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Aaaaand they're off! The Guelph federal election campaign sees its first all-candidates forum

All-candidates event focuses on food insecurity

It may not have been the heated or accusatory tone that might show up later on the campaign trail, but the local federal election campaign got its unofficial start Monday with the first all-candidates event.

Liberal MP Lloyd Longfield was joined by NDP candidate Aisha Jahangir and Green Party candidate Steve Dyck at the Guelph Community Health Centre on Wyndham street for a question and answer period on food security.

Conservative candidate Dr. Ashish Sachan and People's Party of Canada candidate Mark Paralovos did not attend.

Sachan's campaign manager Bob Coole said they never saw an invite, although organizers said one was sent to two different emails on the local riding's web site.

Paralovos said he was invites but was unable to attend due to a previously-planned family vacation.

The event, titled Eat Think Vote, was organized by the University of Guelph's Arrell Food Institute and Guelph community food project The Seed.

Given the subject matter, there wasn't much disagreement in answers provided by the candidates, who fielded questions from representatives from the Arrell Food Institute and then from the audience of roughly 50 in attendance.

Much of the discourse centred around the fact that food insecurity is part of the bigger issue of poverty, including such off-shoots as affordable housing, affordable transportation and a living wage.

It was pointed out that 14 per cent of those living in Guelph are food insecure, a figure that is higher than the Canadian average.

"It's not just a food issue, it's a poverty issue," said Jahangir. "One (policy) change would not be enough to deal with this problem."

She said that the NDP looks at root causes rather than a "pack of Band-Aids" and tht a holistic approach is needed to address the issue of food insecurity.

"People come first, not corporations," Jahangir said.

Longfield said "food is for all, but not everybody can afford food."

He said that the Liberal government is aiming at a 50 per cent reduction in poverty in Canada by 2025.

Dyck said the federal government should "absolutely" fund a national food program in schools and that it's "actually quite embarrassing" that we don't already have one.

Longfield said the Liberals "has been and is committed" to working with the provinces and territories in school nutrition and that it's already happening.

All three agreed that food insecurity is a health care issue.

"You cannot separate food from health," Longfield said.

Creating and strengthening policies governing advertising aimed at children in regards to unhealthy food and learning, understanding and respecting the food needs of First Nations is also important.

While no other all-candidates events have been announced, there will likely be five or six more before the Oct. 21 federal election