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Simcoe North candidates share views on carbon tax, seniors' care

Orillia forum also raised questions about provincial vs. federal jurisdiction

Editor’s note: This article is further to the one published Friday morning regarding the federal Simcoe North candidates forum in Orillia.

Those who took part in Thursday evening’s federal Simcoe North candidates forum in Orillia were also asked to address issues relating to seniors’ care, the carbon tax and the extraction of water from the Teedon Pit in Tiny Township.

Orillia 4 Democracy hosted the forum at St. Paul’s Centre in conjunction with the St. Paul’s social justice committee and Rogers TV. Due to COVID restrictions, there was no audience in attendance. The meeting was live-streamed on Rogers TV.

On hand were Krystal Brooks (Green Party of Canada), Adam Chambers (Conservative Party of Canada), Janet-Lynne Durnford (New Democratic Party of Canada), Stephen Makk (People’s Party of Canada) and Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux (Liberal Party of Canada). Christian Heritage Party candidate Russ Emo was not in attendance.

Seniors’ care

Candidates were told almost 40 per cent of every tax dollar goes toward health care and they were asked how the system can do a better job of protecting seniors.

Wesley-Esquimaux pointed to the Liberals’ commitment to spend $9 billion over five years for various senior supports. She also said Old Age Security needs to be increased, as she has heard from seniors who have said it’s not enough.

For Makk, “part of the solution for making life better for seniors ... is to concentrate on lifelong health maintenance, lifestyle choices and preventive measures to reduce the buildup of medical costs in the aged.” He said many health issues faced by those later in life can be a result of choices made earlier, such as smoking and unhealthy diets.

That comment came as a “surprise” to Durnford.

“I thought it was very interesting that the PPC candidate mentioned diet and lifestyle changes to ease health-care costs,” she said.

“Government intervention in people’s lifestyles and health-care choices does not seem like something that the PPC would advocate.”

She said national care standards need to be set “to ensure the safety and comfort of all seniors.”

The Conservatives want to provide $3 billion for infrastructure improvements in long-term care, Chambers said, noting the party has also proposed amending the Criminal Code “to clarify that providing the necessities of life to those in long-term care is, in fact, a duty and responsibility of the provider.”

Brooks said too much is being spent on administration. She would like to see that money redirected “to where the needs are most severe.”

Carbon tax

The federal carbon tax gives exemptions to the largest polluters, candidates were told before being asked if their parties felt the needs of communities “weighed less” than the needs of the large corporations.

“We tax the general population and we save the one per cent, and we need to start taxing that one per cent,” Brooks responded.

“We need to make an immediate transition to be global leaders in the world’s $7-trillion clean energy economy.”

Durnford said the NDP “will always prioritize communities and people over corporations.”

About $18 billion in fossil fuel subsidies went to oil executives in 2020, she said, adding that money could have been spent on housing and making life more affordable.

An NDP government would cancel those subsidies, she said.

“(NDP Leader) Jagmeet Singh does not answer to big corporations or to billionaires. He answers to you.”

Wesley-Esquimaux feels the subsidies are too high and “it’s people who need to speak up” and demand the government do something about it.

“There’s just no way that we’re going to be able to do this otherwise,” she said.

“I’m always of the opinion that the federal government is not going to save us. I’m an Indigenous woman. Trust me, we’ve been expecting that for a while and it hasn’t happened.”

The PPC, Makk said, would eliminate all subsidies to corporations, including energy companies.

“That said, it’s the people’s right to form corporations, which are one of the oldest democratic structures for undertaking collective action equitably,” he said, adding the PPC would “act as a referee in the free market.”

He said the carbon tax is a failure that hurts the working poor the most. He also believes “pollution is going to be solved by engineers and scientists, not politicians.”

Chambers said he has always been against corporate welfare and handouts, including the millions of dollars given to Loblaw to retrofit refrigerators.

The Conservatives want to reduce emissions instead by “incentivizing individuals,” he said.

Teedon Pit

Early in the year, the province renewed a permit to allow aggregate company CRH Canada Group to take water from the Teedon Pit in Tiny Township, which is said to contain some of the world’s purest water.

The candidates were asked Thursday whether the feds should step in to protect such resources.

Chambers noted it is provincial jurisdiction and “we need to be incredibly careful before we ask the federal government for an Ottawa-knows-best approach.”

“I respectfully disagree,” Brooks responded.

Some of those who have been protesting the renewed permit have contacted Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop, she said, “and have been met with silence and very little response.”

“When our provincial government proves unable or unwilling to handle a situation like this or even respond to it, it needs to be handed over to the federal government,” she said.

Durnford acknowledged it falls under provincial jurisdiction but said a national strategy is needed.

The NDP wants to create a “legally binding environmental bill of rights that would stop polluters from exploiting these irreplaceable natural resources,” she said.

A national strategy would be welcomed by Wesley-Esquimaux, too.

“We are going to be entering into a time when water is going to be more valuable than gold or anything else that people think at this point is valuable,” she said, reiterating her belief that “the federal government isn’t going to save us; we are going to save us.”

If provincial politicians aren’t doing what voters want, they can be voted out, she added.

Makk wants to learn more about the matter by taking a look at an engineering report and seeing what the aggregate operation’s effect on the water might be. However, he joined Chambers in cautioning against the feds stepping on provincial toes.

“I agree with Adam in that we have to be very careful soliciting a thunderbolt from Olympus every time a province or municipality gets something wrong,” he said, but added if a federal law is violated or needed, “let’s talk about it.”

Simcoe North will elect a new member of Parliament Sept. 20.


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Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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