Parliamentary hopefuls face off over ‘poppycock’ in Thornhill
Allegations of political poppycock were bandied about as Thornhill’s four parliamentary hopefuls debated the federal issues last week.
Liberal incumbent Susan Kadis, Conservative Peter Kent, Green Norbert Koehl and NDP Simon Strelchik took to St. Elizabeth Catholic High School’s stage to verbally spar over issues raised by students ahead of the Oct. 14 election.
The tone was civil, even cordial, with the candidates often agreeing with points made by their opponents — Koehl went as far as to defend the Liberal environmental plan, green shift included.
Still, the contenders did land a few punches.
Responding to a question on protecting consumers from gouging at the gas pump, Kadis attacked the Conservative Party for being a late convert to pricing transparency and criticized it for its environmental policies, particularly in the oilsands.
“We need to change what we are doing as a society, we need to do it responsibly and we will protect the consumer,” she said.
“With respect, that’s poppycock,” Kent replied. “Our environmental program, the Turning the Corner program, imposes very stiff penalties on polluters, all polluters: polluters in the oil patch, polluters in the energy generation business, polluters in private life.”
The morning debate was dominated by talk of economic issues, including gas prices, the proposed carbon tax, Ontario’s job outlook and poverty. To hear the candidates’ responses, visit Vaughan Today’s YouTube channel at ca.youtube.com/VaughanToday.
One student looked to Kent for answers about funding for the arts.
She called recent government cuts “highly offensive” to students of an arts school like St. Elizabeth.
“I am a big supporter of the arts and so is the Conservative government,” Kent said. “The $42 million in cuts and reassignment of very valuable arts dollars is part of a more than $2-billion cultural support program from the Conservative government.
“Those dollars will be reassigned and will be kept in the arts community.”
In response, Koehl, Strelchik and Kadis each lamented the cuts and said more should be done to strengthen cultural industries, which, they added, would create jobs.
From arts funding, the debate turned to youth crime and punishment, specifically the Conservative stance on tougher sentences.
“The Young Offenders Act will be replaced and it will be replaced after Oct. 14,” Kent said. “We have seen in the GTA those who have been arrested for one violent crime and placed under the highly ineffective penalty of house arrest (and) have very often re-offended.
“It’s not all young offenders, but certainly there are some that must be removed from our streets.”
Kadis rebutted, saying a comprehensive approach that includes tough sentences and banning assault weapons is needed, while Koehl said tougher sentences are not the answer. Instead, he added, child poverty must be addressed to keep young people from falling into a life of crime.
Strelchik, too, said dealing with the root causes of youth crime should be the way forward.
“Conservatives … talk about the mean streets of Thornhill here at New Westminster and Clark,” he said. “We don’t need more police. What we need is more community centres. We need more active things for people to do.”
John Warecki, head of St. Elizabeth’s Canada and World Studies department, facilitated the debate, which was moderated by Vaughan Today editor-in-chief Eric McMillan. Questions were prepared and posed to the candidates by students in civics, law and world studies classes.
Vaughan Today In print: October 10, 2008, page 3 Online: October 11, 2008 [link]