Queen's hosts debate for Kingston & the Islands MP candidates

Candidates discuss environment, institutional reform and economy

From left to right: Conservative Andy Brooke, Green Nathan Townend, Liberal Mark Gerretsen, Libertarian Luke McAllister and NDP Daniel Beals.
From left to right: Conservative Andy Brooke, Green Nathan Townend, Liberal Mark Gerretsen, Libertarian Luke McAllister and NDP Daniel Beals.
Credit: 
Graphic by Arwin Chan

All five federal MP candidates for Kingston and the Islands — Conservative Andy Brooke, Green Nathan Townend, Liberal Mark Gerretsen, Libertarian Luke McAllister and NDP Daniel Beals — took to the podium in Grant Hall to debate student-centric issues Thursday night. 

The event, jointly hosted by the AMS, Political Studies DSC and the SGPS, was moderated by Queen’s political studies professor Kyle Hanniman. The debate will be the last in Kingston before the federal election takes place on Oct. 19.

At the debate, the candidates were presented two questions each in the categories of the economy, the environment, institutional reform and student issues.

At the end of the debate, the candidates took a question period, where they answered questions from the audience.

Major moments of the debate included Brooke’s disagreements with Gerretsen regarding the Liberal platform policies of carbon taxing and foreign relations and Beals’ criticism of Gerretsen following statements he made about women. 

Gerretsen had said that female councillors had “better opinions” than men at City Council meetings, which Beals criticized as a generalization. Gerretsen apologized shortly afterwards.

 

    Student Issues

 

Brooke said the Green Party’s promise of free tuition “sounds wonderful”, but isn’t feasible. He then said he stands by his party’s stance on youth employment, saying the Conservatives have invested millions of dollars into youth job strategy.

Gerretsen said the Liberals have promised to create more accessible grants and freeze student loans until the graduate is making more than $25,000 a year. He says he supports the Liberals’ promise to make young hires more attractive to employers through insurances premiums and establishing policy.

Beals, meanwhile, described the NDP’s promises to remove all interest on student loans, provide a $200-million investment in grants and another $200-million into creating job opportunities for youth.

McAllister said he believes government should have minimal involvement in how students handle their finances and that “we need to pay for what we want.”

Townend, the Green Party candidate, said he stands by his party’s promise to provide free tuition and said Scandinavian countries provide strong international examples of ways to grant free education to students.

 

    The Environment

 

At the debate, Townend stated that the tax system has the potential to be a powerful tool to create incentives for businesses to be environmentally responsible. Townend also said he believes leadership needs to be held accountable, and rise to the challenge of transitioning to be more environmentally conscious.

Brookes, meanwhile, said he strongly believes in balancing the competing interests of businesses and the environment. Although he said we must remember we are “stewards of this planet”, we must be fiscally realistic.

Gerretsen stressed the Liberal’s pledge of carbon taxing, which he said will encourage industries to limit pollution. Gerretsen assured the audience that the Liberals have promised, if elected, to be present at the next International Conference on Climate Change.

Beals said the federal government must diversify the industries it relies on for energy. Beals added that he doesn’t trust the Conservative record on the environment, and blamed them for missing an opportunity for environmental leadership when they backed out of the Kyoto Protocol.

McAllister stated that the government must recognize the importance of property with environmental issues and must prioritize property ownership. McAllister said he believes issues with property are a judicial issue, not a federal one.

 

     Institutional Reform

 

Gerretsen said although he values the Senate, it’s not functioning and has a “partisanship problem” due to the nature of the appointment of Senators. Gerretsen says he and his party are committed to Senate reform and to an 18-month period for the government to assess the needs for an electoral system before implementation.

Beals said he and the NDP recognize that the Senate needs to be overturned, as it’s broken beyond possible repair and acts as a barrier to progressive legislation. Beals also said he’s in favour of a mixed member vote where each voter get two votes: one for their riding representation and one for the party.

McAllister, meanwhile, said the Senate should be composed of elected representatives. He added that proportional representation is part of the Libertarian Party’s platform.

To fix issues in the Senate, Townend said it needs to be reformed to address issues of partisanship and appointments. Townend also said his party supports mixed member voting and their pledge to conduct a parliamentary commission to assess the electoral system.

Brooke says Senate reform is important, but said it would be hasty to abolish it entirely. Brooke has also said he is in favour of electoral reform, but encourages people to engage with the current system.

 

The Economy

 

McAllister stuck to party lines when he said the government needs to hold minimal intervention in our economy. He added that we need to prioritize paying off debt and spending government funds on the public is not the answer to the economic crisis.

Townend said a balanced budget means living within our means, and that our current government isn’t a good example of that. We must end our fascination with class, Townend said, and focus attention on issues like poverty and providing economic support to people in need.

Brooke stated that the reason the Liberal government is proposing running a deficit is to differentiate themselves from the other leftist parties. Like Townend, Brooke said he doesn’t like classifying people by class and said it brings unnecessary focus onto the middle class tax bracket.

Gerretsen said he supports his party’s promise of deficit, saying it’s a necessary measure to stimulate the economy and diversify industries. Gerretsen said the economy is strongest when the middle class is strong, and stated that the deficit will allow the immediate implementation of social programs such as child care.

Beals said the government needs to be fiscally responsible. Beals continued to say the federal government must be involved in providing affordable housing, Pharmacare and affordable child care. 

 

For more election coverage visit our longform site.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.