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Candidates spell out plans for recovery, views on vaccines

Friday marked Chamber of Commerce candidates forum
20210910-Chamber of Commerce candidates forum Quattro-DT
Conservative candidate Sonny Spina (at podium), NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom and Liberal candidate Terry Sheehan at a Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce candidates forum at Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre, Sept. 10, 2021. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Economic recovery from the ravages of COVID-19 and continuing pandemic safety measures were key topics discussed in a federal election candidates forum held by the Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce (for Chamber members) at Quattro Hotel & Conference Centre Friday.

NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom, Liberal Candidate Terry Sheehan, and Conservative Party of Canada candidate Sonny Spina participated in the event.

People’s Party of Canada candidate Kasper Makowski was unable to attend.

Candidates were asked by the Chamber audience (which included many small business owners) how their party, if forming a government after Sept. 20, would “support the private sector as the cornerstone of economic recovery.”

“The NDP plan to provide pharmacare for all and access to dental care and mental health care would help smaller employers retain employees and ensure that they are able to access care when they need it,” Morin-Strom said, pointing to her belief that healthy workers will build a healthy economy.

“The private sector has always been the cornerstone of our efforts in recovery. We’ve reached across to our Chambers of Commerce to talk about this very challenging and difficult time,” said Sheehan, the incumbent Liberal MP for Sault Ste. Marie.

Pointing to the Liberal government’s COVID relief measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), Sheehan said “we continue to engage and our commitment is to extend Canada a hiring benefit to March of next year so that you can continue as employers to hire the staff that you need.” 

“People are concerned about their businesses and how they’re going to get employees and customers and how they’re going to retain those employees moving forward as we recover from the pandemic,” Spina said.

The Conservative candidate said his party has a Canada Job Surge Plan to recover one million jobs (lost during the pandemic) within one year.

The plan consists of subsidies for businesses to bring unemployed people, economically displaced by COVID lockdowns, back to work.

“It means you can bring back twice as many people to work as you could before and help get our economy moving again,” Spina said.

He said the Conservatives also have a plan for a GST holiday to encourage people to spend directly in local stores and a Dine and Discover Canada program.

“That will provide tax rebates for people who travel and experience tourism across Canada and get back into the hardest hit sectors, like the hospitality sector.”

“These plans will help Sault Ste. Marie directly,” Spina said.

Each candidate was asked about his/her party's plans for COVID-19 management moving forward.

“Canada is now a world leader in vaccines. We’re two months ahead of schedule. We said we would have a vaccine for everyone by the end of September. We’re two months ahead. Everyone had an available vaccine by the end of July, and that’s our best way forward to fight COVID-19,” Sheehan said.

In the face of the Delta variant, Sheehan said “we’ve also procured more vaccine boosters. We have enough for booster shots because we know we are going to need them again.”

“The NDP is pro-national mandate, (in favour of) a national vaccine passport that would encourage tourism and ensure that no matter where you are in the country that you would have a way to demonstrate you are vaccinated, and to take the pressure off individual places, cities, provinces and businesses and put that back on the federal government and ensure that national mandate is there, that we have a national system for everybody,” New Democrat Morin-Strom said.   

The Conservatives have taken less of a hard line on mandatory vaccination.

“We know vaccines are our best way forward and I encourage each of you to get vaccinated as soon as you are able. In consultation with your healthcare professionals, you can make that decision for yourself and your family. We must let the science be heard so you can make the decisions that are best for you. If you’re concerned or are having second thoughts I want you to know that I hear you,” Spina said on behalf of the Conservatives. 

“I understand your concerns...I am here to listen and I acknowledge you have often been talked down to and belittled because of your beliefs.” 

“We know there are other options we must use because we can never rely on a singular option to solve this. We can rely on things like rapid testing, screening and follow up with individuals for information sharing,” Spina said.

Liberal Sheehan’s remarks throughout Friday’s forum emphasized the Liberal government’s spending record, including $420 million for Algoma Steel, its plan for $10 dollar a day daycare and vaccine procurement.

For New Democrat Morin-Strom, the forum was a call for pharmacare, dental care, daycare and affordability.

For Conservative candidate Spina, it was an opportunity to highlight his party’s plan to recover one million jobs lost during the pandemic (through retraining and other means), investment in small businesses and incentives to open new businesses.

Spina was also critical of the other parties’ views on spending, stating the Conservatives are the only party with a plan to address Canada’s deficit, which has ballooned during the pandemic.