Each of the four Sault Ste. Marie riding candidates were asked why they thought their party would form the best government for Canada as a number of questions were put to them in The Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce / Algoma University Candidates Forum, held virtually Thursday.
Each candidate - the Sault’s incumbent Liberal MP Terry Sheehan, Conservative candidate Sonny Spina, NDP candidate Marie Morin-Strom and People’s Party of Canada candidate Kasper Makowski - said their party was the best to steer Canada through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were able to get support out to people quickly. We got the CERB out, the wage subsidy, rent relief, a number of other programs through FedNor...but we have to finish this fight,” Sheehan said.
“This current election was unnecessary and unwanted by most. It was called during the fourth wave of a pandemic when we should have been focusing on keeping people healthy. Instead we have $600 million spent on an election that wasn’t wanted, and a government that’s borrowing $424 million a day. This is driving up the cost of living,” Conservative Spina said.
Spina said the Conservatives have a plan to recover one million jobs lost during the pandemic.
New Democrat Morin-Strom said it was the NDP, under the leadership of Jagmeet Singh, that pushed the Trudeau government to offer a bigger CERB and other COVID subsidies than what were originally planned, and urged all eligible Canadians to get vaccinated to avoid a fifth wave, enabling a full economic recovery to happen quicker.
PPC candidate Makowski said, his party is opposed to mandated vaccination and in favour of allowing citizens the right to choose to be vaccinated based on informed decisions.
While health care is an area of provincial jurisdiction, the federal government transfers a significant amount of money for health care to the provinces.
Each candidate was asked to present their party’s health care policy.
New Democrat Morin-Strom said an NDP government would bring in a national pharmacare plan, as well as national dental care and mental health care programs.
Sheehan said the Liberals will add $6 billion on top of $4 billion already committed to support the elimination of health care wait lists which have grown over the course of the pandemic.
Sheehan added the Liberals plan to spend $3.2 billion on provincial and territorial hiring of 7,500 doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners.
PPC candidate Makowski said his party is in favour of putting more health care power into the provinces’ hands versus being subject to federal conditions on health care funding.
“We have a plan for health care and it includes increasing those transfer payments to the provinces by at least six per cent annually. We also want to make historic investments in mental health and addictions services,” Conservative candidate Spina said.
When asked about climate change, Sheehan said the Liberals have the best record, pointing to Justin Trudeau’s announcement, made in the Sault in July, that up to $420 million will be spent on shifting Algoma Steel away from coal-based steel production to electric arc furnace (EAF) steelmaking.
Spina said Canada has the worst record among G7 countries on emissions reduction and that a Conservative government would encourage Canadians to buy new and better appliances, invest in bicycles and put more electric vehicles on the road.
The NDP’s Morin-Strom said a New Democrat government would invest heavily in green energy, bring in more energy efficient, affordable homes and encourage more public transit and passenger rail service.
Numerous polls have put the Liberals and Conservatives in a dead heat nationally, with an equally tight race locally between Sheehan and Spina.
Thursday’s forum was essentially a recital by Sheehan of spending by the Liberals in the Sault riding with an alternative economic plan offered by Spina on behalf of the Conservatives.
“Dozens of businesses and community organizations have created good jobs and prospered, supported by my record breaking $750 million in federal investments right here in the Sault,” Sheehan said.
“We have our Job Surge Plan which will recover one million jobs that we’ve lost during the COVID-19 pandemic within one year. We’re going to wind down COVID benefits responsibly and support businesses so they can bring people back to work faster...we’re going to give everyone a chance to have a GST holiday this December on all purchases you make at a bricks and mortar store right here in Sault Ste. Marie to help get our economy booming again,” Spina said.
“Businesses are going to receive loans of up to $200,000 with 25 per cent forgivable...we also have our Dine and Discover Canada program where you’re going to get tax credits for dining out right here in Sault Ste. Marie to support our economy and up to $1,000 a person for a travelling experience in Canada,” Spina said.
Questions were put to candidates from Algoma University Political Science students in Thursday’s virtual forum, the questions taken from input provided by Sault Ste. Marie Chamber of Commerce members.
The federal election takes place Monday, Sept. 20.