Cape Breton-Canso debate introduces slate of new faces

By Lois Ann Dort    

PORT HAWKESBURY – For the first time in a long time the faces vying for the federal seat in the riding of Cape Breton-Canso do not include Roger Cuzner. Cuzner announced his retirement from federal politics last summer and this election cycle has brought out many new faces to the political arena in this area.

On Monday, October 7 a candidates' debate was held at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre, organized by the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce and 101.5 The Hawk. The evening was a chance to get to know the candidates and their positions on questions that effect the everyday lives of residents. Greg Morrow of 101.5 The Hawk served as moderator and kept the candidates on a tight schedule – concluding the debate in just under two hours.

The candidates taking part were: Clive Doucet, Green Party; Billy Joyce, People's Party of Canada; Mike Kelloway, Liberal; Alfie MacLeod, Conservative and Laurie Suitor, NDP.

Questions were provided by the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce as well as the public prior to the event. All candidates were given a minute to respond to the questions and then an open one-minute period was provided for any and all rebuttals.

Most candidates agreed on several key questions, one being that regulations and red tape need to be reduced to allow medium-size and small businesses to thrive in the region. The NDP, PPC, Conservative and Green candidates also agreed that corporate subsidies should be eliminated. That being said, there were strong divergences on many issues, particularly on climate change and immigration, as would be expected in a political field with such a range of left-, centre+, and right-leaning candidates.

Liberal Mike Kelloway is a new face to the federal political realm but Cape Breton-Canso is his seat to lose, as it has been the stronghold of Liberal heavy-weight Cuzner for almost two decades. During the debate, Kelloway didn’t play as much to the record of the Liberal government as might have been expected. He did state that policies needed to meld jobs, clean energy and a better use of resources in the future. In regard to business and taxes he floated the not often heard stance that a Liberal government would go after IT companies for taxes -- an issue that has been a thorn in the side of Canadian grown companies as giants like Facebook and Netflix gobble up market share yet provide nothing to the nations coffers.

Kelloway’s go-to phrase of the evening was "invest in people." And this was applied to many issues, including immigration and tax reform.

Alfie MacLeod has years of experience at the provincial level of politics, starting in 1995. He served as the Speaker of the House in the Nova Scotia Legislature in the late 2000s and has come back around to federal politics in this election to stand for the Conservatives. When questions of business were brought to the table, he often stated that more should be left to the private sector “and get government away from it.”

MacLeod is a strong proponent of building a transcontinental energy corridor to facilitate the movement of oil and gas resources. He stated that the Conservatives would “scrap the carbon tax” and look to technological solutions to tackle climate change issues.

On the issue of immigration MacLeod said, “It’s important that we all remember one thing; outside the Indigenous people, we are all immigrants.”

Laurie Suitor, running for the NDP, provided well defined answered to the questions posed, listing policies and priorities succinctly without time-killing platitudes. On the issue of taxes, she said, “We can’t keep taxing people who can’t afford to pay more,” adding that the tax burden should be moved to those who could afford it and look at the redistribution of wealth.

In her closing statement Suitor commented on the difficulty of thriving in a global system and stated that if you had any doubt about climate change you need only talk to insurance companies who are on the front lines of dealing with the results of a rapidly changing enviroment.

“We have to put our efforts into this diverse, complicated, beautiful, messy, democratic country,” concluded Suitor.

The People’s Party of Canada candidate Billy Joyce was a force to be reckoned with in the debate. He had clear and succinct policies and plans for every issue put to the panel of candidates. He took up the call to make rebuttals more than any other candidate and was clearly passionate about his party, the platform and the leader. His motto is familiar: “Canada First.”

The PPC has faced a lot of backlash in regard to its stance on immigration. Joyce clarified his views by stating that he wanted to “reduce the number of immigrants who are unqualified and increase the number of qualified immigrants.”

Joyce’s main talking points focused on implementing a flat tax, stopping foreign aid, withdrawing from United Nations accords and commitments, abolishing the capital gains tax and reducing corporate incentives. He also came out against climate change alarmism and stated, “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.”

Green Party candidate Clive Doucet may be one of the least known of the candidates, as he has not been a permanent resident in the riding until recently. He does have a long history in politics, serving as a municipal councillor for over 10 years in the Ottawa region. His answers to questions were light on detail, often agreeing that there was a problem without offering tangible solutions. More than once he compared his party leader Elizabeth May to the much beloved historical figure Tommy Douglas, the father of universal health care in Canada.

When answering a question about balancing climate change issues and economic development, Doucet said that a beautiful environment was key to economic development. The false paradigm was the one that pitted jobs against environmental interest, he said.

On the economic front, Doucet raised the important point that small businesses in the riding needed better broadband access and reliability. He also championed a reduction in regulatory paperwork for small businesses.

The debate concluded with brief closing statements from each candidate and remarks from Strait Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Mombourquette. No questions were taken from the floor.