MINTO – Climate change, international trade and rural broadband all figured prominently in discussion at a Perth-Wellington federal all-candidates meeting at Pike Lake Golf Centre on Oct. 9.
The topics were addressed in candidate responses to questions directed by moderator Murray Calder at the debate, which was sponsored by the Minto and Mount Forest Chambers of Commerce and hosted by 88.7 The River.
Candidates from all six parties were present: Collan Simmons (Green Party), Geoff Krauter (NDP), Irma Devries (Christian Heritage Party), Roger Fuhr (People’s Party of Canada), Pirie Mitchell (Liberal) and incumbent John Nater (Conservative).
During opening statements, Simmons said he decided to step into politics because of his personal concern for the environment.
“I looked at the numbers for climate change and they’re risky. We’re in trouble and we need to change what we’re doing,” said Simmons.
“I’m not the problem. We’re not the problem. Change needs to happen at the highest level of this country to rein in the oil and gas industry and make things easier for us to make the right choice.”
Simmons added, “We need to take subsidies away from the oil and gas companies and put them into renewable energy so that when we make a choice the cheapest choice is the best one for the environment.”
Krauter noted that as “a person with cerebral palsy” he knows “what it its to confront inequity and what it is to succeed.”
“I’m running in this election to fight for real and measurable climate action, protect and expand our universal health care and to fight for those people in this community who are struggling with the cost of living.”
Devries said she and her husband have lived in the area for 40 years.
“We raised our four children and now we have 11 grand kids. Life is great – except for the increasing bureaucracy imposed on any business in Ontario or Canada,” said Devries.
She added she has studied the issue and, “Commerce and government is all about contracts. Every four years we contract for the person who will represent us in parliament. Will they? Or will they represent the party?”
Devries stated, “the abortion industry contracts for profit, kills not-yet-born innocent babies,” and “Climate change industry contracts for their profit, smart leaders, 5G and a carbon tax. You pay.”
Fuhr said his party’s goal is “to provide a platform that will put Canadians first, not other people. Canadians must come first.
“We know that we can’t please everybody, nor will we try to because we recognize that when you take that approach you end up not pleasing anybody.”
Fuhr said the PPC will promote, “Smaller government in Ottawa that will respect the taxpayers and the constitution,” while ending corporate welfare and substantially lowering the number of immigrants allowed entry to Canada.
Nater said the Conservative Party of Canada would fight for digital infrastructure including rural broadband.
“In 2019 there is absolutely no reason why people in our community don’t have access to high speed internet. We need to take action,” Nater stated.
He also said, “We need to stand up for our small businesses and our farm families.
“Unfortunately, for the past four years we’ve seen changes implemented by this Liberal government that have made it more difficult both for farm families and small business to get ahead,” added Nater, who also pledged to work with municipalities and community groups to “address the chronic labour shortage” across the riding.
“I reflect the general ideals of the Liberal Party,” said Mitchell.
“We care about our neighbours, we care about the state of the world’s climate and we care about the people who occupy the middle and the lower end of the economic scale. There needs to be a balance of our economic goals and the fighting of climate challenges that we face.”
Mitchell told the audience “I do not believe in ‘gotcha’ politics. I do not believe in half truths. I do not believe in politicians giving us half the information and concealing the rest in order to get re-elected.”
He also indicated he would not be bound by party line politics.
“If I need to disagree with my party on a particular issue, I will do so,” Mitchell stated.
The first question asked was, “What policy or policy will your party use to change our economy from a carbon-based economy to a carbon-neutral economy to meet the Paris Accord in 2030?”
Simmons said the Green Party has a 20-point plan called “mission possible” to deal with the issue.
“The first thing we will do is declare a climate emergency as that actually brings funds available for use. We will have an all-party inner cabinet similar to wartime in World War II, which removes partisan politics out of the plan,” said Simmons.
He added his party would remove subsidies from the oil and gas industry and instead invest in green energy.
The party would also cancel the Trans Mount Pipeline and expansion, promote building retrofits to lower energy use, “make new cars all electric by 2030” and expand public transit.
DeVries responded, “There is no clear evidence that the monies collected through a carbon tax will do anything to reduce climate change or improve the environment. They will absolutely, however, increase the cost to every Canadian and all the goods and services. There is no climate emergency.”
However, she added, “We want to protect Canada’s soil, water and air and we have our policies for that.”
Simmons replied, “Climate charge is real and carbon is responsible. Carbon taxes are shown to make an effective change in people’s behavior.”
Krauter stated Canada produces more greenhouse gases per capita then any other G7 country.
“The first thing NDP will do is cancel fossil fuel subsidies and the Trans Mountain Pipeline,” he said.
“The Liberal carbon tax lets the biggest emitters off the hook. They’re not paying and you are. And the Conservatives, of course, their plan was written by the fossil fuel industry.”
Fuhr asked Krauter if he or his party had ever researched Patrick Moore, a former Greenpeace president (he left the organization in 1986) “who’s in total disagreement with the climate emergency.”
Krauter responded, “There are many climate deniers” who “love to deride” any predicted negative climate impacts that don’t occur on schedule.
“Let’s take a climate change pause and let’s look around,” DeVries suggested. “Carbon is not pollution. It’s a beneficial natural gas needed by all and carbon taxes are just a tax grab.”
DeVries claimed there are many “scientists who are called deniers by other parties,” and “their research is being squelched both by the media and by other people.
“There is climate change but let’s not be alarmed about it. Climate always changes,” she concluded.
Nater said the Conservatives would take action to reduce emissions by targeting major emitters, who would be required to invest in green technology if they exceed standards.
“We would work with key stakeholders to reduce emissions and protect our natural environment, our lakes, rivers and streams … We would stop the raw dumping of sewage in lakes and streams and we would also work with farmers and farm families to use best practices.”
Nater also stated, “We must take action on the world stage … We need to use our Canadian technology, export it worldwide and ensure we take action internationally as well.”
Simmons said, “Climate change plans don’t work unless you actually reduce emissions. By getting rid of the carbon tax and instead going after large emissions you’re just giving someone with more money permission to emit more.”
Regarding protection of lakes and rivers, Simmons stated it was the past Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that “removed all the protections and the Liberal government just put it back.”
Simmons agreed with exporting Canadian technology, “but it should be wind and solar, not unproven carbon capture technology.”
Nater responded that “picking and choosing what kind of technology we export does no one any good.”
Fuhr stated that “due to the fact there is no scientific consensus that our carbon-based economy is accelerating climate change and that plants require carbon to exist, we do not intend to acquire your tax dollars to change our prosperous Canadian society.”
He said the PPC “firmly believe(s) in a cleaner environment,” but it is up to individuals to tailor their lifestyles to work toward that goal.
He also said the PPC would abolish the Liberal’s carbon tax and stated, “Fear mongering climate alarmists will not be allowed to ruin our prosperous nation.”
Simmons responded that “alarmism is appropriate and the longer it takes to get started the harder it’s going to be” to reduce carbon emissions to necessary levels.
“There isn’t enough evidence to back up your position,” Fuhr told Simmons.
“I lived through the ‘70s when they said the ice age was going to come back again and that didn’t happen and I lived through the ‘80s when they had acid rain and we were all going to die from that, and that didn’t happen. And I lived through the ‘90s when we had the ozone layer and that didn’t happen. Need I go on?” the PPC candidate continued.
Mitchell said, “I think there’s enough evidence that we’re undergoing a climate change and it’s caused by carbon. But which party has the best plan? That’s the key.”
Mitchell cited a report issued by Canadian researchers who issued grades to some of the parties on their climate plans.
“The Green Party gets an A for ambition, an A plus, but a C for feasibility. They’ve got a good plan but it won’t work in today’s economy,” he said. “The NDP get an A for ambition, a D for feasibility, because it doesn’t work. The Conservative party, well they just don’t have a plan, or at least they don’t have much of a plan, and they get a D for ambition and an F for feasibility.
“The Liberal party gets a B for ambition and an A for feasibility because we’ve been working on it for the last four years.”
“Why does the Liberal plan exempt major emitters?” asked Nater.
Mitchell responded the Liberal plan does not exempt major emitters.
“There’s cap and trade in eight of our 10 provinces that include them and they are included down the road as a second step and third step … You know that. You’re in the House of Commons. Why do you leave that stuff out at a meeting where we’re supposed to be honest with folks and tell them the truth?”
Candidates were asked for their impression of recently negotiated trade deals, including the North America Free Trade Agreement.
“The Liberals and Conservatives have built the … free trade agenda of Canada around the rights of investors and not on the principle of reciprocity, which is what Canadians expect from trade negotiations,” said Krauter. “There is no consensus for this approach and the NDP would stand up against any efforts to allow large corporations to sue the Canadian government to influence government policy.”
DeVries stated the CHP supports the concept of free markets and free trade.
“And it’s important to balance these ideals against the protection of our processes from market forces and foreign competition that could drive them out of business,” she said. “If you think of the milk and the chickens and the eggs, one U.S. farm could pretty well take care of all of Canada in that respect.”
DeVries added, “We want to support supply management and we need a bold negotiator at the table. We should send that Chinese executive (Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou) back to China. We need to tell the United States that they have five days before we’re going to send her back and then we need to do it. We should not be held hostage by the USA.”
Mitchell said, “Look we have a negotiator in Canada (Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland) who the U.S. president absolutely hates and fears,” said Mitchell. “That says a lot to me about her negotiation skills. Secondly … when you negotiate with China you have to remember some basic principles. If you go and say to them, ‘You do this or we’re going to do that, they won’t take it.”
“Mr. Trump is a fantastic negotiator when it comes to contracts. I think Freeland is out of her league,” replied DeVries.
“I think a lot of these negotiations typically go rather poorly,” said Fuhr. “And I think one of the issues is that a lot of the people doing these negotiations are career politicians or career civil servants; they haven’t got a lot of real life experience.
“That’s one of the things that I’m excited about with our People’s Party is a lot of our candidates across the nation are entrepreneurs and people that have had real life experience and not career politicians. So I really think this could be a huge factor in assisting future deals … to just have a fresh perspective in dealing with someone like a Trump.”
“We need trade with the United States. They are by far our largest trading partner,” said Nater, who stated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “backed down to Trump on dairy, on pharmaceuticals, on autos and we got nothing in return.
“We need to take decisive action on China,” Nater continued. “Right now China’s detaining two Canadian citizens illegally … that’s unacceptable. We need to withdraw our $250 million from the Asian Infrastructure Bank which we are currently giving to a China-led bank to build infrastructure in Asia. We need to take China to the WTO and we need to explore targeted sanctions.”
“Negotiations, John, is the way to go, not a punch in the nose,” replied Mitchell. “We don’t deal with our neutrals and our enemies or our friends that way. If you want to get anything done you deal with collective wisdom and collective energy.”
“Canada is currently experiencing expensive trade disruptions with China,” said Nater. “We have two Canadian citizens that are being held illegally in China and you want to play nice with that situation?”
Mitchell pointed out that when the first NAFTA deal was negotiated “there was a huge hue and cry from everybody … Every time you negotiate you give and you take … in this particular case Mr. Trump did not like or appreciate our supply management system and he attacked it. What he went in with was to get rid of it completely what he got was a reduction or an allowance to allow more produce from the United States to come into Canada. We kept our supply management. Our dairy farms are protected. What we’re facing now is imports of a product that isn’t really up to Canadian standard.”
Simmons said, “These trade deals are free trade agreement between unequal markets. We are very small country compared to all of Europe and the United States and what we need to do is have measures in place to protect our local producers or we will not have any here.”
“I think Piri’s correct. There was give and take in these negotiations. But I think I we gave too much and didn’t get enough,” Simmons added.
Candidates were asked how they would enhance broadband internet service in rural areas, particularly for farmers.
“We’ve made it a priority that were going to expand and implement wireless broadband service in every community in Canada without delay,” said Krauter.
“I have to compliment Mr. Nater for raising the issue in the house. The Liberals are talking tough to Bell and Rogers and the other big telecommunications companies, but the fact is, they met with telecom lobbyists hundreds of times. We pay some of the highest prices in the world for internet and cell phone service; that has to stop. We’d implement a price cap and require unlimited data plans,” Krauter added.
DeVries said, “The CBC no longer provides balanced news coverage. Nor do they provide largely Canadian content. Nor are most Canadians getting their news from newspapers and television. We would defund the CBC and use the one and a half billion dollars to update broadband access nationwide.”
Fuhr said, “We are absolutely on board with bringing enhanced broadband and also microfibre services to Perth-Wellington. Failing to do so puts rural residents at a serious competitive disadvantage.”
Fuhr said past governments have failed to make the necessary investments, but “the PPC will be able to deliver because of our polices that will save tax dollars. Ending corporate welfare alone will save the federal government almost $10 billion a year.”
Fuhr said a PPC government would also stop sending money to other countries to reduce CO2 emissions.
“When parties talk about cutting foreign aid it’s really a distraction because we have 86 families in Canada that have as much wealth as 60 per cent of Canadians combined. It’s a massive level of inequality,” Krauter replied.
Nater said, “The Liberal action on wireless broadband services is slower than dialup. We have three local internet services providers who have been waiting since November, 2016 to hear back from the government on the Connect to Innovate program. They have submitted their applications. They were in order. They have never heard back.”
Nater said a Conservative government would redirect funds from larger urban centres “specifically” for rural internet. “Any wireless applications in the future would be subdivided so the rural area is specifically included,” Nater added.
Mitchell pointed out the 2019 federal budget projects 95 per cent of Canadian homes will have access to internet speeds of at least 50/10 mps by 2026 and 100 per cent will reach the standard by 2030.
“I think the key here is to not pick the city versus the rural areas,” said Simmons. “The rural areas need to be brought up to speed in rural broadband and wireless is the way to go so you don’t have to lay cable to every house.”
Simmons said tech giants Rogers, Bell and Telus should be limited by the CRTC “in what they’re allowed to do until they level out the broadband service.”
“I’m concerned about the electromagnetic fields that are flying around and in the rural areas; we are only able to get wireless and these fields do affect the health of certain individuals and I do wonder what else is it affecting? If it affects human health is it affecting the pollinators’ health?” said DeVries, adding she would prefer to see rural areas connected via cable.
Simmons repled “All the reliable studies have shown that electromagnetic fields in the telecommunications band are safe. If someone personally has problem with it, I would suggest they get a tinfoil hat.”
Candidates also answered questions on housing, infrastructure and education.