Tobique-Mactaquac incumbent Richard Bragdon, who described himself as an optimist, said he prefers the balanced, measured and positive approach of his leader Erin O'Toole to the fearmongering of political opponents as he seeks re-election on Sept. 20.
Bragdon faced an unusual and shortened first term in office since his election in 2019. After only five weeks in the House of Commons, the COVID-19 pandemic forced most parliamentary business to be carried out over Zoom.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cut Bragdon's first term short when he called the early fall election to the chagrin of most of the MPs outside the Liberal caucus. Trudeau's critics panned the prime minister for heading to the polls in the heart of dual crises — the pandemic and the Afghanistan withdrawal.
Bragdon believes Trudeau and the Liberal then launched a campaign intended to divide Canadians.
The sitting Tobique-Mactaquac MP acknowledged that climate change is one of the significant issues in the current campaign but doesn't want to describe it as a "crisis."
Bragdon said those using the word are intentionally trying to make climate change a wedge issue.
He said Canada faces climate challenges and climate situations around the world.
"Every time people use 'crisis,' we're putting people under so much pressure," Bragdon said.
He said the government must address climate change quickly but with hope and understanding, not fear.
"Stop using climate change as a wedge issue," Bragdon said.
Allowing emotion to enter the debate on reducing carbon emissions creates divisions, not solutions, he said, noting people have to stop blaming the resource sector and recognize fossil fuel companies are often leaders in carbon reduction technology.
Bragdon recommends building consensus as the best way to tackle climate change.
"We all want a better planet to leave to the next generation," he said.
Bragdon said the Conservatives have a solid climate-change plan which protects vital economic sectors while advancing clean technology and fuels. He added carbon emissions are a world problem in which Canada plays a minimal role.
"We're such an overall small contributor to overall greenhouse emissions as compared to China and India," Bragdon said.
He said the Liberal government intentionally created wedge issues in other areas, including handling the C-6, a bill to ban conversion therapy, a process to force children to change their sexual identity.
After voting for the bill on second reading, Bragdon voted against it on third reading. Although it passed, the MP says the Liberals delayed introducing it late in the session, knowing it would die on the order paper when Parliament dissolved.
Bragdon said O'Toole committed to re-introducing the bill if they form the government and add the amendments that ensure it doesn't sweep up people for conversations.
"All MPs are against harmful practices," he said.
A highlight of Bragdon's first term as MP was the passage of his private member's bill to reduce recidivism in Canada's penal system. While private member's bills rarely pass, Bragdon's bill gained bipartisan support. It calls on the justice minister to study the issues and best practices to develop a program to better prepare prisoners to re-enter society.
Bragdon said the issue he hears about most on Tobique-Mactaquac doorsteps is health care.
He said his government is committed to doubling the health transfer and providing provinces with the resources to improve the system.
Bragdon reaffirmed his party is committed to universal health care, saying opponents claiming otherwise are again practising divisive politics.
Bragdon said leadership is another big issue for Tobique-Mactaquac voters. He said people want to know who's best to lead Canadians through the pandemic and come out safely on the other side.
He believes O'Toole offers the experience and temperament to deal with the challenges, and he "came forward with a positive, foolproof recovery plan."
Bragdon said the plan encourages Canada to become much more self-reliant and expand our sectors that have so much growth potential, whether in agriculture, manufacturing, resource and energy development or other sectors.
Bragdon expressed confidence the Tory platform will successfully steer Canada to better economic times. He believes O'Toole is the person to lead the way, especially compared to the current prime minister.
"I like that contrast Mr. O'Toole is offering hopeful, reasonable, solid leadership based upon a lifetime of experience," he said.
Bragdon said O'Toole has a plan to return to a balanced budget over the next decade.
In contrast, he said, Trudeau doesn't seem to have a plan to ever return to a balanced budget.
Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun