By Sarah Aftab/Special to The Oshawa Express
The auto sector, opioid crisis, environmental issues, and gun violence were among topics of discussion at an all-candidates debate in Oshawa.
The debate, hosted by the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood and The Oshawa Express, was held at The Oshawa Golf & Country Club.
In attendance were incumbent Colin Carrie of the Conservative Party, Afroza Hossain from the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party’s candidate Shailene Panylo, Jovannah Ramsden of the Green Party, Eric MacKenzie from the People’s Party of Canada, and Jeff Tomlinson with the Communist Party of Canada.
Each candidate voiced their perspectives on several key issues. Along with questions on the opioid crisis, environmental issues and gun violence, the audience also heard about the future of the General Motors plant and affordable housing.
Both Hossain and Panylo are in favour of creating safe injection sites in Oshawa.
However, Carrie argued safe injection sites would not solve the problem.
“Our focus is on treatment and wellness,” he said. He also cited that addiction is not exclusive to Oshawa, but it is a nationwide crisis.
MacKenzie said legalizing narcotics would lower the usage rate, while Tomlinson argued, “there is no such thing as a safe injection site.
“They should be called overdose prevention sites. Not everyone injects it,” he said.
In terms of affordable housing, Panylo said as a millennial, she knows this struggle all to well.
“I am carrying a large student debt so I know all too well the challenges of entering a housing market,” said Panylo, noting the NDP’s plan to build 500,000 affordable homes if elected.
Tomlinson said the Communist Party would build to one million “publicly-owned social housing” units as opposed to affordable housing units.
Ramsden pointed to housing as a paramount issue, and promised the Green Party would appoint a Minister of Housing if elected.
Addressing the future of the soon-to-be-closed GM assembly plant, both Tomlinson and MacKenzie proposed nationalizing the plant, and focusing on research and design to manufacture electric vehicles.
Ramsden said the Greens would create a comprehensive funding program for workers and would invest in re-training and apprentice programs.
Carrie cited Ontario’s high electricity rates and Liberal policies such as the carbon tax as the main reasons for General Motors pulling out of Oshawa.
“Before we attract new investment, we need to figure out why good Canadian companies choose to invest outside Canada,” Carrie said.
Hossain rebutted, stating “We are reversing the trend of the Harper Conservatives who left money unspent in the automotive innovation fund, and who lost tens of thousands of auto jobs during their decade in government. A trend that began before the recession hit.”
She added the Liberals have created jobs and made significant investments into the auto industry.
“Our approach is working and is strong,” she said.
The topic of gun violence and control saw a wide variety of opinions.
MacKenzie said Canada “has two million law-abiding citizens who take part in hunting [and] sport shooting, it is part of our culture.”
On the other hand, Ramsden argued that “gun ownership is unnecessary.”
Carrie took the opportunity to criticize gun-related policies of the Liberal Party. He said the court system needs to be stricter on criminals and not law-abiding citizens.
“Under the Harper government gun violence went down, why, because we were getting tough on the penalties. Since Mr. Trudeau has been there gun violence has gone up,” he said.
Both Panylo and Hossain suggested some form of a ban is needed to address gun violence.
Addressing environmental issues, Panylo proposed to create “green, clean jobs.”
Ramsden said,” We as a community are facing a climate crisis” and if corrective measures were not taken a “mass extinction” would ensue.
Carrie further attacked the Liberals’ carbon tax, stating it “is not the way to lower the pollution.”
Hossain defended the policy, claiming 95 per cent of revenue collected will dollars go back to the Canadians, while the rest will be invested into green energy.
There were approximately 60 audience members along with local media. Terry Johnston of CKDO served as the moderator, while David Andrews of the Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood was the master of ceremonies.