H-LA federal MP candidates debate economic growth at all-candidates meeting in Napanee

Hastings-Lennox and Addington MP candidates (from left) James Babcock-PPC, Mike Bossio-Liberal, Shelby Kramp-Neuman-Conservative Party, Jennifer Sloan-independent and Reg Wilson-Green Party took to the stage at the Napanee Lion's Hall Tuesday for an all-candidates meeting, hosted by the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Economic growth was the major focus of Tuesday’s Hastings-Lennox and Addington federal election all-candidates meeting, held at the Napanee Lion’s Hall.

The Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce sponsored the debate, which had limited attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions but was broadcast live on Facebook and was recorded by Cogeco’s YourTV to be broadcast Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m.

Five of the six candidates were present- James Babcock of the PPC, Mike Bossio of the Liberals, Shelby Kramp-Neuman of the Conservatives, Jennifer Sloan-independent and Reg Wilson of the Green Party. NDP candidate Matilda DeBues was unable to attend, but did send a representative to read an opening statement on her behalf.

“On Sept. 20 you get the chance to cast you ballot and have your voice heard. When voting, consider what you and your community need from your candidate and your government,” read DeBues’ statement. “Think about whose going to benefit you moving forward. Think about who is not going to let you down. An NDP government will help small and medium businesses by making sure there are patrons to buy goods and services. We can’t expect a small business to thrive if they have no customers. The New Democratic economic recovery plan revolves around helping people get back on their feet and putting money into their pockets. We have a childcare plan that will help women get back to work. We have a pharmacare and a dental care plan that will help reduce costs for Canadians. We need to revitalize communities in order to support small businesses. Right now rural communities need to be connected physically and virtually. An NDP government will bring back cancelled bus routes that connect rural locations to bigger cities. This will bring tourism and businesses back to rural economies…An NDP government will also declare high speed government as an essential service and work to make sure every Canadian has access to affordable and reliable internet in the next four years.”

Each of the candidates present was asked how their party would make small and medium sized businesses bounce back, thrive and flourish following the pandemic.

“Our government all through COVID has been there for small businesses throughout this very difficult challenging time,” said Bossio. “Our government brought $1.115 billion to Southern Ontario through the CFDC program and that led to an awful lot of investments in this riding that helped businesses to grow, to thrive and to prosper and to hire more employees.”

Kramp-Neuman touted the Conservatives’ pledge to rebuild Main Streets.

“I’m proud to suggest that the Conservative Party is launching the Main Street business loans to provide loans up to $200,000, the $60,000 Canadian Emergency Business Account loan is too small for thousands of small and medium sized businesses,” said Kramp-Neuman. “Canada’s Conservatives will immediately offer a loan on similar terms but offer up to four months of pre-pandemic revenue up to a maximum of $200,000. We will forgive up to 25 per cent, depending on the company’s revenue loss.”

Sloan said preventing another lockdown would be key.

“From talking with my constituents that own small businesses or medium sizes businesses, I really just talk to the ones that have small businesses,” said Sloan. “They would not survive another lockdown. They’re already offering a skeleton staff, they can’t retain any employees. If they have restaurants, stock will just get rotten and they have to throw it out and that’s a large part of their income that’s lost. We can’t go into another lockdown.”

Wilson says investment in green technology will make a big difference.

“(The Greens) have committed to establishing a fund of money of small businesses and viable businesses that want to invest in green technology…green technology is key for the 21st (Century) economy, because that’s the one we’re going to not the old one,” said Wilson. “The Green Party is committed to increasing R n D funding by 50 per cent and they’re also taking measures to ensure intellectual capital that our small businesses and universities develop, that intellectual property stays Canadian.”

Babcock also pointed to avoiding another lockdown as the answer, while also stopping to subsidize large businesses.

“No more lockdowns,” said Babcock. “Small businesses get hurt the most by lockdowns. I know there’s been wage subsidies and all sorts of other things in place, but when you take away their ability to actually stay open and turn profit, it’s not good. We’ve seen a lot of empty stores, no matter what city you go in. Not having another lockdown is key to helping small businesses.”

On the issue of women’s reproductive rights and LGBQ+ marriage equality, four of the five candidates said they were pro-choice while Sloan indicated she is pro-life. Each candidate indicated support for the LGBQ+ community’s right to marriage.

“I’ll be up front with my views. I’m pro-life and I’m not sorry about that,” said Sloan. “I value life at all age, in the womb and outside of the womb. I will do whatever I can to preserve life. In terms of LGBT+ community, as a nurse practitioner I always treated everyone with the utmost respect. I do not discriminate. If somebody came to my office and they were human, I treated them.”

The candidates were posed a question on how they would make sure proposed upgrades to rural internet would get done and not be monopolized by one company to ensure varied prices were offered.

Sloan said she would focus on projects that would make an immediate difference and as an independent she’d have more opportunity to bring the issue up in Ottawa.

Wilson said upgrades to rural internet would allow more people to work from home which would provide the dual benefit of reducing carbon emissions while also allowing empty business buildings in Toronto to be converted into residential spaces to help combat housing issues.

Babcock said there was plenty of room for improvement and would look into ways of speeding up the project.

Bossio pointed to $42 million in funding he brought to the riding when he served as MP from 2015-19, which was used to add 500 km of fibre and 50 to 100 towers in the south end of the riding.
Kramp-Neuman said all levels of government would need to work together to bring internet improvements. She says the Liberals were slow to fund the project in 2015 while the Ontario government stepped up.

“Understanding the urgency of the situation for rural residents, the Ontario Conservative government was ready to fund the project alone,” said Kramp-Neuman. “At the last minute, March 2021, the Liberals announced, with great fanfare, their part of the overall funding project, coincidentally, just in time for the election. It should be pointed out that the Liberal government is proposing a strategy that will pay out about $3.25 billion nationally. For its part, the Ontario government has announced $4 billion in spending just for Ontario residents. Bringing broadband and internet to rural communities is critical to our future. The project has been and will continue to be a team effort and supported by all levels of government, all political parties, not just one and interested private stakeholders. Turning it into an election issue, another wedge example, where one party has done everything while the others have done little or nothing is inaccurate.”

Bossio took time from answering a separate question to rebut Kramp-Neuman’s statement.

“For someone that didn’t want to make broadband partisan, she certainly did a good job of heading in that direction,” Bossio said of Kramp-Neuman. “She’s got the history and projects confused. The history of the 2010 project was the EORN project that was bringing internet to Eastern Ontario, one megabyte per second. At that time that is where we wanted to go because people were streaming and all the rest of it so it was suitable. That was completed in 2014. The project that I was talking about was under the universal broadband fund. Other projects she was talking about as far as the province and feds getting together was the $71 million project-$71 million from the province, $71 million from the feds, $71 million from the municipalities and that was called the Cell Gap Project. It’s a cell project, not a broadband for all of Eastern Ontario, which is a great project and I’m very happy to see that it’s going, but it is another EORN project, two separate projects, two separate timelines and two separate governments that were involved.”

The full video of the debate will be uploaded to the Napanee Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel.

error: Content is protected !!