Local candidates discuss social media regulation and climate change

·6 min read

With just days remaining before Election Day, candidates in the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding are pleading why they deserve your vote.

The Ridgetown Independent reached out to candidates from the Liberal Party, Conservative Party, New Democratic Party, People’s Party of Canada, as well as the Green Party, to ask them about their plans on key topics. The questions were regarding whether or not the government should regulate social media as a means to prevent fake news and misinformation and if the government should increase environmental regulations on businesses to reduce carbon emissions.

Mark Vercouteren, the Green Party candidate, said it is important that there is a system in place to ensure no fake accounts that spread lies and misinformation.

“Freedom of speech is important but spreading misinformation has shown to not only ruin lives but end them,” said Vercouteren.

Dave Epp, the Conservative Party candidate, said in a democratic society, abuses of power and authority can and should be called out without fear of retribution.

“Canada’s Conservatives support creating a level playing field between large foreign streaming services and Canadian broadcasters and championing Canadian arts and culture,” said Epp. “A Conservative government would do so without compromising Canadians’ fundamental rights and freedoms.”

Greg Hetherington, the Liberal Party candidate, believes in free speech but thinks people shouldn’t be able to misinform and share hate messages. He added that too many kids are being shamed by peers on social media sites, causing mental stress and an increase in suicide.

“As a media owner, I see the impact that fake news and propaganda makes on the internet,” said Hetherington. “Too many times, people think they are reading information from a credible source, but instead, it’s misinformation. Secondly, for social media, we have a serious issue with our children.”

Dan Gelinas, the NDP candidate, echoed Hetherington’s statement, pointing out there is already a system in place with the CRTC to handle any fake news and misinformation complaints.

“The NDP supports factual and responsible journalism, and we certainly do not want to stifle free speech,” said Gelinas. “We do need to address these cutbacks to the CRTC and support more hiring and better funding in their efforts to combat fake news and misinformation.”

However, not all candidates agree.

The People’s Party of Canada candidate, Liz Vallee, said government control of any media platform is dangerous. She added the Liberals are trying to pass new censorship legislation, which she calls “extremely dangerous.” She said it would eliminate people’s right to free speech and expression.

“Social media websites are privately owned entities and are not publicly funded,” said Vallee. “There are already laws in place to deal with issues like libel, slander, and content that might promote violence. Any government regulation beyond what is already in place should focus on preventing unwarranted censorship and ensuring non-discriminatory equal access to social media platforms.”

Regarding whether or not the government should increase environmental regulations on businesses to reduce carbon emissions, Vallee said the short answer is no.

“The long answer is that the government adding more red tape and more taxes is not going to produce innovation that will reduce carbon emissions,” said Vallee, who added that Canada has some of the world’s most strict environmental laws.

“What we have seen with businesses is they often get sent to markets that do not have these regulations; thus, we keep polluting even more without really fixing anything and stifling our ability to make better technologies,” added the PPC candidate. “Usually, it is not the case that the government can regulate themselves out of a problem.”

Hetherington, however, believes Canada needs to be a leader in Climate change.

“It’s much easier to challenge other countries to make changes (such as China and India) who are big polluters,”

The Liberal Party candidate said farmers are a good example.

“I believe supporting our farmers with a rebate for creating thousands of acres of crops that eat carbon and produce oxygen should be a consideration for our next climate policy. Climate change is the biggest story of the century. We need to address it for our grandchildren and us.”

According to Gelinas, the NDP supports the regulations already in place and has committed to cut emissions in half to meet the 1.5-degree target set by scientists to prevent future catastrophes. He added the NDP government would create 100’s of thousands of jobs by investing in clean energy, electric vehicles for transit and zero-emission cars.

He pointed out that as a member of the G7, Canada is the only country whose emissions have gone up since the Paris Agreement and added that Canada has never met a single emissions reduction goal.

“Increasing environmental regulations on business by making polluters pay their fair share to eliminate emissions is a first step in reducing carbon emissions,” said Gelinas.

Epp said his party also has a plan to combat climate change.

“Canada’s Conservatives have a serious plan to combat climate change that allows us to meet our targets and reduce emissions by 2030, all while repealing Justin Trudeau’s Carbon Tax,” said Epp.

He added that the Conservatives recognize the most efficient way to reduce emissions is to use pricing mechanisms – but not one where the government pockets the money.

According to Epp, Canada’s Conservatives are the only party with a plan to secure the environment, secure jobs, and secure the future.

“We will fight climate change and protect the environment, but we won’t do it on the backs of hard-working Canadians or by hurting our economy,” said Epp. “Instead of sending your money to Ottawa, Low Carbon Savings Accounts help Canadians make greener lifestyle choices while allowing them to decide what works best for them and their family.”

Vercouteren believes climate change is getting worse and should be taken seriously.

“Our area is being affected by the climate change issues, and that will require a lot of money to fix. We need to put more effort into not just fixing these issues but to building an economy that works with the environment and local business,” said Vercouteren.

According to the Green Party candidate, the pandemic has proven Canada can build a green economy.

“By allowing more work from home, we have reduced the need to commute and provided better opportunities for people in our area for work. With more public transportation, we not only reduce our carbon footprint, but we also help the seniors in our area who are not able to drive,” said Vercouteren.

He added his party could help create a business in the area that will add value to the products farmers produce, creating jobs, reducing shipping and providing more local products.

“The flooding problems in our area can be reduced by more tree growth and wetlands, which also reduce our carbon footprint. We can make changes that not only help the environment but also improve our living standard and be healthier,” said Vercouteren.

The 2021 Federal Elections is Monday, September 20. For more information, visit elections.ca

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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