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Two local debates set tone for election

October 8th, 2015 · 1 Comment

University-Rosedale candidates tackle refugee crisis, social justice issues

By Annemarie Brissenden

Two University-Rosedale all-candidates’ meetings hosted in the Annex were a study in contrasts.

The first, held on Oct. 2 and arranged by a consortium of residents’ and business associations in partnership with three United Church congregations, was very much a well-attended local affair that focused on the social justice issues that the area’s citizens are known for championing.

The second was organized by the students of the Master of Global Affairs program at the Munk School in conjunction with the Canadian International Council. Packed to standing room only, the audience crowded into an overflow room to watch a more traditional debate that focused on global affairs and Canada’s place in the world.

Representatives from all four of the major parties were in attendance, as well as those from the Marxist-Leninist, Communist, and Libertarian parties. They debated a range of issues, considering everything from Arctic sovereignty, climate change, Israel, women’s issues around the world, and the war on terror.

On the last point, all the candidates (except, of course, the Conservative Party of Canada’s Karim Jivraj) were aligned in attacking the federal government for participating in military strikes in Iraq and Syria, vowing to pull out should their party be elected.

“Canada should be a force for peace,” said the Green Party’s Nick Wright.

For the Liberal Party’s Chrystia Freeland, Canada must focus on areas where it can make a measurable difference.

“How can we as Canada make a specific contribution that will have an impact?” she asked. “With ISIS, it’s refugees and training.”

Noting, “the war on terror has metastasized into a refugee crisis,” Freeland said that Canada has expertise on refugees, and can play a global role in addressing the crisis.

The New Democratic Party’s (NDP) Jennifer Hollett would “stop the flow of arms, funds, foreign fighters” and focus on deradicalization here at home. She was highly critical of the federal government for promoting a climate of fear, and said the NDP would repeal Bill C-51.

After missing the Oct. 2 debate, Jivraj came out swinging like a man who had strong-armed himself into a Nietzsche tome over a bowl of Wheaties.

“The fight against ISIS is probably the most defining political event of our age,” he said, aggressively defending Canada’s participation in the war on terror. “Stand up for human rights by committing to air strikes against the Islamic State.”

Jivraj also zealously championed international trade agreements, framed the missing and murdered Aboriginal women as a crime and punishment issue — “the time for inquiries is over” — not one of race, and asserted that environmental concerns must be balanced with economic interests.

Even though Jivraj’s absence at the earlier all-candidates meeting made for a much more collegial atmosphere, it did not go without comment.

“It’s a shame the Conservative candidate couldn’t join us,” said Hollett to much applause, “because the top issue I hear at the door is that it’s time for Harper to go.”

At times the candidates seemed to be campaigning for each other as they addressed a national strategy for pharmacare, housing, refugees, proportional representation, how to grapple with the findings of the truth and reconciliation commission, and climate justice.

“One of the most disgraceful things of the Harper decade is the total inaction on climate change,” said Freeland, thanking the churches for framing the question as climate justice, and adding that the Liberals would build on the work that the provinces had already done.

Hollett — “I don’t think we can talk about climate enough” — argued that climate change, social justice, and economic equity must all be seen as pieces of the same puzzle. She wants Canada to take a strong position and go into the United Nations (UN) conference on climate change in Paris this November with some of the most ambitious targets the nation has ever had.

Wright, who said that “the Green party is the only party that says no to tar sands and pipelines”, added that Canada must transition to a green sustainable economy to stop mortgaging its future.

The refugee problem also played a prominent role in this debate.

Hollett said that the NDP would meet the targets set by the UN and admit 10,000 Syrian refugees immediately, taking 9,000 per year thereafter.

“We would welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees, and contribute $100 million to help refugees on the ground,” countered Freeland, adding that as her mother was born in a Displaced Persons camp, the refugee crisis is a very personal one to her.

For Wright’s part, solving the refugee problem is a deceptively simple one.

“We have to stop pursuing wars of aggression, which,” he said to strong support from the audience, “will eliminate refugees altogether.”

Tags: Annex · Liberty · News

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Christopher King // Oct 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Did not one candidate discuss what their views were on transit, infrastructure and public housing?