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Election campaign picks up in Kitchener-Conestoga

After a quiet start to the federal election campaign in Kitchener-Conestoga, the pace picked up last week at the first of the all-candidates’ events, albeit one held online.

Four of the five candidates took in the virtual town hall hosted by Wilmot Stronger Together, a Facebook group created to help local families get a better sense of who the candidates are and get children more interested in politics.

Incumbent Liberal Tim Louis was joined by NDP candidate Narine Dat Sookram, the Green Party’s Owen Bradley and Kevin Dupuis of the People’s Party. Conservative candidate Carlene Hawley declined to participate, also turning down other offers to speak to the community over the last month since the election was announced.

Still, with the September 20 election closing fast, most of the candidates were eager to engage the public, making themselves known and promoting their parties’ platforms.

For the September 1 event, the organizers polled some 160 people registered to take part online, eventually choosing five questions to ask each of the candidates: climate change, affordable housing, reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, renewable energy and mental health. 

Climate change was a hot-button issue, with all candidates agreeing it was a growing problem. On the environment, banning single-use plastics was mentioned by all parties as a way to reduce the waste found in our waterways.

“NDP has a plan – we will immediately ban single-use plastics, while protecting workers in the sector by supporting the transition of production facilities to new products – we will also ban the export of plastic waste,” said NDP candidate Narine Dat Sookram.

“You will not find one candidate in the People’s Party that isn’t concerned about the environment and the pollution. We want to reduce single-use plastics in the waterway as much as any other party, but shutting down our manufacturing and gas production is probably one of the worst things you can do – Canada uses carbon tax that penalizes businesses such as manufacturing to discourage their operations in Canada,” said People’s Party candidate Kevin Dupuis, adding that Canada has better manufacturing practices than China or Indonesia, producing cleaner air.

“If elected I intend to encourage our government to both pursue meaningful solutions that are within our reach using mature technology that exists now, and rapidly accelerating the research and development needed to pursue countless emerging technologies that show an immense amount of potential,” said Owen Bradley of the Green Party.

“The Liberal party has an ambitious but realistic plan to combat climate change, but also at the same time continue to grow the economy. I’m proud to say that pollution is not free anywhere in Canada; we’re going to set even more ambitious targets by 2030 with net zero emissions by 2050. We’re going to help Canadians retrofit their homes to be more energy efficient while lowering energy bills; we’ve got $5,000 rebates for electric vehicles, and I personally helped secure funding for 46 more charging stations in our region. Were banning single-use plastics,”  said Liberal candidate Tim Louis.

The issue of housing and affordability saw more divergent opinions.

 “The housing crisis is caused by a number of reasons, first of all allowing open borders has brought in an unprecedented number of immigrants that are able to walk across the border with no repercussion, bringing their health issues, and possibly COVID infections with them. The People’s Party would like to put restrictions on the UN and carefully monitor and regulate the opening of our land and would also like to lower the number of immigrants coming in,” said Dupuis of his party’s plan to help lower prices by lowering demand.

“I’m proud that the Liberal government has introduced the first-ever national housing strategy to help Canadians pay rent. We’ve got the first national tax on vacant property owned by non-residents and non-Canadians, which will go into effect at the beginning of next year. We’ve launched a rapid housing initiative which is creating new and affordable units, some in our region here,” said Louis about the Liberal plan to deal with affordable housing.

“We’re the only party to say were going to end blind bidding purchases, crack down on foreign ownership, and ensure buyers have a right to conditions when they’re buying homes. We’ve got a new tax-free first home savings account.”

When asked about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all four candidates agreed that Canada needs to do more for Indigenous people. They were likewise unanimous in support for more resources for mental health programs.

Positions were more divided when the candidates were asked about renewable energy.

“The most efficient form of energy is nuclear, gas and oil. The provincial government currently spends about 80 cent per kilowatt hour for the production of energy from wind and solar. Nuclear energy is by far the safest energy –  it’s 330 times fewer deaths than coal, than oil and gas. We would like to form a committee to look at other technologies that would make it environmentally safe and cost-efficient,” said Dupuis.

“I don’t understand where this number Kevin’s coming up with in terms of the cost of energy generation through gas; it’s well established right now the two cheapest forms of energy include geothermal and offshore wind. We believe we have an opportunity to make use of the technologies as soon as today to eliminate the remaining 20 per cent of energy consumption that comes from fossil fuels and initially phase out our use of nuclear as well,” said Bradley, responding to Dupuis comments.

“Moving toward a clean and sustainable economy is the single-largest job creation opportunity in modern Canadian history. It’s not only the sane thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. We’re well positioned to lead the world in this green recovery – we are very much committed to fighting climate change, to meeting and exceeding our 2030 targets,” said Louis.

The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce has organized an online event for the Kitchener-Conestoga candidates today (Thursday) from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

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