University woman sponsor a boisterous discussion with federal election candidates

Fed election logoBy Pepper Parr

October 6th, 2015


Holding a discussion between candidates running for public office needs a public audience and the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) served the community well when they hosted the discussion between the four candidates who want to represent Burlington in the House of Commons.
Incumbent Mike Wallace stood against Liberal Karina Gould, New Democrat David Laird and Green Party candidate Vince Fiorito. For a while they had Wallace on the ropes

The meeting was broken into two parts; the first was used to put forward questions that had been prepared by the CFUW – the second part was to put forward questions prepared by the audience.

The CFUW could have done a better job of tightening up their list of questions – there were too many and some overlap between the questions.

When the overlap was getting out of hand the audience made it clear that they didn’t want to hear anymore.

It was rowdy room – the auditorium at Central High School was close to packed; when the audience didn’t like what they were hearing they got a little boisterous.

Moderator Dorothy Borovich sent out her most withering glare on more than one occasion – it didn’t always work.

What the audience did get was a clearer look at just where the candidates stood on specific issue.

CFUW Wallace with voter

Conservative incumbent Mike Wallace who has served two terms as the Burlington MP was giving a rough ride during the all candidate discussion sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women.

Mike Wallace had to defend himself on several issues and while he had his supporters in the room it was pretty clear that the audience was buying what Karina Gould had to say. There were several bursts of spontaneous applause for Gould positions.

Burlington doesn’t do debates – the thrust and cut of argument doesn’t seem to suit the community.

There was no clear winner but it was clear that Wallace was on the defensive.

It was an older audience for the most part but it certainly wasn’t a submissive audience – they hooted and hollered frequently.

Every candidate agreed that the demographic shift that has taken place meant more attention and resources had to be spent on the senior population – and all four candidates agreed that the biggest problem facing the country was climate change.

The first question from the CFUW list was related to governing and they wanted to know what each candidate had to say about the way they would lead locally – that is what they would do in the community.

Mike Wallace started off with is nine year track record which he thought was pretty good. He spoke of leadership and the way the federal government has handled terrorism (which got a groan from the audience) and his work as chair of the Justice Committee.

He wanted voters to look at the issues and then decide who is best suited to lead in both the community and the country.

CFUW Vince and voter 2 frizzy grey

Green Part candidate Vince Fiorito talks over an issue with a participant.

Vince Fiorito followed with four points: the environment, the debt, poverty and jobs – and then went on to tell the audience a little about himself.
Karina got her turn next. “We can do better” she said “with job creation, with fixing and improving the infrastructure.” She added: We need less secrecy, we need to see the Prime Ministers office working differently, we need to create a Senate that works; our job creation has been dismal.

Part of the reason the government had a surplus last quarter Gould said was because they didn’t spend the money budgeted on the veterans and the aboriginal community. We have a government that hides its problems and doesn’t trust Canadians.

The audience at Central High school burst into applause. As people were filing into their seats the audience appeared to be more senior than younger family types – I thought they were part of the core Conservative vote out to hear that candidate.

David Laird tells people this is his fifth campaign and that he was there once again to fight the good fight for the working people. He added that his focus was the young people and the help they needed – not the smartest political move in an audience that has less than 5% younger people.

The CUFW wanted to know what the candidates would do with the health system, specifically home care, pharma care and longer term care.

Wallace explained that health is a provincial responsibility and that the federal government is a funding partner that transfers money to the provinces. The amount to be transferred next year is to be reduced by 3% he explained but if a province has experienced significant growth in senior population an additional amount will be available.

One would have thought the federal government would know where the senior population is located – this isn’t exactly a mobile demographic.

Gould was more specific. She said a Liberal government would pour in an additional $3 billion into home care – because it works she said.
Laird too promised money for home care, palliative care and Pharmacare.

With all this agreement being set out – one wonders why this isn’t already in place. Why are seniors worried?

CFUW wanted to know what each candidate would have their party do about Canada’s image worldwide.
Fiorito said “we have to be more visible at the UN, respect International Law and get back into the Peacekeeping business” for which he got a decent round of applause.

CFUW Gould with voter

Liberal Party candidate Karina Gould had a good night. She was applauded frequently but summed up rather weekly

Gould hit the right button when she said: Step # 1 Change the government – for which she got an immediate burst of applause. She went on to say that “Canada used to have a vision, we were a player, we were respected at the United Nations; our view on climate change was understood and respected – we were not seen as obstructionist – our was a voice of reason.”

David Laird said he had predicted all this and said the government needed to explain why the system was broken.

Wallace said he didn’t agree with the premise behind the question (for which he was booed) and pointed to the way Canada supported the government of the Ukraine and how it had stood up for the values of the men and women who had fought in Korea and WWII

The CFUW wanted to know where the candidates and their party’s stood on pensions.

Gould said the current pension system is not working – we have to meet with the provinces on this – we get that she added. The Guaranteed Income Supplement has to be increased by 10% – then the pension paid has to be indexed.

CFUW Laird talking to a Liberal

David Laird, New Democrat candidate, running for the fifth time, made a very strong point when he said pension money does not belong to corporations.

Laird wanted to see pensions increased and was specific – add $400 million to the GIS – it is amazing how the politicians throw around figures.

Laid did make a very strong point when he said: Should a company declare bankruptcy the bond holders get first dibs on any assets – Laid wants the pensioners to be first in line. He added that some companies declare bankruptcy to get out of their pension obligations.

Laird is absolutely right – pensions are not a corporate asset – pension contributions have to be put into a fund that corporations cannot touch – it isn’t their money.

Wallace pointed to some changes that had been made to the RIF rules that allowed people to take some of their money out at an accelerated rate. He wasn’t on for increases to the Canada Pension Plan which the Conservative government called a tax on business. More cat calls from the audience at this point.

Education – always a warm spot for the CFUW who offer a scholarship every year.

Laird wanted to see free university education. That brought some rather direct comment from the audience which in turn brought the first of the Borovich glares. When Dorothy Borovich directs her very strong gaze on you – you want to duck. She has a Shush that would put a librarian to shame.

Fiorito took basically the same view – universal, state paid university education to those who show merit – if you have the marks – you get in.
Wallace didn’t see it that way. His party believes these are decisions the parents make – the government will provide income tax benefits and some funding but the parents get to make the decisions. The federal government he said would not be creating a national university education program.

Gould didn’t talk about an education program – she wanted to focus on a Day Care program that into which a Liberal government would pump $500 million.

Karina Gould took the room from the very beginning of the evening and while she didn’t shine every time – she was on target most of the time. She was never booed – the others were. Both Wallace and Laird at some point both said they agreed with her.

But when the evening was over and the candidates were doing their summing up – no one really moved the audience – other than the Green Party candidate Vince Fiorito, who spoke with conviction.

There was more – we will cover that in an additional report.

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1 comment to University woman sponsor a boisterous discussion with federal election candidates

  • Shannon Gillies

    Three billion dollars for home care, a 10% increase to Guaranteed Income Supplements, a half billion for childcare…
    Did the Gazette’s favourite candidate happen to mention where are this cash was going to come from? It’s all well and good to spout crowd-pleasing, Trudeauesque ideals; it’s quite another to explain how they’ll come to fruition without more taxes for most Canadians and businesses while simultaneously adding to our national debt.