Federal byelection candidates square off in last open forum before voters go to the polls
Five for fighting
AMHERST - With the countdown continuing to Monday's byelection Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley candidates took to the airwaves last night during a two-hour debate organized by the Amherst Daily News and CKDH Radio.
Candidates present at the forum were the Green Party's Jason Blanch, Christian Heritage Party candidate Jim Hnatiuk, the NDP's Mark Austin, the Conservative' Scott Armstrong and Liberal Jim Burrows.
Independent candidate Kate Graves was not present.
Issues the candidates focused on were the economy, the environment, Afghanistan, Tourism, H1N1, emergency room closures and rural communities.
On the economy, it was Armstrong who came out strong in favour of government intervention.
"Every community has projects that can be funded by the federal government and we have to access those funds," said Armstrong.
Burrows told Armstrong that economic development has to be built upon the sustainability of real jobs. Armstrong agreed but added.
"This is worst economic recession since the great depression and almost everybody has projects ready to go and we have to work to make these projects go ahead."
Hnatiuk was concerned about the rising debt.
"We have other ways to fund infrastructure without increasing government debt," said Hnatiuk. "If we implement the Atlantic Gateway Initiative, that would go a long way to creating jobs without asking the federal government for money."
One of the main environmental concerns was rising sea levels and the effect they'll have on communities such as Advocate.
"I'm sure the people of Advocate are happy we finally got a byelection so the Harper government will address the issue," said Burrows.
Austin had visited Advocate yesterday and said a non-partisan committee needs to look at the issue of rising tides.
On the topic of climate change Blanch asked why the other parties voted against bill C-11, which was designed to meet climate change targets.
Hnatiuk didn't deny that the climate could be changing but questioned whether or not it was caused by humans.
Blanch countered by saying, "11 of the last 12 years have been the hottest on record."
The candidates also diverged on the topic of Afghanistan.
Armstrong said he supports the current resolution to pull out by 2011 but noted:?"Today in Afghanistan women can go to school and we have women sitting in government in Afghanistan. Real progress has been made."
Austin would like to see Canada pull out.
"We need to end our combat role. We need firm committments for withdrawal," said Austin. "The best way to honour our veterans is to use the billions of dollars we've spent in Afghanistan to help rebuild our legions."
All candidates implored voters to get out to vote.
"In Afghanistan, people risk their lives for the opportunity to vote and are proud of their purple-stained fingers," said Hnatiuk.