Source: Rogers tv

With just a week before heading the polls, voters in Durham had the opportunity to hear from the candidates in the upcoming Durham byelection.

The debate first aired on Sunday, Feb. 25 and will continue to air every day at different times until next Saturday Mar. 2 on Rogers tv, two days before the election.

While the majority of the candidates participated in the debate, the favourite to win the byelection, Jamil Jivani, did not participate. The Conservative candidate opted to spend time canvassing in the riding instead.

Kevin Mackenzie, the Green Party candidate, and Adam Smith of the satire Rhinoceros party were also absent.

Although Jivani did not attend, a video of him addressing voters was played after the debate, in which he repeated the Conservative pledge of “axing the tax, building the homes, fixing the budget and stopping the crime.”

Liberal candidate Robert Rock asserted the absence of Jivani and other candidates showed a lack of respect for voters in the riding.

“I see tonight’s debate as a job interview, and showing up, is showing respect to you the voters in this community,” Rock said. “It’s a shame the Conservative candidate didn’t respect you enough to show up here tonight and have his ideas debated on.”

During the debate, candidates agreed that issues like affordability and housing are “top of mind” for voters in the riding. However, the candidates differed in what they thought should be done about it and the causes of the affordability crisis.

Rock, a former Conservative candidate and now a Liberal, spoke about policies the Trudeau government has put forward to address the issue. He said policies such as grocery rebates, increasing Canada Workers Benefit and income supplementation will help make things more affordable for Canadians.

Rock blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the cost of living crisis. He opened his statements by defining what is and isn’t the federal government’s responsibility, stating rent control, for example, is a provincial and municipal issue.

The Centrist Party of Canada candidate, Khalid Quereshi, believes the issue is linked to government spending.

“Our finances are not being dealt with transparently, honestly and prudently,” he said.  We are not using our money properly, the money that should help us, is being used in places outside of Canada.“

The most contentious issue during the debate was immigration, which was sparked when the United Party candidate, Grant Abraham, and the People’s Party of Canada candidate, Patricia Conlin, linked the housing crisis to mass immigration.

Qureshi stated that the problem isn’t too many immigrants but the way the government has been managing immigrants.

Conlin rebutted, saying that isn’t anti-immigration but it is common for governments to reduce immigration during times of economic instability.

“Even the Liberals have reduced immigration in similar turmoil,” she said.

In an email to True North, Conlin cited a Fraser Institute study, which revealed that immigration has historically been  adjusted according to the state of the economy, until Brian Mulroney’s Conservative government raised immigration levels in an economic downturn to garner the ethnic vote.

Conlin thinks building more homes won’t be enough to deal with the housing affordability problem.

“We can’t build our way out because there’s not enough labour or supplies,” she said.

Globalism was also in the spotlight during the debate, as Abraham emphasized the need to resist globalism, citing Agenda 2030, a United Nations plan for “sustainable development,” which the Canadian government has adopted. 

Rock rebutted Abraham’s stance against globalism, saying he has never heard anyone in the Liberal party discussing Agenda 2030 and that he doesn’t even know what that is.

The NDP candidate, Chris Borgia, who ran in the last provincial election for Durham, spoke about affordability, the NDP plan for pharmacare and dental care.

“We can save lives, and time [for the healthcare system] with the introduction of pharmacare,” Borgia said. He argued that Canadians who ration their medication due to affordability concerns often make their medical condition worse which costs the taxpayer.

The rise in crime was a topic of debate as well. The NDP candidate took shots at the Conservative party.

“We’ve tried the Conservative approach of crime and punishment,” he said. “We need more places to go when people feel unsafe, and more mental health professionals as first responders.”

He said the NDP approach to crime would be to reduce mandatory minimum sentences and give more discretion to courts when deciding sentencing.

The independent candidate, Pranay Gunti, urged dissatisfied voters to know they can send a message to the political parties in Canada by voting differently in the byelection.

Gunti focused on empowering local businesses to grow the economy.

“People aren’t looking for money in their pockets they are looking for opportunities to work and help their families,” he said. 

The full Rogers debate can be viewed on Rogers tv at different times throughout the week or on their YouTube channel.
Voters in Durham head to the polls on Mar. 4.