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By John Taylor, for the Dunnville Free Press, published in the October Issue, 2015 The Dunnville Chamber of Commerce sponsored an all-candidates question and answer session at the Legion Hall on the 8th of October, 2015. In attendance were (in the order listed by the Chamber of Commerce) Les Bory, running as an independent, Dave Bylsma of the Christian Heritage Party (CHP), Wayne Ettinger of the Green Party, John Harris of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Joan Mouland of the Liberal Party. Conspicuous in her absence was the incumbent, Diane Finley of the Conservatives. Audience members submitted written questions, of which there was time for each of the would-be Members of Parliament to answer about ten.
The moderator cautioned the participants to talk about what they are for, not what they are against, and to be civil. On the whole, that is how it went. To start off, candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves. Dave Bylsma has run eight times for the CHP, here and in St. Catherines, in every election since 1993. His party holds that families are the building blocks of society, and is the only one to take a stand against abortion and for opposite sex marriage. A solution they offer is smaller government.
Joan Mouland, a lawyer from Simcoe, is the recently chosen Liberal candidate. She is running here for the first time. She pointed out that Justin Trudeau is bringing youth into politics, and that his father, Pierre Trudeau, should be remembered for devolving power to local MP’s. Wayne Ettinger of the Green Party was a farmer for thirty years and now is running a small railroad between Port Colborne and St. Catherines. He is running because he is upset with the dirt in politics. He pointed out that Elizabeth May, his party leader, was voted hardest working parliamentarian by her peers in Ottawa. Greens are for a national pharmacare program and free post-secondary education.
John Harris of the NDP stated that he has an academic background in political science, specifically, political theory. He thinks we should ask, what change do we want? Haldimand has had job losses, so he would work with businesses to bring work here. We should also, his party holds, abolish the senate and eliminate poverty among seniors. Leslie Borie has run five times. He is an independent but his sympathies are with the Maple Party of Canada. Perhaps the most radical and declamatory of the candidates, he would nationalize the banks and oppose the “corporate parties” who keep us in perpetual debt, with interest payments sucking public money into private hands. His slogan is: “We will live better if we vote better.”
Questions addressed were, what are we to do about the ageing of the Canadian population? Do you support income splitting, and if not, what should be done for seniors? What, specifically, do you propose be done to help Haldimand’s economy? What would you do to save the ecology of Lake Erie? Why does the government borrow from private lenders when we can get interest free loans from the Bank of Canada? Do you believe that doctor assisted suicide should be legalized? Do you support election reform?
I think the last question was the most important, and not only because I was the one who wrote it down. Just after the meeting, my 21-year-old daughter, who will be voting in a national election for the first time, put it in a telling way when she asked, “Will my vote be wasted?” The sad answer is that if you like any of the speakers there, yes, it will. Most people vote with their demographics. In a rural riding like Haldimand it will be a snowy day in hell before the majority votes for anybody but the Conservatives. Diane Finley demonstrated absolute confidence in this reality by not taking the time to show up for both candidates meetings, this one and that in Norfolk County. She did not even answer emailed questions from this newspaper.
The Conservative party was found in contempt of parliament in the previous election. In the same way, our present MP’s absence surely put her in contempt of voters. The only mudslinging that took place at this meeting was when the Liberal Joan Mouland pointed out that Diane Finley had been found by the federal ethics commissioner to have violated conflict of interest rules as Minister of Public Works. Mouland distributed a newspaper clipping from the Simcoe Reformer to prove it. While I am against personal attacks, I cannot disagree with this action, which is surely justified. Finley would have had a chance to defend herself if she had deigned to be present. Whatever the duties a member of parliament has, surely the first is to make themselves available for questioning from voters at meetings like this one.