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Dufferin–Caledon candidates debate held virtually by Dufferin Board of Trade

September 16, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

The election is less than one week away, and with Canada’s political parties only having 36 days to officially campaign since the election was called in mid-August, it’s important to know what their priorities currently are.

To help residents of the Dufferin­­–Caledon riding have a better understanding of who they’re voting for locally, the Dufferin Board of Trade held a Local Candidates Forum last Wednesday (Sept. 8), which was livestreamed, since an in-person event couldn’t be held due to COVID-19.

The four candidates who attended the debate, currently vying for the Dufferin Caledon seat, are Lisa Post (Liberal Party), Jenni Le Forestier (Green Party), Anthony Zambito (People’s Party), and MP Kyle Seeback (Conservative Party) who’s the incumbent.

Post, who’s a town councillor for Orangeville, said her motivation to run under the Liberal Party was made clear as the municipality navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It quickly became clear to me that I needed to be a part of the next phase of this pandemic at a federal level, finishing the fight against COVID… and working to move forward as a united community after we were divided through this crisis,” she said.

For Le Forestier, seeing subdivisions get approval without adequate water supply, gravel pits extracting below the water table, and green spaces being put at risk with the proposed Highway 413 project, made her want to run under the Green Party banner.

Seeback said as a member of parliament for the riding since 2019, he has a strong track record of listening to the concerns of his constituents and representing the community in Ottawa.

Zambito, who called into the debate via telephone, said the lack of competence shown by the major political parties and what he describes as an attack on constitutional freedoms through COVID-19 policies, inspired him to run under the PPC for this election.

Childcare

The first question of the debate was what will you and your party do to make childcare more inclusive for all children, while improving wages/working conditions of employees? Each candidate was given two minutes to answer.

Le Forestier, who answered first, didn’t mention anything relating specifically to childcare but noted that a guaranteed liveable income is needed for Canadians to ensure no one’s falling through the cracks.

“Making everyone line up at different desks for different cheques is not efficient,” Le Forestier said. “It would be more efficient to provide a livable income based on location.”

Post answered next and explained that the Liberal government has promised $10 a day childcare, which is ready to be implemented, if Justin Trudeau is re-elected.

“That $10 a day would take care of all families, regardless of income, and would be inclusive and accessible by everybody,” said Post.

Seeback followed up in his answer by noting that he, like all candidates at the debate, want to see affordable childcare implemented, but the Conservative Party has a different idea on how it should be approached.

Instead of providing $10 a day childcare at specific childcare centres, like what’s being proposed by the Liberal government, Seeback said his party believes in giving parents a choice for how they’re kids are cared for.

“Whether that choice is to have a parent to stay home and not have child care, whether that is to send your child to an in-home daycare, or if you want to send your child to daycare in a centre,” he explained.

Relief funding for childcare through the Conservatives is instead provided through a 75 per cent refundable tax credit.

Zambito, who was the last candidate to answer the childcare question, noted that the PPC is advocating for a much smaller government, which would shrink down the number of programs offered in the public sector, like childcare, to cut taxes and balance the budget.

“There’s no need for money to go from the government to the people. It’s just so much more efficient and so much more logical to cut taxes,” he said.

Business support

The next question posed to candidates was “as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, Ontario businesses need strategic support from the federal government, what will your party do to strengthen the key enablers of competitiveness for our local businesses?”

Post answered first, noting that through the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have struggled the most and felt the largest financial impact from continuous lockdowns and restrictions.

Knowing there’s still more work to do to get through the COVID-19 pandemic, she said adequate financial supports must remain in place.

“One of the key strategies that the Liberal Party is proposing that we move forward with is ensuring that the hiring subsidy that was put into place under the emergency orders, is continued and extended right through to the spring,” Post explained.

“Next piece to that is investing in our small businesses in strategic ways through looking at sector specific investments.”

Seeback took to the podium next to answer and said the main focus of the recovery needs to be on getting people back to work, as there’s a worker shortage among many industries right now.

A program called the “Job Search” is also being rolled out by the Conservative Party, which provides a payment of up to 50 per cent of the salary of new hires for their first six months on the job.

Another government program called the Main Street Business Loan, provides loans of up to $200,000 for businesses with up to 25 per cent of it being forgivable, which is important for keeping small businesses afloat, according to Seeback.

He added that to incentivize businesses to invest in themselves and remain operational, his government is rolling out a tax credit.

Zambito followed Seeback’s remarks with saying that the main way of supporting small businesses through the pandemic is by keeping them open.

He said they couldn’t remain competitive through the pandemic because they faced forced closures.

“My plan is, I want all these unconstitutional mandates to end… I want to remove the barriers that are preventing people from getting to work, I want to remove the barriers that aren’t allowing businesses to open, and I want to remove the barriers for the customers to enjoy those businesses as they should be doing,” said Zambito. “The PPC plan is to basically take a rational approach to the COVID-19 crisis and allow for people to continue to live their lives.”

Le Forestier answered the local business question last, noting that it’s vital for the federal government to support the country’s economy, particularly the small businesses who were financially drained through the COVID-19 pandemic.

When looking at the economy as a whole, she said affordability is the biggest challenge.

“Like the people in Dufferin Caledon, I am increasingly concerned about the cost of living. Prices are skyrocketing, particularly for food and energy. It is increasingly difficult for those on fixed incomes or low income to make ends meet. I don’t hear much concern about this from the old parties,” said Le Forestier.

Loss of farmland

Candidates were later asked about Ontario’s loss of 1.5 million acres in farmland from 1996 to 2016 and how their party will stop the loss of farmland in Canada before it impacts local food supply chains.

Considering agriculture is the number one employer in the Dufferin–Caledon riding, Seeback noted that it’s key to ensure farmers are profitable and want to remain in the industry.

This can be achieved by removing the carbon tax from farm fuels and looking at ways to help farmers get their products to market.

When looking at helping to foster the next generation of Canadian farmers, making it easier for parents to pass down the family farm to their children is essential, according to Seeback.

He concluded by stressing the importance of stopping subdivisions from paving over farmland and the greenbelt, while instead focusing on further intensification of urban areas.

Zambito answered next, noting that he supports what Seeback said with respect to eliminating the carbon tax from farm fuels. However, he said this isn’t going far enough and his party would eliminate the carbon tax altogether.

When it comes to protecting potential farmland from development, Zambito said that it’s a municipal issue and should be dealt with at the municipal level.

Le Forestier followed Zambito by saying that she’s been involved with the “Stop the 413” movement for 18 months now, which is pushing back on the province’s plans to pave over farmland, protected wetlands, and the greenbelt with the GTA West Corridor highway.

Helping farmers be at the forefront of fighting climate change and integrating into a green economy is paramount as well, according to Le Forestier.

Post answered last, stressing the importance of the agriculture sector to the local riding, as it’s the number one economic driver and creator of jobs.

When it comes to developing farmlands, she said there are a few things that the federal government can do to incentivize farmers and their children to stay in the sector.

First, dealing with climate change is key, as farmers are unable to predict how a changing climate would impact their crops and they need a reliable crop to be successful, according to Post.

After that, she said rural broadband is essential as the current and next generation of farmers use new technology linked to their farming equipment that requires a stable internet connection.

“That’s how they manage their crops, it’s how they measure their seeds. It’s all of those things, and we need to make sure that they’re connected,” Post remarked.

To view the full debate on YouTube, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yO7irih0rUI&t=726s

The election is being held September 20.



         

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