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Four major party candidates face off in first local debate

Debate hosted by Guelph Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Guelph & District Association of Realtors

Local federal candidates agree more must be done to help Canadians through the pandemic and beyond. However, their parties differ in approach – distinctions each sought to make clear on Thursday afternoon during the first public debate of the election.

Hosted by Guelph Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Guelph & District Association of Realtors, the virtual debate focused primarily on issues related to the economy, including housing, taxation, job creation and more.

Candidates from the four major parties largely laid out their national platform in response to questions, with few details about how they could impact Guelph specifically. 

Asked for their position on establishing a universal basic income, NDP candidate Aisha Jahangir and Green candidate Michelle Bowman quickly expressed support, while incumbent and Liberal candidate Lloyd Longfield said the government must “look for a way” to implement it. 

Ashish Sachan suggested a Conservative government would ensure people have good-paying jobs and didn’t state support or opposition to the idea.

When it comes to rising housing prices, Longfield said the government must work with realtors and homebuilders, as well as municipal governments to address a shortage in supply.

“We need to find those solutions together,” he said, adding buyers need financial assistance, including the ability to defer payments for up to six months, and help sourcing their housing.

Sachan said the problem can be addressed by making mortgages more affordable, with more options in terms of length, and removing the stress test for borrowers using a new lender, among other policy changes. That includes banning foreign investors from buying homes here if they don’t move to Canada.

The first idea Bowman put forward is to expand the moratorium on rental evictions through the pandemic, along with the implementation of rent control.

“We’ll also invest in housing, but it will be very targeted,” Bowman said, explaining a Green government would put money toward 50,000 supportive housing units and require that 30 per cent of new builds be designed to accommodate people with disabilities.

“Everyone in Canada should have a safe, affordable home,” said Jahangir. “I’ve talked to some of the city council members and they have told me that the Liberal program is basically just a subsidy to developers. It doesn’t do much for renters themselves.”

On the issue of affordable childcare, Longfield pointed out the Liberal government has signed agreements with eight provinces and territories to set the cost at $10 per day over the next four years, which will help get women back into the workforce and help to address labour shortages. 

“That’s going to free up money for families to spend in the economy,” he said.

The Ontario provincial government, however, has stymied efforts to bring it here, Longfield added.

Both the NDP and Green candidates back affordable childcare efforts, citing the same reasons.

“Childcare costs in Canada are among the highest in the world,” said Jahangir. “Affordable childcare means not having to choose between having a family and having a career, being able to save for a child’s education or our own retirement.”

A Conservative government would “put parents back in the driver’s seat” with policies to help people with the cost of childcare, Sachan said. “Parents know best what their children need and what their family needs.”

The debate followed in the footsteps of the federal leaders debates, limiting participation to local candidates for the four major parties. Other candidates include Tristan Dineen (Communist Party), Joshua Leier (People’s Party) and Karen Levenson (Animal Protection Party).

Candidate comments were recorded and will be posed on the chamber’s YouTube on Friday for viewing.

Prospective voters will have another opportunity to hear from the four major party candidates on Tuesday. Known as the “Climate Crisis and Social Justice: Virtual Town Hall,” numerous local organizations have come together to host the event from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

To register for that event, click here.