The campaign issues: what the candidates have to say

By Ryan O’Dowd: Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

September 6th, 2021


Well past the halfway mark into the election campaign no one asked for, a number of issues have emerged.

Across Burlington, Milton (Parts of Burlington are in the Milton riding), and Oakville North-Burlington the Gazette has interviewed the three Liberal candidates, two NDP candidates, one Green Party candidate, and one Conservative candidate.  Despite numerous attempts to interview Burlington Conservative ’s candidate Emily Brown she has not been able to find the time. decided she was not going to be interviewed by the Gazette.

Hanan Rizkalla the Oakville-North Burlington Conservative candidate.

The interview with Hanan Rizkalla the Oakville-North Burlington Conservative candidate is still being organized..

With – why are we having this election -nbeing the top question for most – the issues that were drawing attention, in no specific order were:

The Cost of Living
The cost of living was a primary concern for every candidate. Candidates from each major party discussed building housing and cracking down on foreign buyers in varying degrees to combat rent costs; the Liberal and NDP candidates proposed foreign buyer taxes on those who do not plan on moving to Canada, while the Conservatives propose an outright ban on such purchases.

Housing costs have skyrocketed with the average costs for buying a home reaching $660,000 from $425,000, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. Those are national – the average cost in Ontario is $800,000.

July housing sale results – the prices will lock out a significant number of people from the housing market.

Milton Conservative candidate, Nadeem Akbar, spoke about the difficulties facing the housing market.

Akbar: We have a plan, we’re going to build millions of houses.

“People are saying the same things at the door, it will be difficult for the coming generation and currently, any new person entering the market, it is so hard for them to buy a house. We have a plan, we’re going to build millions of houses, we want to build 1 million houses in the next three years. We will keep foreign investors from buying homes who are not planning to move to Canada,” said Akbar.

While all parties agreed the cost of living was a primary concern the genesis of that concern is in some dispute. The Conservatives blame the Liberals while the incumbents pointed to investments made into housing. Burlington Liberal candidate, Karina Gould, pointed to the 2017 $40 billion National Housing strategy and echoed the party platform’s promises for further affordable housing.

The Liberal candidates also championed their $10 a day childcare program as not only helping affordability but also helping the economy by getting women back to work, Oakville/North Burlington Liberal incumbent, Pam Damoff, explains.

Oakville North Burlington Liberal candidate Pam Damoff – “we know that childcare that costs $10 a day is not only good for the family but it’s good for the economy.”

“I really want to see implement a national affordable childcare program, Ontario is one province where we don’t have an agreement. But we know that childcare that costs $10 a day is not only good for the family but it’s good for the economy. And it will allow women to fully participate in the economy, and it will increase our GDP. So it’s good for everyone,” said Damoff.

While all parties approached the cost of living by limiting expenses the NDP was the only party making a hard push toward a livable wage. The NDP is pushing a guaranteed livable income that establishes a baseline of earnings deemed “livable,” if someone is not meeting that baseline their income will be supplemented, this process would essentially expand on existing social safety nets. This differs from the idea of a universal basic income which would give a set figure to everyone regardless of their earnings to theoretically recycle funds into local businesses, this is not currently endorsed by any party but there are rumblings of support from NDP candidates, including by Nick Page in Burlington.

Lenaee Dupuis – it’s all virtual with her campaign.

Elsewhere the NDP led the charge for the most expansive health care program with both Burlington’s, Nick Page, and Oakville/North Burlington’s, Lenaee Dupuis, who both supported NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s proposed universal medicare and pharmacare which would see a move toward filling “gaps” in the healthcare system and cover dental, vision, mental health, and prescription.

“Right now you can go to the dentist if you have a good job but if you don’t have a good job you neither have dental coverage or the money to pay the dentist, so you’re screwed. If you don’t have a good job, you don’t have optometry coverage in Ontario. And so by decoupling those from jobs, from having a good job, you help everyone out,” said Page.

The Conservatives and Liberals both support the current plan. Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, has voiced support for more private innovation in healthcare which led to controversy when Twitter pulled a misleading Liberal attack ad that framed O’Toole’s goal as a more comprehensive privatization of healthcare, a line of attack Trudeau has stood behind. The forefront of the Conservatives’ current health care pitch is mental health, among their investments is $1 billion of investment into Indigenous mental health programs over 5 years, where mental health issues and suicide are disproportionately rampant.

O’Toole’s Moderate Sensibilities
As Liberal support flails and a Conservative minority win looks increasingly possible questions have to be raised about what a Conservative minority would look like. Will the NDP join the Liberals in raising the threat of a coalition government as they have in previous races? Liberal candidates questioned what kind of agenda could O’Toole realistically make work possessing more moderate sensibilities than many in his party.

Adam van Koeverden responding to calls from constituents.

Milton Liberal incumbent, Adam van Koeverden, suggested O’Toole would be unable to square his rhetoric with action given dissent within the Conservative party. He said O’Toole voting pro-choice and in favour of banning conversion therapy matters little if the majority of his MPs vote differently.

“It’s not an all or nothing thing, just because O’Toole voted on a pro-choice level a couple of times to demonstrate that he’s pro-choice there’s a lot of gray area, and the gray area is going to far-right groups and social conservative groups to ask for their support and to tell them that he’ll act in their best interest, he’s talking outside of both of his both sides of his mouth,” van Koeverden said.

Speaking with the Gazette van Koeverden’s opponent Milton Conservative, Nadeem Akbar, dismissed these concerns but declined to provide a view on abortion or conversion therapy.

COVID-19 Recovery and Vaccine Passports
The parties have different views on how to recover economically from the COVID-19 pandemic that can be found detailed on the party platforms however, most of the candidate discussion was about the now contentious issue of vaccine passports. Burlington’s Gould made it clear there will be limitations on what the unvaccinated can do and pointed to the provincial Conservatives to suggest this would be a bipartisan issue, which remains to be seen federally.

Burlington Liberal Karina Gould rallying her team before the go knocking on doors.

“We’ve seen the Ontario Conservative Party saying, ‘if you’re not vaccinated, and you don’t have a legitimate medical reason, then you’re not part of our caucus.’ We saw one MPP, who was ejected from caucus on Thursday, said that if you’re not vaccinated without a legitimate medical reason, then you can’t come into work. So these are the kinds of questions that we’re asking ourselves,

“But we’ve seen that this is really becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We put in a mandate at the federal level to have all federal employees vaccinated to say, ‘if you’re going to take a train or a plane, you know, where you are in close quarters with other people, you need to be vaccinated.’ It’s everybody’s choice at the end of the day, whether they want to get vaccinated or not. But there may be some things they might not be able to do because they might be putting other people at risk. And that’s not fair to those people who have really done everything they can to protect themselves, their families, and their communities,” said Gould.

Economically, Akbar touted the Conservatives as the only party with a comprehensive plan since day one and the group to lead Canadians to a balanced budget and a secure future.

“From day one, we’re the only party who put a plan forward. Right after this pandemic, we are going to secure the country by securing jobs, securing accountability, securing mental health, and securing the economy,” said Akbar.

The Liberal representatives were happy to be judged on their pandemic response while the NDP frame themselves as the ones who pushed the Liberals toward COVID safety nets.

That an Election is Happening
That the election is happening at all has taken substantial criticism. Burlington survey results conducted by Gazette field reporters skewed negative and indifferent. “Power grab” was a phrase that came up often. NDP candidates interviewed bashed the Trudeau administration for his unwillingness to work with the NDP fueling the election call. Further NDP’s Dupuis is campaigning entirely virtually and criticized the call during a fourth wave and candidates running traditional door-knocking campaigns as dangerous to volunteers and constituents.

Results of the 2019 federal election – the country ended up with a Liberal minority government.


““This is an unnecessary election so I think because of that there is a bit of apathy around it, when I’m talking to constituents a lot of them ask ‘why are we having this election?’ We’re going into a fourth wave of the pandemic,” said Dupuis “I feel that knocking on doors puts our volunteers at risk. It also puts our constituents at risk and I know if somebody were to knock on my door right now I wouldn’t answer it. I feel that it’s not necessarily the safest thing. I think people do not have the appetite for it right now and we are in a fourth wave and numbers are increasing.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal candidates defended the decision to call an election, branding the current moment as an important time for voters to weigh in.

“I actually do think it’s an important time to have an election. There’s been a lot that’s happened over the last two years that was not anticipated. When we went to the polls in 2019. We brought in a whole lot of new programs that no party ran on in 2019. And so it’s a moment to say to Canadians ‘okay, we’ve turned the corner and the pandemic, you know, we’re the most vaccinated country in the world, yes, we’re concerned about a fourth wave. But we also want to set ourselves up for recovery. And these are the plans that we’re putting forward for recovery. Is this what you agree with? Is this what you want us to be doing right now?’ And so those are the questions that we’re asking Canadians,” said Gould.

Time is the one thing we do not have when it comes to changing the climate – some think it is already too late.

Climate Change
The Trudeau administration has been criticized by local candidates for its actions on climate change. Dupuis proposed several small immediate changes that could be implemented to immediate results.

Nick Cullis – Green Party candidate for Burlington.

NDP candidate Page suggested revisiting Trudeau’s promise of electoral reform might be the solution to seeing necessary climate change action as it would lead to diversified government representation and seats at the table for the Green Party. For his part, Burlington Green Party candidate Chris Cullis hammered Trudeau’s climate change inconsistencies rather bluntly.

“The day after the International Panel on Climate Change issued a report saying that this is a crisis and code red for humanity the Liberal Minister for the Environment defended the purchase of an oil pipeline. Saying that we need that revenue to pay for climate change initiatives which to me is like finding yourself in a burning building and thinking, well if I throw gasoline everywhere and the building burns down faster I won’t be trapped in a burning building anymore,” said Cullis.

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7 comments to The campaign issues: what the candidates have to say

  • Claudette B Mancini

    Most municipalities have empty buildings. Indwell has taken some in Hamilton and used them to create affordable housing for those in need. Do we, in Burlington, have empty buildings? If we do, why not reuse them for the same purpose? There’s no need for destroying any more farm land or recreational land to provide housing that’s too expensive, anyway. And these repurposed properties will provide employment for the renovators. A win-win all around!

  • Wendy

    I’m so tired of everyone slamming Emily Brown and the fact that she is a sport shooter NOT an illegal gun owner. Legal gun owners are not the reason for criminal activity, it’s the sh&@ heads with the illegal guns and our awful Court system that lets these a$$holes out on bail thx to the Liberal government. Police do their job and the courts let them out !! Wake up !

  • Penny Hersh

    It never ceases to amaze me that people believe what all candidates say when they are on the campaign trail. How many campaign promises come to fruition. One example is the call for a “National Affordable Childcare Program”. This gets thrown around every time an election is called.

    Let’s not forget that this election should never have been called. It will cost the taxpayers close to or over 600 million dollars, and unless some people have forgotten we are in the midst of a 4th wave of Covid 19.

    I for one have opted to vote by mail.

  • Carol Victor

    I guess Emily Brown is afraid to talk about her propensity for guns… people really want to send a person like this to Parliament? Burlington is supposed to be one of the most liveable cities in Canada….hardly the kind of example this person would set. We have a great person in Karina Gould , she is smart, cares about her constituency and the environment, has been part of the team that supports $10 a day daycare, has helped millions with financial support through the Pandemic, and can totally relate to Burlington because this is where she was born and bred.

    • Jim Thomson

      Emily Brown is a law abiding sports shooter.

      Karina Gould cares so much abought the environment she bought a pipeline.

    • James

      Does she legally own the guns? Has she ever used those guns as part of any illegal activity? Last I checked gun ownership through the proper channels was still legal in Canada. She is a law abiding citizen who happens to have a hobby you don’t like. Okay, so your personal bias aside, what’s the problem?

      Karina Gould has not done anything for Burlington, let’s be honest. A Liberal Kool-Aid drinker if there ever was one. Just a sheep following the Liberal herd. Haven’t heard a peep from her yet, has she even started campaigning?

      Admittedly Emily Brown, if elected, will be no better or worse. Instead of the red Kool-Aid she’ll drink the blue Kool-Aid. It’s party politics, they are elected to follow the leader, not think for themselves. That’s the unfortunately reality of politics, it’s not been about what’s best for the people for a very long time. It’s party/power first, people second. I don’t think I’m saying anything that everyone doesn’t already know.

      Beyond photo ops during their periodic visits to Burlington, what do MP’s really do at a local level? The local vote doesn’t matter (it REALLY doesn’t matter), we’re not really voting for Karina or Emily, we’re voting for who we want to see as Prime Minister. Watching Trudeau make campaign promises about fixing problems he’s either created or has been unable to fix in his 6 years in office is utterly laughable. He’s a joke, a complete joke, totally unqualified for the job. Canada has lost its identity during his time in control, trying too hard to please everybody while pleasing nobody. Enough is enough.

      I can’t promise that O’Toole will be any better, but I’m willing to give him a shot, he’s certainly been impressing me so far with his composure on the campaign trail. One look in Justin Trudeau’s eyes and you see a man that knows he’s made a terrible, terrible mistake, and completely misread the timing of this election. He knows he’s in trouble, and will be lucky to skate away with another Liberal minority, in which case his position within the Liberal party could soon come into question. Anything short of a Liberal majority is a failure for Trudeau, and any way you look at it unless something drastically changes within the next 2 weeks, Trudeau’s days appear to be numbered.

  • Donna Lavery

    Can someone please confirm that Emily Brown actually lives in Ontario.
    Editor’s note. Emily Brown has lived in Burlington for the last eight years – according to her social media.