By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
It’s been a motif in many of Oshawa’s candidate debates during this election campaign, but the auto sector had a new partner on Monday in the debate organized by The Oshawa Express and hosted by local media and the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood when discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) dominated discussions throughout the night.
Held at the Oshawa Golf and Curling Club, the debate included incumbent Colin Carrie of the Conservatives, Mary Fowler with the NDP, Tito-Dante Marimpietri with the Liberals and Michael Dempsey with the Green Party of Canada.
Along with questions on transportation issues throughout the GTA and the possible changes to the national pension plan, questions on the auto sector, GM and unemployment continued to lead back to talk on the TPP, discussions on which concluded that same day following a five-day negotiating blitz in Atlanta.
The TPP includes several Pacific Rim countries, including Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Japan and more.
The auto sector topic allowed Fowler to push her party’s plan for a national auto strategy, while Dante-Marimpietri was able to push the Liberal’s plan for the middle class.
The question also gave Fowler a chance to attack Carrie and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s involvement in talks on the TPP during the election campaign.
“We don’t feel that the populace of this country trusts Stephen Harper enough at this point for him to be negotiating that,” Fowler said following the debate.
Fowler and the NDP say the changes to regional content rules included in the TPP, which will allow for cars with less Canadian-made parts to be sold tariff-free within the countries signed on with the trade pact, will kill jobs in Oshawa.
Carrie and the Conservatives claim the opposite, saying the deal will open the door for Canada to new markets around the world.
“Canada will be uniquely positioned in the world to have access to all these different markets,” Carrie said, claiming 800 million new customers will be available to Canadian businesses.
Carrie says he found it unfortunate the NDP were spreading “fear-mongering” comments about future job losses.
“It’s unfortunate that they’re spreading fear mongering amongst people in our community, when the reality is this should be extremely good for jobs,” he said.
The Conservatives were also attacked on the transparency of the TPP, of which all discussions have taken place behind closed doors.
While his party leader Justin Trudeau has accepted the notion of the TPP, Marimpietri said during the debate that it needs to be looked at closely before being ratified in Parliament.
“The Harper government is an anomaly. We have an issue where transparency hasn’t been the case here when it comes to the TPP and other issues in the Harper government. It’s been a decade of darkness,” he said.
Dante-Marimpietri also said the TPP needs to be analyzed to ensure it doesn’t impact small businesses, which the Liberals are centering as a driving force for Canada’s economy.
“We have to take a look at the deal very closely to make sure that there isn’t anything in there that is going to hurt anyone in our country,” he said.
For Dempsey, the Green Party has come forward against the TPP, and he says the government needs to focus more on fair trade agreements, as opposed to free trade.
Dempsey says caveats within trade agreements can tie the hands of the Canadian government when trying to impose new laws.
If a new law impacts the profit margin of a country involved in a trade deal with Canada, they are able to take the government to court.
“If it’s the right thing to do, if it’s going to create a better world or a better future society then we shouldn’t be afraid of being sued,” Dempsey said.