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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Candidates try to woo undecided voters


An all-candidates meeting for Niagara Falls riding candidates held at the St. Davids Lions Club Tuesday still left some Niagara-on-the-Lake residents undecided for whom to vote in the Oct. 21 federal election.

NOTL resident Megan Gilchrist said she hadn’t decided who she will support, so she came to the meeting to hear what local candidates had to say.

“I’m impressed candidates here have been talking about that more than being confrontational with each other,” she told The Lake Report.

“I’m grateful they came to Niagara, that they were willing to come to St. Davids. I think it’s important they’re hearing from constituents across from all of the communities.”

Afteward, Gilchrist said hearing the debate was “helpful” but she was still narrowing her choice among the Liberals, the Greens and the NDP.

Six of the seven candidates were present at the meeting, including Liberal Andrea Kaiser, Brian Barker from the New Democratic Party, the Green party’s Sandra O’Connor, Conservative Tony Baldinelli, independent Mike Strange and Tricia O’Connor from the Christian Heritage Party of Canada. Alex Taylor from The People’s Party of Canada was not there.

The St. Davids Ratepayers Association organized the debate, which was moderated by association vice-president Mike Pearsall.

The evening kicked off with opening statements from all the candidates followed by five moderated questions prepared by the association. The questions touched on heritage, cannabis, climate change, amalgamation and support of seniors and youth in town.

All candidates, except Kaiser, agreed the cannabis legalization was rushed and the rollout wasn’t done properly. O’Connor said Niagara has the best agricultural land and it needs to be used for food security. Kaiser said that as a member of the parliament, it would be her obligation to help municipalities with a transition as the process is moving forward.

In regard to climate change, Baldinelli said the carbon levy is a tax and not an environmental policy, and under his party’s plan large industrial emitters will be taxed.

Barker said there should be a local food strategy so area farmers can send their products into stores and be supported. The Green party would also tax big polluters and strive to save farmlands.

Kaiser said she agreed with Barker, and mentioned how climate change has affected icewine production in Germany. Tricia O’Connor said her party takes a “think globally, act locally” approach to climate change and said more money needs to be invested into research in order to find solutions.

Strange said climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue and all parties need to come together to tackle the problem.

“It’s unbelievable some parties are juggling around like a political football like it’s not going to happen,” he said of climate change.

“We’re losing our shorelines in Lake Ontario here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lake Erie, Fort Erie. And what’s the government doing? They’re not doing anything about it. They’re not calling a state emergency.”

Gilchrist said one of the issues she was really interested in hearing about was climate change. She said her two children attended the climate change strike in St. Catharines two weeks ago and she agreed this topic shouldn’t be just a partisan issue.

As one of the youngest people in the room, Gilchrist, 40, also said she was glad the candidates spoke not only about seniors, but about families as well.

“I’m glad they’re thinking of the young generation coming into the community as well as the aging population.”

NOTL resident Scott Colvin, who came to the meeting with his infant daughter Delilah, said the debate didn’t affect his views much.

Although he said his “tendencies” have always been right-leaning, he said he wasn’t fully decided yet and that’s why he likes going to such meetings to get to know the candidates better.

“A lot of people I find just follow the leaders … and they end up voting for fellow candidates they have never interacted with in-person. It’s kind of sad a lot of people don’t get engaged.”

He said he agreed the cannabis legalization was rushed through and the carbon tax was the biggest issue for an agricultural community like NOTL.

“Considering the cost of fuel and heating greenhouses and running equipment, if that all starts going up, how does it affect people’s ability to do business and stay competitive in North America where a lot of our products go?” Colvin said.

After a short break, candidates answered questions from the floor. They touched on topics including addiction and mental illness, euthanasia and how environmental programs, like banning single-use plastics, would affect people’s lifestyle.

Old town resident Brodie Townley asked the candidates where they will find money to fulfill their goals. That idea seemed to resonate with the crowd, who applauded loudly.

Strange said because he’s not affiliated with any political party, he will make sure to keep party leaders accountable.

“We know it’s going to be a minority government, so who’s going to speak up against their leader … The only person on this whole floor who can keep in check is me because I’m an independent party,” he said. “I’m the only one who can’t get kicked out of the caucus.”

Baldinelli said the Conservatives would balance the budget over a five-year period and said the fiscal house has to get in order.

Tricia O’Connor suggested bringing money spent overseas “back home,” while Kaiser said if re-elected, the Liberals would keep the debt to the gross domestic product ratio at 30 per cent.

“People always assume the Conservatives are the most fiscally responsible, but look it up,” Kaiser said. “Check Statistics Canada. I did it myself and you can see how the economy has strengthened by the Liberal government over the last four years.”

Sandra O’Connor then addressed the crowd, saying the country’s economy might have strengthened but lower-class and middle-class Canadians are  not better off.

She said the Greens would stop providing tax subsidies to international fossil fuel companies, would close tax loopholes, increase taxes on the top 1 per cent earners, would go after Canadians “hiding their money” and impose transaction fees on international companies, such as Google or Netflix.

Barker said the NDP wants a fair tax system that would allow the government to get rid of tax loopholes.

“I don’t have the ability to take the modest income I make as a school teacher and shelter it off-shore somewhere else like big companies,” he said, adding the party would also end subsidies to large oil companies.

“We don’t have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem. So we need to increase our revenues by closing these loopholes and making sure those corporations pay their fare.”

After the meeting, Townley said Sandra O’Connor gave the best answer about whom the party is going to tax.

He said he’s voted for both the Liberals and the Conservatives in his lifetime but was still undecided who he’s going to support. Townley added the debate was “really well-run.”

“I thought it was a credit to them all how behaved everybody was as opposed to the leaders’ debate (Monday) night who are a bunch of children,” he told The Lake Report.

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