About three dozen people gathered at La Cité Golf Club in Hawkesbury, early Tuesday evening, for what could be the last public debate for candidates seeking the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell seat in the October federal election. Questions from the audience focused on federal support for local economic investment, tourism development, affordable housing, and other concerns.
About three dozen people gathered at La Cité Golf Club in Hawkesbury, early Tuesday evening, for what could be the last public debate for candidates seeking the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell seat in the October federal election. Questions from the audience focused on federal support for local economic investment, tourism development, affordable housing, and other concerns.

One last debate for GPR candidates

About three dozen people gathered at La Cité Golf Club in Hawkesbury, early Tuesday evening, for what could be the last public debate for candidates seeking the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell seat in the October federal election.

“To me, politics is about helping people,” said incumbent Liberal MP Francis Drouin.

“In this election, we can debate the change we need, one vote at a time,” said Conservative challenger Pierre Lemieux, a former MP for the riding.

“I am running because there is a need for change, a need for new ideas,” said Daniel John Fey, running as an independent candidate.

Candidates introduced themselves, explained what their party represented, and why they themselves sought to become the GPR’s representative on Parliament Hill.

“I am a working-class person,” said Konstantine Malakos of the NDP. “I was raised in the working class, and I have working-class values.”

“I am happy to offer a better alternative to the major parties,” said Jean-Jacques Desgranges of the Peoples’ Party of Canada.

“I am standing here to protect my kids and their future,” said Darcy Neal Donnelly, Libertarian Party candidate.

“We need collaboration,” said Marc-Antoine Gagnier, Rhinoceros Party candidate.

Marthe Lépine, the former Green Party candidate who is now running as an independent, was not present for the debate because of difficulties in arranging transportation from her home in Russell Township. Candidates took turns answering four questions focusing on the Town of Hawkesbury’s needs for economic development and investment, expansion and promotion of its tourism sector, affordable housing, and identifying “the most pressing need” for the municipality and surrounding area.

Economic development

“I remember the time when Hawkesbury was very productive,” said Desgranges. “One of the (development) opportunities I see is processing of agricultural products.”

Desgranges and several other candidates all noted that Hawkesbury’s location puts it in “a strategic position” to serve the Ottawa-Toronto-Montréal triangle for supplying various processed products from the GPR’s agricultural sector. Drouin noted that Hawkesbury’s future prosperity also depends on having a well-maintained infrastructure, including high-speed digital access, to attract and support new development.

“If we don’t have the basic infrastructure, we will never be able to attract new industry,” Drouin said, adding that the Liberal government has developed long-term policies and programs to aid municipal and regional infrastructure improvements.

“I think we need to build on the strengths of Hawkesbury,” said Lemieux, adding that co-operation between both senior levels of government is essential. “We need governments that work together because it is a team effort.”

“I see Hawkesbury being a leader in green energy,” said Malakos, adding that the town could attract projects like a solar panel manufacturing plant. “We also have to protect what is already here, while we’re working to bring new businesses here.”

“Small and medium businesses are the heart and blood of this riding,” said Fey. “It (development) has to be dictated by the people of Hawkesbury.”

Fey noted that a soybean processing plant in Hawkesbury could take advantage of the growing global demand for soybean paste and soy milk for the health food market. That would also help strengthen the riding’s agricultural sector where soybean is one of the major staple crops.

“Government is the problem,” said Donnelly, noting that the libertarian philosophy favors the least government involvement and interference possible, with businesses and investors allowed to succeed or fail in a free market system. “The people make the decision on the risk and the reward.”

Tourism market

“We have to support our local infrastructure, which supports our local festivals,” said Drouin. “We also need to support more agro-tourism.”

Lemieux noted that during his term as MP he helped bring in federal money for development of cycling paths throughout the riding, to support the growing market for cycle tourism. He also cited more promotion and support for existing features and attractions like the Larose Forest area, the annual Wendover Western Fest that hosts thousands of visitors during its run, and institutions like Hawkesbury’s Le Chenail cultural centre, which hosts art shows, intimate evening concerts, and other events.

“We have to invest in local organizations,” said Malakos, adding that federal partnerships with local groups will help better promote the riding’s tourism potential. “We need to promote this region heavily. We need to invest in public transit also, so people can get to these events and attractions.”

“You need a central thing or attraction in Hawkesbury that would make people want to come here,” said Desgranges, adding that lowering the federal corporate tax by 10 per cent would encourage more touristm investment, like developing a local wine industry or promoting the area’s glider clubs and airfields for adventure tourism.

Affordable housing

“We need a federal partnership at the table,” said Drouin, regarding affordable housing needs in the Hawkesbury area. He noted that the Liberal campaign strategy features a 10-year plan for housing, which includes social housing needs.

“People who need affordable housing tend to have other needs also,” said Lemieux, adding that social housing programs and projects are the responsibility of the provincial government. He also criticized the present federal carbon tax for penalizing low-income people on essentials like winter heating costs.

“We will create 500 new units of affordable housing,” said Malakos, adding that the NDP would work with local governments and non-profit groups on developing social housing projects. The NDP would also, he noted, introduce rent control and also provide rent subsidies for low-income residents in situations where their home rental costs exceeds 30 per cent of their personal income.

Desgranges said the PPC would focus on clearing the federal deficit, which would then free up federal money to aid social housing programs. Fey stated there should be more local control of planning for affordable housing needs. Donnelly said housing is “a private initiative” and people could form housing co-operatives for affordable housing projects.

The greatest need

“We must support small business,” said Lemieux.

“Let’s invest in this region so that people want to come back here,” said Malakos.

“It will take leadership willing to be open to new ideas that support diversification,” said Fey.

“Hawkesbury needs to be a free trade zone to attract capital,” said Donnelly. “Then it can prosper.”

Last question

The moderator noted that all of the GPR candidates present for the debate were men, before she presented the final question of the evening. What can the next government do to protect and support the rights of women and also encourage more women to become active in politics?

Every candidate noted that every municipality in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell has at least one woman sitting on council, and in the case of Hawkesbury there is both one woman sitting as a councillor and another, Paula Assaly, serving as the current mayor. All said that more must be done to encourage women to be active in politics and other fields, including business.

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