Federal candidates in Fort McMurray-Cold Lake had their first chance to talk about the issues affecting the riding.
Last night, the Liberal’s Maggie Farrington, the PPC’s Matthew Barrett and Green Party’s Brian Deheer took stage for a live debate, hosted by Mix 103.7, the Fort McMurray Today, and the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce at the Quality Inn, ahead of next weeks election.
Several topics were up for discussion – from small business to the economy, immigration, equalization, the environment, abortion and a variety of other issues.
Among the key issues, candidates debated their different ideologies regarding the Carbon Tax, the East Clearwater Highway and the Trans Mountain Expansion.
One of the night’s earlier questions surrounded the topic of immigration in Canada.
Brian Deheer referred to one of the Green Party’s principles – being respect for diversity – and how newcomers would feel safe and welcome if he were elected.
“All people are welcome in Canada,” Deheer said. “We would do whatever we can to help people make a start here. If there are language difficulties, we would help, employment support, helping people find a place to stay, whatever we can do, we are ready to support.”
Farrington echoed that sentiment that diversity is a strength.
“The greatest example of immigration we can see is right here in Fort McMurray. This is a vibrant community; a very diverse community and the oil sands has really attracted a skilled population from all over the world.”
Barrett, however, shares the opposite opinion – that diversity is a weakness.
“Diversity is not our strength,” Barrett said. “We are going to make sustainable immigration numbers so that we can care about newcomers, new citizens, old Canadians, and people in the queue who are getting left behind because of political refugees. We choose who gets to come here and we want the best to come.”
On Trans Mountain
Talk of what to do with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project also took centre stage.
Farrington pointed at the recent track record of the Liberals in their attempts to get pipelines built and get our resources to market.
“How many pipelines were built in 11 years under the Harper regime?” she asked, before answering her own question. “Zero. Why would you believe the conservatives who now say they are now going to build those pipelines? It’s nonsensical and it’s literally a pipe dream and we are not that gullible. TMX will get built and the Liberals will see to it.”
Barrett went one step further – stating a PPC elected government would ensure construction on Trans Mountain goes forward without delay immediately.
“Oil will get to market. East to west, north to south. I don’t even care. This is not a party about one particular pipeline, this is about pipelines. This is oil getting to market for the greater good of Canada. I’m very protective of my oil because it’s Fort McMurray’s oil but it’s not just that, it’s Canada’s oil and it needs to benefit every Canadian.”
Meanwhile, Deheer – while not fully supportive of the concept of pipelines feels there is a chance for innovation – if given the opportunity.
“I personally am not in support of pipelines, but I am for innovation. Rail transportation can also be quite risky, we’ve seen that in Lac Megantic in Quebec, but bitumen pellets, if there’s a derailment or spills on the ground, you can pick them right back up and there’s no damage to land or water.”
On Carbon Tax
The Carbon Tax was arguably the most heated topic of the night.
Barrett was blunt in his assessment and feelings on what to be done with the tax.
“It’s a hard no. You can’t have an effect before a cause. We’re not taxing CO2, we’re not cap and trading CO2 like the Conservatives, we are not doing both like the Green Party and NDP. It is a smoke show, a sleight of hand, and a transfer of money. We are not doing it because it does not change the environment.”
Deheer responded, by stating his support of the tax.
He feels it will help people be more responsible when it comes to reducing their carbon footprint.
“I’m really getting an education today,” Deheer stated, acknowledging Barrett’s answer. “There’s the carbon levy, and the cap and trade. One is fairer to society and that’s the levy, the other rewards the polluters and that is the cap and trade. I support the levy and I personally do what I can to reduce my emissions so I can pay less tax.”
The Liberals meanwhile have come under fire in Alberta regarding the pollution tax – but Farrington came to the tax’s defence.
“The Liberal carbon plan allows revenues to stay in the province. Conservative fear mongers create myths about the ‘carbon tax boogie man’ but in fact, the rebates more than offset the costs for all families and pricing and rebates encourage reduction and give companies an easy way to know the costs and the benefits.”
As for the other candidates, incumbent David Yurdiga and the NDP’s Matthew Gilks were not in attendance.
You can watch the debate here.
The election takes place next Monday.