Three of the Souris-Moose Mountain candidates attended the Moosomin Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last Monday.
Conservative Robert Kitchen, Green Party candidate Bob Deptuck and New Democrat Vicky O’Dell were at the meeting. Liberal candidate Steven Bebbington didn’t attend the Moosomin candidates forum, or any of the candidate meetings held in the riding.
Kitchen reminded the chamber the economy is the main focus for the Conservative Party.
“Let us not be fooled by what others want this election to be about. It is about the economy,” he said. “These past 10 years, the Conservative government has shown leadership for a worldwide recession by keeping our economy strong, lowering taxes, spending money when needed and balancing our budget.
“The opposition parties want to raise your taxes, go into a deficit for years to come and spend billions of dollars that we do not have on unclear promises that are not affordable,” he said.
“Souris-Moose Mountain has a wide economic base of agriculture production, natural resources, energy production and manufacturing,” said Kitchen. “Our economy is driven by our producers, and rather than raising their taxes, our Conservative government has been lowering them to create jobs.
“Our government has also signed 39 international trade agreements,” he said. “These agreements will move our products, which is exactly what this constituency needs. Recently, we signed an agreement in principle on the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries, which will open markets to over 800 million people. This will benefit Souris-Moose Mountain by reducing tariffs on the goods, services and products that we produce and develop in Souris-Moose Mountain.”
“At the same time, we have been investing in social programs and reducing taxes to put money in the hands of those who best know how to use it. That’s you,” said Kitchen. “We have lowered the GST to five per cent.
“We have introduced a family tax bill, allowing spouses to split their income.
“We have a balanced budget. We will reduce the small business tax from 11 to nine per cent. We have been supporters of the Energy East pipeline.”
NDP candidate Vicky O’Dell said she offers a fresh approach in Souris-Moose Mountain.
“I am running in this election because I care deeply about this community and about this country,” she said. “I’m running because it’s time we have a new approach to government.”
“On the doorstep, I’m hearing time and again that the people have not had a candidate visit them and that they’re impressed my team and I are working so hard,” O’Dell said. “There are many needs within towns and villages in this riding. I have heard about the need for an expansion of reservoirs, new water treatment plants that are essential for a town and infrastructure needs that have been ignored by the Conservative government.
“The NDP has a plan that will work,” said O’Dell. “It’s about assisting small businesses to create jobs by reducing taxes from 11 to nine per cent and providing municipalities with stable, long-term funding for addressing infrastructure deficit.
“Canadians have said repeatedly that health care is their main issue. We have a plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs by using a purchasing plan in the provinces.” O’Dell said.
Green Party candidate Bob Deptuck lives in Rocanville and works for PCS. He told chamber members that building strong communities is important.
“It’s the continued contribution from the people in the area and the businesses in the area that build the strength of a community and that’s what I’m looking to do as a candidate,” he said. “I’m looking to be the representative for this area and work toward building a strong Souris-Moose Mountain that we know we can get.
“When you read everyone’s platforms, there are a lot of promises,” said Deptuck. “We have had the Conservative government in power for seven years and despite the continued repetition of the idea of a balanced budget, we know that it came at a tremendous cost.”
“Even with that massive amount of overspending, we have seen tremendous cuts over the years to veterans, women’s programs and seniors,” he said. “It’s time for change. The Green Party is, in the long run, in it to build strong communities. We have a platform that addresses those needs. It addresses the needs of our environment, our economy and our people. That’s why I stand up and I choose the Green Party as the party that most closely aligns with my personal values.
“I believe we need a healthy environment so that we have a good, quality place to live,” he said. “We need to put the protections in place that ensure this not just for us, but for future generations. We need to put the protections in place that ensure our economy keeps moving forward, that it isn’t in these wild resource fluctuations—that we diversify and move towards a green economy because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to grow, prosper, learn and build so that we can have a prosperous future.
“We have seen the worst economic record since the Great Depression and the worst job creation since the Great Depression. We have seen secretive partnerships that we have no idea how it will affect our economy because it has been kept so secret.
“I’m going to continue to stand up here every year and I will continue to say the same things: I’m asking for your vote and support because I am here to represent you. I’m not here to tote the party line. I’m here to work for you,” he said. “I hope we can see that change in the future. Maybe not this time, but in the future we’ll move that way to have a better, more prosperous, clean, green economy.”
Views on Senate
The candidates were asked for their position on the senate. Kitchen said the Conservatives will not appoint any new senators. He said there is a place for the senate in Canada, but changes do need to be made.
“Stephen Harper is putting it to the provinces to make decisions on the senate,” Kitchen said. “In order to abolish the senate, you need all provinces and all territories to abolish it. In order to make changes to the senate, you need seven provinces and 50 per cent of the population in order for that to happen.”
O’Dell said the NDP would abolish the senate.
“We think it’s a shame that the senate has been scandalous over the last little while,” said O’Dell. “It is very costly to keep the senate going.”
“Reform is needed,” said Deptuck. “What reform that is will be up to the people.”
Need for jobs questioned
O’Dell was asked about her comment about the need for more job opportunities. The questioner asked why she feels more opportunities are needed when many jobs are still going unfilled because employees cannot be found.
“Right now, there is a depression in oil. Everyone understands that the price of oil has caused there to be some unemployment,” she said. “In the event that oil stays where it is with the price, and if we see this go on much longer, there are going to be further challenges to all of our communities, because people who can’t find work are going to start leaving. We need to be providing them with alternatives. To do that, we need to provide them with training. We need to invest in training. We do know that there are some green technologies within this riding. There are some businesses. We need to provide them with support and help young people to be involved in some of these businesses and provide opportunities for people with internships, training and apprenticeships.”
School food program
The candidates were asked about implementing a universal food program in schools.
Kitchen said that the federal government makes transfer payments to the provinces for services such as education, which is then handled by the province.
“The money is given without strings attached to it,” he said. “The provinces would make those decisions on how to follow through with that program. I’m not against it. I think it’s a great idea. The question is: where is the funding coming from and how is it managed?”
O’Dell said she is supportive of a food program.
“If we don’t have healthy kids, our whole society is going to fail,” she said. “Food programs are something the government can be involved in, that we can work towards. If I am the MP, I am very interested in making sure that there is never a child anywhere without healthy food.”
Deptuck said he understands that some children are going to school without proper nutrition.
“We really need to throw aside political divisions and work together. No matter how parliament ends up on Oct. 19, this can’t be something we play partisan politics with. We have to make sure that our communities and our children are protected,” he said.
Division on Niqab
When it comes to the niqab debate, Kitchen supports the Conservative’s position that the head covering should not be worn when the person is taking the oath to become a Canadian citizen. The NDP and Green Party candidates disagree.
“The law says a woman has the right to show her face in private and then to take her citizenship oath in public wearing her niqab,” said O’Dell. “It is a non-issue in this election. This is not something we should be thinking about. I support what the law says.”
Deptuck said the niqab debate is a non-issue brought up to distract voters from the real issues.
“It’s not whether it’s religion or culture,” he said. “We’re talking about trusting our citizens who are taking an oath to be Canadian citizens. They are taking that oath, they are standing up to become Canadians and we are picking at them for their clothes or how they look. We should stop hearing about it.”
Opinions on pipeline
The candidates were also asked about the Energy East pipeline. Kitchen said the Conservative Party supports the pipeline.
“We believe that, for this area in particular, it will create jobs locally once it starts and we will have permanent jobs in the future,” he said. “If I become your MP, I will stand up for that and fight to make sure that the process is done properly, exactly the way it should be set up and I will support it 100 per cent.”
O’Dell said that, while the Conservatives say they support pipelines, no pipeline projects have been approved under the Conservative government the Conservatives have yet to construct any pipelines in Canada.
“Ten years, and no pipelines,” she said. “I think you can expect more of that in the future if you decide to vote Conservative. No one is going to entertain having conversations with Stephen Harper about getting a pipeline through land that they are concerned about.”
She said communities have resisted Harper in the past and will continue to do so.
“The NDP is supportive of the Energy East pipeline. We do support that. We know that there are a lot of jobs here in this area that are going to be created because of the Energy East pipeline. We’re supportive of it with proper environmental processes.”
[Editor’s note: Despite Vicky O’Dell’s claims, the Keystone Pipeline was approved and built under the Conservative government, the Canadian portion of Keystone XL has been approved by the National Energy Board, but the project has been stalled by the US government, and the Northern Gateway pipeline has been approved by the National Energy Board, subject to a list of conditions.]
Deptuck said the people who live along the pipeline need to determine if Energy East should be built.
“They are the ones directly affected by it,” he said.
Deptuck said there are not many long-term jobs created by these pipelines.
“The big question is: is this the right path to take? We can continue on the way we’ve been doing things and piping away our oil to be refined elsewhere, or we can look at moving our economy in a better direction. Yes, there is going to be oil extraction. It’s a big part of our economy. Can we do it better? Absolutely.”