PORT HAWKESBURY – Cape Breton-Canso candidates in the federal election participated in a second debate on Sept. 10 at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
As in the first debate, which took place two days earlier in Glace Bay, only three of the four candidates in the riding participated: Conservative Fiona MacLeod, NDP Jana Reddick and Liberal incumbent Mike Kelloway.
Questions submitted by the public were put to the candidates by moderator Adam Cooke, who asked each one to give a one-minute response, followed by an open debate for two minutes on the topic.
Top of mind in this election cycle is the economic recovery from COVID-19. Kelloway, the first to respond, said the Liberal Party would extend the wage subsidy benefit, look at a 75 per cent wage subsidy for tourism operators and focus on the green economy.
MacLeod came out with a presentation of the Conservative recovery platform, outlining hiring incentives, reforms to the tax system and the Main Street Recovery Initiative – a combination of tax credits and interest free loans for small business.
“We will also introduce the Canada Job Search Plan to get Canadians back to work. An [Erin] O’Toole government will pay at least 25 per cent of net new hires for six months after the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy expires,” said MacLeod.
Reddick said empty promises are a common occurrence in the riding. She said the NDP would focus on rent and wage subsidies, as well as a hiring bonus for employers.
Transition to green industry
Heavy industry is the historic economic backbone of Cape Breton. When candidates were asked how they would help the area move away from it towards a greener economy, Reddick responded by stating that the NDP would ensure workers would have access to retraining through the EI system.
Kelloway said he looked at the transition from an industrial economy to green industry as an opportunity. “My money is on the people of Cape Breton-Canso. I believe we have the ability to be bold, innovative and to be the leaders in green technology, to be the leaders in green jobs.”
MacLeod said Conservatives would bring forward a National Clean Energy Strategy that would include, “strengthening Canada’s grid, a plan to build a cleaner more resilient grid that is adaptable to regional considerations and priorities.”
Conservatives would also invest $5 billion over five years to fund use of hydrogen and small modular reactors, as well as support the development and manufacture of electric vehicles, said MacLeod.
Housing, which was a hot button issue in the recent provincial election in Nova Scotia, was also brought up in this federal debate. Kelloway highlighted the Liberal promise of 1.4 million new homes [Canada-wide], MacLeod matched that with the Tories’ one million homes in the next three years and a ban on foreign investors buying homes without the intention to live in the area, and Reddick said the NDP would wave the GST and HST on affordable homes and rental unit construction.
During the open debate, Reddick asked how a Conservative government would be able to tell that foreign buyers were not intending to move to the area.
“How are you going to be able to tell the difference between people that truly want to make a life here, to invest in our community?” Reddick asked.
MacLeod responded by stating that would be determined at the front end of the process, “There would have to be a mechanism when they’re going to make a purchase/sale to indicate what their plans are.”
Considering polls that suggest the next government will be a minority one, the candidates were asked which policy or policies of their opponents they would support. In a heartening display of collegiality, all candidates voiced their willingness to support policies that advanced the issues of concern in the riding such as health care, improvements to EI and daycare.
Moderate livelihood fishery
This past year, the issue of a moderate livelihood fishery for Indigenous communities has come to a head in Nova Scotia, resulting in destruction of property, police intervention and community discord. Candidates were asked for their position on the moderate livelihood fishery, to which Kelloway stated, “Number one, conservation and sustainability are key to the fishery. There is a reason for the season.”
He continued by adding that the right to a moderate livelihood fishery was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada on two separate occasions.
“We need to consistently look at the industry, government and nation-to-nation discussions on how we improve things,” he said.
MacLeod said, “The recent tensions between commercial fishers and Indigenous fishers has been left to escalate due to the lack of leadership in this Liberal government,” adding that the Conservatives – led by O’Toole, “Respect Aboriginal rights to a moderate livelihood but we also respect the need to maintain a sustainable industry for current and future fishers. We will work with all fishers to restore calm and confidence by respecting the importance of all resources.”
Reddick said she was 100 per cent in favour of an Indigenous moderate livelihood fishery, adding that this issue should have been resolved a long time ago. “The violence that occurred … could have been avoided, if the government had made choices and the DFO had may choices to pay attention to what was actually happening,” she said.
In the open debate, MacLeod questioned Kelloway on the Liberals’ record on this often-explosive issue, to which he responded, “When you say we can’t do things, I say we can. When you say hope and fear, I say hope and action. That’s the difference between the Conservative Party leadership and a federal Liberal Party leadership. They’re all about fear. When they leave here, they’ll get on the fear bus and the anxiety bus … we [Liberals] are working together.”
For voters on the mainland side of the Cape Breton-Canso riding, an issue that is top of mind is the proposed Canso Spaceport. The Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s CAO Barry Carroll sent in a question asking candidates what role their government, if elected or re-elected, would play in helping Maritime Launch Services (MLS) successfully move the effort to open Canada’s first launch facility forward.
Kelloway noted that the project was supported by the municipality but there were also concerns and he “will never shy away from economic development opportunity but the opportunity must meet every provincial and federal protocol in terms of the environment. That is the key; that is balancing both the environment and jobs. And, that is what the Liberal Party does best.”
Conservative candidate MacLeod said she supports the MLS project, “I do believe it’s had its environmental assessment passed but more specifically in terms of funding, Canada’s Conservatives support innovative projects like Maritime Launch Services and we will have, when in government, a program that will invest $5 billion over the next five years to find programs aimed at major projects like this space initiative.”
Reddick said that she was interested in the spaceport initiative but she has concerns about the environmental impact: “We have to make sure that we’re considerate of the climate when we’re making these infrastructure investments.”
Qualities of a leader
A popular question in the recent provincial election was recycled for the federal debate when candidates were asked why their leader was the person to lead the country as prime minster.
MacLeod reviewed Conservative leader Erin O’Toole’s experience in the Armed Forces, his career as a lawyer and his 18-year tenure in parliament and concluded her comments by stating, “He’s got the creds for this job.”
Reddick said NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has shown that he will fight for the people of Canada, “For the needs of all of us … he just tries to do his best to make sure that people feel like they’re represented and taken care of in this society. He fights against systemic oppression, and he knows about it, and I think that’s something we can all benefit from.”
Kelloway reiterated what his father had said to him: crisis reveals character. “I think what we saw in the last 24 months is a prime minister [Justin Trudeau] that did everything he could to keep people safe and that is the fundamental piece around leadership; keeping people safe.”
A recording of this debate can be found on YouTube by searching “Cape Breton-Canso Federal Candidates Debate 2021.”
Monday, September 20 is federal election day in Canada.
For more information about voting, contact Elections Canada online at elections.ca or call 1-800-463-6868.
Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal