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Federal Election: Candidates’ views in Halifax

October 14, 2008

A report from the all-candidates meeting in Halifax, by our lovely intern Trisha Dempsey.

On October 6th Dalhousie University and the Dalhousie Student Union hosted a federal all-candidates debate in the Halifax riding, with candidates Catherine Meade (Liberal), Megan Leslie (NDP), Ted Larson (Conservatives), and Darryl Whetter (Greens). Tony Seed of the Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada also joined them onstage.

It was a packed house, with standing room only. Voter questions focused mainly on the floor, the economy, the environment, and global issues. Out of the 11 questions from the floor, 4 were explicitly related to foreign policy and global issues. When the candidates were asked how they planned to work toward the 0.7% target for development aid, and what position they took on foreign aid and trade practices, the debate quickly moved to our mission in Afghanistan – where the majority of our foreign aid money is currently going.

While Larson stood behind the work we are doing in Afghanistan and argued that we needed an anti-poverty strategy, Leslie challenged him – “where exactly is this strategy?”. Meade and Whetter both agreed that funding a war is not foreign aid. Whetter argued that we should have gone to Darfur — where we actually could have made a difference — rather than Afghanistan where our ‘help’ is only making things worse. He argued that we should be sending help to the UN African mission because the United African Front is not equipped to handle its countries’ problems — this last comment received loud boos from the audience. Meade said that we need to honor our commitment to Afghanistan, but at the same time she compared Darfur to Rwanda and said that genocide must never happen again and we have an obligation to intercede. Larson’s response was “we can’t be everywhere at once”.

In response to questions about the environment, Meade pushed the Liberal ‘Green Shift’ plan, Leslie emphasized the NDP’s cap & trade plan, while Whetter claimed that the Green’s environment strategy (which has been named the best by the Sierra Club of Canada) surpassed all others because it includes not only cap & trade but also a carbon tax. All candidates supported Kyoto except for Larson who stood behind the Conservative plan.

After a question regarding the party’s proposed plan for new Canadian immigrants, Leslie talked about accelerating and streamlining foreign educational credits, plans for more affordable housing, and the importance of the settlement process including language classes. Meade and Whetter echoed similar ideas while Larson argued that immigration would continue to be aligned to Canada’s labour market needs. The audience responded with loud boos.

Although the 2 ½ hour debate ended with a lengthy line up of people with unanswered questions, I think everyone in the audience walked away with a much better idea of where the candidates stood on a variety of issues.

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