Estevan area residents had the opportunity to hear from most of the local candidates who are running in the upcoming federal election during a candidates’ forum Thursday evening at the Royal Canadian Legion’s Estevan branch.
Five of the six candidates running in Souris-Moose Mountain were present for the forum: Ashlee Hicks of the New Democratic Party, Robert Kitchen of the Conservative Party, Judy Meager of the Green Party, Travis Patron of the Canadian Nationalist Party and Phillip Zajac of the People’s Party of Canada.
Javin Ames-Sinclair of the Liberal Party failed to make it to the forum, which was hosted by the Estevan Chamber of Commerce. Chamber vice-president Jeff Richards was the moderator.
The evening began with each of the five candidates giving a two-minute prepared statement. Mergel was the first to speak, and noted it was the first time she has been in Estevan. She is a retired cattle rancher from Wood Mountain who spends time gardening, teaching tai chi and running a private animal sanctuary.
Mergel took exception with those who view the Greens as a one-issue party. She noted that in a party pamphlet, three of eight promises dealt with the environment. They also tackled issues such as free post-secondary tuition, expanded medicare to include dental care, a basic income plan to combat poverty and crime, national pharmacare, and addressing issues of Indigenous people through consultation.
She expects the party will pay for these promises by several means before 2025 by raising taxes on large corporations, closing tax loopholes, receiving taxes from tax havens, imposing taxes on commercial banks and taxing e-commerce corporations like Netflix.
None of these would come from the pockets of Canadians.
Hicks said she believes residents of Souris-Moose Mountain are ready for a change. People are worried about the cost of living, including housing, phone bills and medical needs.
“We’re facing serious national issues like climate change and the challenge of reconciliation that both the Liberals and Conservatives have not quite done enough on,” said Hicks.
Young people are still struggling to pay for the cost of their post-secondary education, boil water advisories are in place on reserves, and kids are still growing up in unsafe and overcrowded homes and schools.
Canada is still far off from meeting its Paris Climate Accord commitments, she said.
Mergel also pointed out that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has twice been found to be violating the country’s Conflict of Interest Act.
“We’re on the side of working Canadians, not big corporations and lobbyists. We know that Canadians want a more affordable life, services like universal pharmacare and action on the big issues like reconciliation and climate change,” she said.
Zajac said the People’s Party of Canada will put people first, and he stressed that the party is the only one that would pull Canada from the Paris Accord.
“I don’t know if any of you have taken the time to read the Paris Accord or understand it, but it is an accord that the United Nations has put together that is stripping resource wealthy countries of their wealth,” Zajac said.
The PPC is also for smaller government. They want to put money back into everybody’s hands by reducing personal income tax for everybody. Zajac believes the Liberal and Conservatives have used that promise for their own campaigns.
Business owners, farmers and homeowners can look forward to the carbon tax being completely repealed. They won’t amend it, rebrand it or charge heavy carbon users.
“If you start taxing the big companies, they’ll leave, and we understand that, and that will cost Canada jobs,” said Zajac.
The capital gains tax will also be eliminated.
Patron, who is also the leader of the Canadian Nationalist Party, said they have decided to pursue what he described as an explicitly nationalist option because they believe a form of economic nationalism is what’s needed in Canada.
“I often describe our party as more conservative than the existing Conservative Party,” said Patron.
The Nationalist Party has three key policies. The first is immigration reform, as they believe the current immigration policies are unsustainable, and they want to reduce immigration, reinstate the Immigration Act of 1952, and withdraw Canada from the United Nations Compact on Migration.
They also want to prevent public officials from holding dual citizenship.
Finally, the party wants to see an oil and gas investment trust, which would allow the country to take advantage of its natural resources. Norway has a similar concept.
“We put profits from our natural resources into a publicly-managed fund, and we use that to subsidize social services such as health care and transportation,” said Patron.
Kitchen, who is the incumbent MP, said his first four years in Ottawa have allowed him to see what the Liberals have done to Canadian industry.
“The Liberal government has racked up mounds of debt with no real benefit for Canadians, and at the forefront of this trouble is Western Canadians.”
Kitchen said the Tories would be focused on accountability and affordability, and they would put more money in the pockets of Canadians.
They would also champion farming, the energy sector and small business.
“Farmers are the backbone of our economy, feeding the world and driving economic growth and environmental innovation,” Kitchen said.
He also pointed to the importance of oil and gas and mining sectors, particularly in Souris-Moose Mountain.
Kitchen believes these sectors, as well as small businesses, have suffered due to the Liberals economic and tax policies.
The economy is the most important issue in this election, he said.
Each of the candidates then answered a prepared question from the chamber. That question focused on whether their parties support coal-fired generation, and what their plans would be to help transition Estevan away from coal.
Kitchen, Patron and Zajac voiced support for coal power and an expanded use of carbon capture and storage technology, while Hicks and Meager voiced support for phasing it out, and shifting employees to green jobs.
Following a break, the attention shifted to questions from the floor. People who attended the forum asked the candidates about such issues as farming and the end of trade to China, pro-life issues in Canada, climate change, small business taxation and getting energy projects moving forward.
The forum wrapped up with one-minute concluding statements from each of the candidates.
The federal election will be Oct. 21. Advanced polls were held Oct. 11-14.