Devine charged an assertion in a Cheryl Gallant householder the Liberals are going to tax firewood is a 'fabrication' and 'fear-mongering'.
The sparks flew over the Liberals’ proposed carbon tax and the
Conservatives’ plan to crack down on teenage offenders at an all-candidate
forum Monday at Opeongo
About 230 people attended the first debate of the campaign to involve all
five Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke candidates. Hosted by the Renfrew branch of the
Ontario Federation of Agriculture, it featured a mix of farm-related and
Questions on the economy, environment and crime generated the most
response from the audience, which was obviously divided in its loyalties.
Liberal Carol Devine went on the offensive when asked about where the
party was going to get the money to implement its carbon tax if the program is
supposed to be revenue neutral. Waving a piece of wood, she charged an
assertion in a Cheryl Gallant householder the Liberals are going to tax
firewood is a “fabrication” and “fear-mongering.”
She said under the green shift plan, as pollution taxes go up, income
taxes will go down, generating economic activity that will pay for the
implementation, as well as positioning Canada to move away from its
dependence on fossil fuel.
“What’s your vision … what’s your plan for the environment?” she asked
Gallant charged that Liberal leader Stephan Dion must be using “gun
registry math” when talking about the ramifications of the program.
“The price of everything will go up,” said the Conservative candidate,
adding that as every living thing is made of carbon, “there is no end to what
can be taxed under a carbon tax.”
New Democratic candidate Sue McSheffrey said the environment needs to be
cleaned up now, not by setting emission goals for 2050 as the Conservatives are
doing. However, the Liberals green shift plan is the wrong way to do it, she
said, adding it should be the major polluters, not ordinary Canadians, who pay
for the clean-up.
“If we don’t act now, the history books of the future will be saying
‘what the hell were they thinking’,” she said.
“If we’re serious about our children and children’s children, we’ll have
to bite the bullet and deal with our environmental problems,” said Green
candidate Ben Hoffman. “We’ve been playing, now we have to start paying,” he
He said Canada
could hardly ask other countries to clean up their act “if we don’t clean up
Independent Denis Gagne said his version of the green shift would be to
take money from the oil companies “and put it in your pockets.”
Debate over Conservative plans to implement stronger punishment for
juveniles as young as 14 sparked both boos and cheers from the audience.
Gallant said Canadians are demanding young offenders convicted of serious
crimes should do “serious time.” Letting them out after three months isn’t long
enough to get them straightened around, she said.
As for publishing the names of young offenders, “law-abiding citizens
have the right to know if a murderer or rapist is living next door.”
McSheffrey said that Conservatives are off target. While youth offenders
commit less than one per cent of the crimes, domestic violence, which the
Tories are ignoring, is becoming an epidemic, she said.
The government should be tackling domestic violence and child poverty,
which is the root cause of much of the youth crime, she added. “We need to do
more to support families and children … so they have hope for the future.”
Devine said more money needs to be spent on prevention rather than
sending 14-year-olds to jail. The Conservatives are propagating a myth that crime
is a growing problem, when actually crime rates are dropping in the country,
Hoffman, who once worked in the prison system, said incarceration is not
the way to rehabilitate offenders. More focus should be put into programs that
address the problems of gangs, drugs and gun violence, he said.
“I don’t believe you should be putting 14-year-olds into prison with
Bubba and the rest of the gang … because when they come out they will have
learned how to stick the knife into you deeper,” said Gagne.
Instead of practicing “Archie Bunker politics,” the government should be
tacking the problem of dysfunctional families, he said. “An eye for an eye
leaves the world blind.”
In response to a question about whether there should be better screening
for immigrants and refugees, all candidates stressed how valuable immigration
is to Canada.
“To suggest that we should close our borders horrifies me,” said
McSheffrey, noting immigrants can play a major role in addressing the crisis
the country is facing because of a lack of health care professionals.
was built on immigration,” Gallant said making it easier for immigrant doctors
to practice is one way of tacking the doctor shortage. However, the government
should be tougher on “bogus refugees,” she said.
In response to a question about the current economic crisis in the U.S.
that suggested Canada had a “do-nothing government” and the riding a
“do-nothing representative,” Gallant said the Conservatives saw the tough times
coming and implemented several measures to keep the country strong. “The
fundamentals in the Canadian economy are solid,” she said, adding that as an
economist, Harper is best suited to guide the country through a difficult
Canada has a choice
between “stability and uncertainty,” and the riding has a choice between
“leadership and experience and the unknown,” Gallant said.
McSheffrey said the best way for Canada to weather the storm is to
ensure its people keep their jobs. Policies such as the NDP’s child care
program and protection of Canadian industry will help preserve jobs, she said.
Devine said Canada
needs a strong plan to support its industry and protect jobs. “The Liberals
have it … we’ve heard nothing from Harper,” she said.
Hoffman said the federal government has to do more to keep Canada independent from the U.S. and promote
strong local economies. “We have to rebuild our communities from the roots up,”
In response to several questions on how to solve the growing problems of
farmers, Hoffman said the key is to promote a produce-it, buy-it local economy
and cut back over-regulation and red tape. Local ranchers should not be
prevented from selling their beef to CFB Petawawa, Algonquin College,
and local hospitals and restaurants by unacceptable regulations, he said.
McSheffrey said she is excited by an NDP proposal that would see a
moratorium on imported crops when Canadian crops are in season. It would give
Canadian farmers a guaranteed market, boost jobs, bolster family farms and help
the environment because transportation demands would be less, she explained.
Devine said the Liberals’ proposed flexibility fund would provide
streamlined support for farmers and protect the family farm. Farmers will also
receive substantial tax credits under the Green shift plan, she noted.
Gallant said she has canvassed local farmers for input on farm programs
and many of their suggestions have been used by the Conservative government.
While response to the government’s latest aid programs have generally been
supportive, there can always be improvements, she conceded. “So I’m always
interested in taking ideas offered by our very active Ottawa
Valley farmers to Ottawa.”
Gagne said there is always a catch with farm assistance programs. It
would be better to provide a guaranteed income paid for from oil and
electricity profits, he said. The government should be locating more food
processing plants in the riding, he added.
When asked what the greatest need is in the riding, Devine said
residents have told her it’s health care. More needs to be done to get more
doctors and nurses practicing in the rural areas, she said.
McSheffrey said her biggest goal would be to tackle the “insidious” problem
While saying she would like to nominate getting rid of the gun registry
once and for all, Gallant said the main need is to foster a supportive
environment in which private business can flourish and provide jobs. A stable
government, decreasing taxes and expanding broadband access are all important
to that goal, she said.
Hoffman said developing more sustainable, environmentally-friendly jobs
is the greatest need. Creative ideas, such as the one Joe Kowalski had in
developing whitewater recreation, is the type of thing that should be
encouraged, he said.
Gagne said people in the riding should end their Liberal-Conservative
differences and work together to extend Highway 417 up the Valley.