The All Candidates forum took place in Kitimat on Thursday, October 8th at the Mount Elizabeth Theatre. Only three of the five candidates running for the position of MP came out to speak. Incumbent Nathan Cullen representing the New Democrat Party of Canada, Brad Layton of the Liberal Party and Don Spratt of the Christian Heritage Party of Canada. Tyler Nesbitt of the Conservative Party of Canada was unable to attend due to a family emergency, and Jeannie Parnell of the Green Party of Canada sent her regrets.
If you missed the forum, you can watch the event by clicking the links below, as this article will only cover several highlights of the forum:Part 1 out of 4: Candidate introductions and Panel Questions.Part 2 out of 4: Panel Questions.Part 3 out of 4: Floor Questions.Part 4 out of 4: Floor Questions and Conclusions.
Questions from the panel included topics included providing universal child care, foster care, seniors , housing, child poverty and vote splitting. There were a number of questions about Aboriginal communities, industries and the environment.
Questions from the floor included ones concerning free post-secondary education, why the process of this election is being monitored in Europe, the future of the Canadian Broadcast Company, improving Kitimat’s federal jobs, restoring Canada’s reputation as peace keepers and their views on Feminism.
Don Spratt of the Christian Heritage Party presented on a basis that politicians had to be true to what they believed in. “If we lose our freedom and our liberty in this country to speak what’s on our hearts and our conscious, if we’re driven from the public square, then the whole country is going to suffer,” said Spratt.
On the topic of First Nations, Spratt stated consultation to reform the Indian Act and give them greater control of their future and economic development. Spratt’s comment on the missing aboriginal women was an anecdote about how the Vancouver RCMP were eavesdropping on people attending abortion rallies in the middle of Vancouver when they should have been searching in Port Coquitlam.
Spratt said the government could offer incentives to First Nations to drill wells. He suggested creating First Nations businesses to improve living conditions, and if this does not work they could throw more money at it.
Each of the candidates was asked which of their party’s platforms they would find challenging to support. Spratt said he did not find any part of the party platform challenging, and took a moment to plug where it could be found.
Spratt stated his priority is to restore respect for the constitution, and the “nine criminals who run the supreme court of Canada in Ottawa” who are telling the leaders what laws need to be made.
Nathan Cullen from the New Democrat Parties was very strongly against the actions of the opposing government. So much so that after the break, he stated: “I was told at the break not to be so negative on the government.”
Cullen expressed he had two objectives he had two goals when he was first elected 11 years ago, to put the riding on the map so we are a part of the dialogue going on in Ottawa and to work with the other parties for the betterment of the country. He admitted there has been some success. People know where the riding is now, as well as where Kitimat is.
On the topic of First Nations, Cullen expressed education needs to be fair. There needs to be reconciliation and the government needs to stop suing First Nations. He claimed the Government has taken First Nations to court 183 times over rights and title and lost every time. He committed to launch a National Inquiry into the missing aboriginal women and girls if an NDP Government is elected.
Cullen stated one of the problems facing First Nations is that 80% of the money given to the department of Indian Affairs stays in the Ottawa Valley and does not get to where it’s needed. He stated the Haisla community is on the forefront of generating and creating deals. However, there is a Federal Government act which says the First Nations have to disclose deals and this is getting in the way of their negotiations.
Each of the candidates was asked which of their party’s platforms they would find challenging to support. Cullen stated they needed a stronger path forward on Syria, and all parties were struggling with this.
Cullen said his biggest priority is seeing the end of the current government, which would help Kitimat as he has perceived hostility towards the north. “When the government wrote an open letter from the Prime Minister’s Office and said: ‘you’re just a bunch of foreign funded radicles and you’re enemies of the state, I took some offense to that. I didn’t know we lived in a country where you could raise your voice and raise questions and that made you an enemy of Canada,” said Cullen.
His second priority is ending the export of raw resources, and adding value to Canada’s wealth.
Brad Layton from the Liberal Party stated there were two problems, the first was the current government has stopped listening to the people and the local Member of Parliament belongs to a political party which has not presented: “a plan for Canada in this election.”
On the topic of First Nations, Layton stated the Liberal Party plans to reengage the First Nations on a number of issues. They will create a reconciliation framework. He promised to do an inquiry into the missing aboriginal women and take preventative measures.
Layton stated he would not represent indigenous and non-indigenous people separately. He promised to fight for every First Nations Community in the riding to fix the living conditions in their communities.
Each of the candidates was asked which of their party’s platforms they would find challenging to support. Layton stated he was happy with the platform, he saw his challenge as being able to cover the entire riding.
When asked what his priorities were, Layton’s first priority is making sure the promises which are made in Ottawa are followed through on. The second thing he will do is create working groups with community leaders and citizens to promote growth and jobs.
One of the topics they disagreed on included the topic of facial coverings. “This is a freedom that has been fought for and is not something we should be going back on,” said Layton.
“I defiantly believe in freedom of religion,” said Spratt. “I think there are cases where, for security reasons, in some cases, for example, know who’s voting, sometimes the government needs to see who it is and their identity is taken care of.”
“This is classic cynical distraction politics,” said Cullen. “We’re not talking about the economy, which is in a recession, we’re not talking about climate change, which the governments not dealing with, we’re not talking about that we’ve lost 450,000 manufacturing jobs in this country since this Prime Minister took office, we’re not talking about the fact that they just signed a massive trade deal that their not telling anybody about.”
Some of the questions were relevant to Kitimat. The first asked how the candidates how they would perceive another construction boom for the Kitimat Area and how can the local government can be aided by the Federal Government.
Spratt answered small businesses would draw business to Kitimat so reducing taxes on them makes it possible for entrepreneurs to open new businesses and hire more people. Cullen stated the problems will include affordability for people living in Kitimat. He suggested training young Canadians and reducing the number of temporary foreign workers as well as transferring money to Canadian Municipalities to help keep up their infrastructure. Layton stated the Liberal Party has a plan to help with the infrastructures of municipalities. He hoped to see affordable housing and cleaning up contaminated sites.
They were asked if they felt that shipping via tanker from Kitimat could be done safely. Spratt said it could, but the world is not perfect so measures had to be taken to mitigate any problems which could occur in the future. Cullen stated the cuts which were done to the Canadian Coast Guard need to be undone. He was concerned that the only reason resources would be allocated to the north was if people signed on to the Enbridge Project. Layton expressed the Government needs to reinvest in the Coast Guard and the routes need to be safe. He added the Liberals have said no to oil tankers and there will be a moratorium if elected.
They were asked what future they saw in the transportation of oil given a number of court challenges against Northern Gateway. Spratt stated the oil needs to get to market but it needs to get there safely and there needs to be consultations with the territory in which it travels. Cullen stated the company needs to get the support of the communities in which they wish to operate because they are the ones taking the risk. The benefits have to outweigh the risks. Layton stated the Liberal party has committed to No Northern Gateway, because it will not be shipping normal oil, it will be shipping bitumen.
The candidates were asked where they see future economic development in Kitimat. Cullen stated the community seems to have an off again on again relationship with the Haisla Nation. Progress will be difficult if this goes back to lack of respect and communication between the two parties. Layton expressed he wanted to sit down with stakeholders in Kitimat and find out what the weaknesses are and what hurdles needed to be overcome to bring businesses and economic development to Kitimat. Spratt said they need to reduce taxes and improve services by paying off the national debt. They would end corporate welfare and cut red tape for small businesses using the bank of Canada.
The final question they were asked from the panel was whether or not they thought the LNG could be safely transported. Layton said if it was done properly, it could be done with in the riding, but he was concerned with the environmental process being so secretive. Spratt expressed these projects could bring money to the country, but the people need to be kept safe. Cullen stated he, the local people and the Haisla have more confidence than they do with the Federal Government. He expressed he was concerned with the approval process.
During the floor questions, one questioner asked if their party is elected, will the duty to consult with First Nations be legislated into the Environmental Assessment Act. A second part of the question asked: will their government reverse the Enbridge decision if elected into power.
Spratt said he did not know if the Enbridge could be reversed, as there were people who are in favour of it. He said there has to be cooperation. He added Canada needs to export and the Federal Government has jurisdiction over transportation.
Cullen said they would reverse the Enbridge decision. He stated the government took the decision away from the review panel and put it into cabinet. He stated people will not trust a process where the Prime Minister decides on every project going on in the country.
Layton said they would reverse the Enbridge decision as well. He explained the Canadian Government would need to rebuild the Environmental Assessment process, as it is secretive, has been gutted and they need to include consultation for everyone in Canada.
Each of the candidates had an opportunity to provide a closing statement. General election day is Monday, October 19th.