giroux: planning, political will, and funding are needed for impartial studies, floodplain analysis, and for upgrading infrastructure; Chalk River’s nuclear dump project threatens the watershed with radioactivity and the $1 billion going to SNC-Lavalin every year should be re-directed to a federal strategy for protecting water and dealing with nuclear waste.
Bertrand: a “planning board”, incorporating public input, is needed to develop solutions after a comprehensive study. Local control of dams is paramount, he said, as is “leadership from
the top”.
Amos said flood causes remain unknown; he wants a tripartite study on river management, and said the Environment Minister agrees. He added that Chalk River’s radioactive pollution is already on-site, and the mega-dump plan “is only a draft proposal”.
Blackburn stressed the importance of climate change here and that the federal, Quebec and Ontario governments must collaborate on the problem and on solutions.
Bélec wants the dams and their operations reviewed; aid for victims should be increased by decreasing Canada’s international aid. Funding for the Armed Forces’ disaster response should be increased.
Question 3: What is your party’s position on the services, coverage and fees of streaming businesses like Netflix?
Bertrand commented, “I didn’t come [all this way] to talk about Netflix!” He said the dangers of the radioactive dump plan and parceling of Gatineau Park are more serious issues.  “You couldn’t think of a worse place to put it,” he said of the Chalk River dump, alongside the Ottawa River. His party will place a moratorium on cutting up Gatineau Park.
Amos supports taxing companies like Netflix, but fears costs may be passed to consumers; a task force will report in January. On the NSDF nuclear dump, he insisted, “I’m as concerned as anyone!”,  stressing that Canadian Nuclear Laboratories will have to answer “more hard questions” before moving forward.
Blackburn said Canadians shouldn’t pay more for Netflix; online services are crucial for the economy, and foreign technology companies aren’t
subject to the same rules as Canadian companies.  He reiterated that the Pontiac’s economy can be stimulated by developing specialized niches and green technology infrastructure.
Bélec said any taxes could increase costs for consumers. Reducing the small and medium business tax rate from 15% to 10%, in general, would help Pontiac revive. He wants to reduce CRTC regulation of internet services.
Giroux denounced Liberal and Conservative support of large corporate interests, giving them tax havens and, for example, refusing to label GMO foods or ease family farm transfers. She insisted there has not been transparency in the radioactive dump project, despite the Liberal’s claim.
Audience questions
Cletus Ferrigan asked how each party will help low-income seniors. Bertrand:  Greens’ minimum living wage, better home healthcare, affordable housing, and federal pharmacare. Amos said extended public transit is still needed so seniors can access services. Ms Giroux said government has been most effective when the NDP holds the balance of power.
Eric Scobie asked for protection of Pontiac’s PPJ trail, which the MRC Pontiac is reviewing for ATV use. Amos itemized his government’s extension of cycling paths, Bertrand said it’s under municipal jurisdiction, and Giroux noted these are incompatible uses of these resources, and alternatives must be funded.
Jim Coffey asked how the “protect, restore and fund”
slogan can be applied locally. Amos said the Liberals favour more aggressive climate actions; Bertrand said the Liberals can’t claim to be green if they favour pipelines; and Bélec, Blackburn, and Giroux said their parties are committed to protecting the environment – sewage in rivers, First Nations’ water.
Lou Stafford asked about the federal deficit. Bélec’s party plans to eliminate the deficit in two years; Giroux believes fair taxation is needed to ensure adequate revenue coming in to balance debt; Bertrand said cuts can’t be dumped on municipalities; Amos said the deficit is linked to the GDP and the economy is expanding; and Blackburn promised to eliminate the deficit “in five years”. 
Other questions included Aboriginal rights, the Conservative and Liberal records, Old Age Security reform, and refugees. Following the questions, each candidate summed up their parties’ proposals for the next four years.