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Guelph's candidates stick to the party line in local debate, leave local issues largely unaddressed

Guelph's local candidates faced off Tuesday night in their second debate

Local candidates battled it out Tuesday night during the second local debate - with a large majority of answers from candidates sidestepping the local issues and focusing on the federal party platform. 

Organized by Democracy Guelph, the Guelph Wellington Coalition for Social Justice and the Guelph Wellington Climate Coalition, the debate was called the Climate Crisis and Social Justice: A Guelph Virtual Town Hall Event. 

This was the second opportunity Guelph’s major party candidates had to present their platforms in a public debate setting. 

Reading prepared answers to questions given ahead of time, the candidates were quick to lay out their parties' national platform, providing few details on how the candidates would represent Guelph. 

NDP candidate Aisha Jahangir was on the attack through the 90-minute debate, not shy in taking multiple shots at Liberal candidate Lloyd Longfield by criticizing the Liberal party at the federal level and pointing out bills Longfield voted down. 

The first topic was climate change, with candidates asked how they would reconcile the economics of our national energy sector while avoiding a climate catastrophe. 

Jahangir said the Liberal and Conservative parties have left workers to navigate on their own in the changing economy, saying the NDP will build green infrastructure in communities across the country and use Canadian steel, lumber and concrete to benefit Canadians.

She added that big companies receiving COVID funding will agree to plan for net-zero carbon, with those funds going to support jobs. 

Longfield said we need to reconcile not just the economics and environment, but also social impact and reconcile with Indigenous partners while working on climate change initiatives. He said we need to find the balance of getting to net-zero carbon emissions, but transition jobs and the economy into the future. 

Sachan said the protection of the environment has always been a core Conservative value. He said his party will promote mutually beneficial conversations between indigenous communities and stakeholders saying “we will provide $10 million per year to organizations that foster collaboration and increase partnership between these two groups.” 

Bowman said no one will be left behind, and the Greens will preserve the natural ecosystems while providing investments into innovation and research. 

When asked about supporting and achieving Guelph’s goals of achieving a net-zero carbon community by 2050 with a 45 per cent reduction in carbon by 2030, Longfield was the only candidate to stay local with his answer. 

Longfield said he was concerned about the future of the plant and getting to net zero is a combined effort between municipalities, provincial governments and federal governments. 

He said he would continue to work on local issues, such as mapping the energy use in Guelph and reducing the areas that overuse energy and invest in energy-efficient buildings. 

Both Sachan and Bowman spoke on a federal level, outlining their federal party platform and how those projects would trickle down to help at the municipal level. 

Jahangir spoke toward her federal party platform, briefly touching on the local issue saying her party would be “meeting these goals in a way that respects local communities is essential.”

She then turned her attention toward the Liberals, attacking Longfield’s local approach to tree planting and Trudeau's oil pipeline construction, she then aimed at the Conservatives telling Sachan that his federal party leader can’t convey to his party climate change is real.

When asked about healthcare, all candidates agreed with the need to protect the health of Canadians, and the devastating effects of COVID-19 need to be addressed through proper funding of long-term care homes.
The candidates said Canadians need a significant amount of funding going toward long-term care to ensure Canadians are protected when they need help the most.

“We want to improve conditions for staff working in long-term care, so, increased training, fair pay, benefits and sick leave,” said Bowman. 

Jahangir pointed out the excess costs of prescription drugs Canadians need, referencing Canada’s socialized medicare but lack of pharmacare.

She then took another opportunity to take a shot at Longfield saying the Liberals have been promising pharmacare and Longfield chooses to vote against it. 

When it came to the topic of indigenous affairs, Bowman said her party wants to works with first nations on a nation-to-nation basis, which includes looking toward Indigenous support. 

Jahangir said her party will work with Indigenous peoples to co-develop a national action plan for reconciliation. 

Longfield said his party would look to create a national centre for truth and reconciliation with core funding for operations to allow for the mandates to be fulfilled. 

Sachan said the discoveries of graves at residential schools are a sober reminder of the effects the residential schools had in the past and still hold on survivors today. 

When asked about the unmarked graves and residential school survivors, Sachan pointed out Trudeau was currently challenging survivors in court.

With few local issues addressed and the debate coming to a close, debate moderator Adam Donaldson cast aside the last official question from the organizers, saying he was ‘going rogue’ and asked candidates what Guelph topic they would bring to Parliament Hill and promote. 

Bowman said she would promote life with dignity, which includes a guaranteed living income, housing as a human right, child care and amending the gaps in the socials safety net within Guelph. 

Jahangir was quick to say her focus would be on the opiate crisis and drug poisoning while decriminalizing drugs while making sure supports are in place. 

She said we need more treatment, rehabilitation beds and to treat addiction as an illness. 

Longfield said solving the mental health crisis through collaboration and using the Indigenous knowledge of wrap-around mental health support for our children. 

Sachan agreed the main topic in the region was mental health, saying he thinks that needs to be addressed in Guelph.


About the Author: Daniel Caudle

Daniel Caudle is a journalist who covers Guelph and are
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