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Federal election 2008

Ten questions for the candidates of South Shore-St. Margarets
by Keith Corcoran

 COUNTY - Four of the five candidates seeking the South Shore-St. Margarets federal seat recently sat down with a reporter for individual interviews about issues being talked about in the 2008 campaign.

 Each candidate was given a list of 10 questions a few minutes before a voice recorder started taping. They were advised to keep their answers brief or they would be edited for length.

 The candidates are:

 Former Christmas-tree farmer Gerald Keddy, 55, for the Conservatives.

 Bridgewater chiropractor Dr. Bill Smith, 40, representing the Liberals.

 Retired civil servant Gordon Earle, 65, the NDP candidate.

 High school teacher Michael Oddy, 50, the Green party candidate.

 The Christian Heritage party is represented by retired Shelburne County fisherman Joseph Larkin.

 Mr. Larkin was the only candidate who refused to participate.

 "I just wanted to let you know that Joe is new to the political scene and is also a first-time candidate and he doesn't feel he is prepared for this type of interview yet," said his official agent, Wanda Swaine.

 Q: Please start your answer with a yes or no. Is this the right time for a federal election?

 Gordon Earle: "No. Stephen Harper passed legislation for a fixed election date for a year from now and there was no reason to call it sooner except that perhaps he saw his numbers going up and felt maybe it was an opportunity to come up with a victory or another mandate before things got worse. Plus, I think he also wanted to get in before the American election because of the possible impact that might have on voters' choice."

 Gerald Keddy: "Yes, it is. There's a couple of things that have to be understood about this campaign. Certainly we brought in the four-year rule and it would have been our intention to govern for four years. Unfortunately that was absolutely impossible. We have a dysfunctional Parliament. The other thing that most Canadians are not aware of is we are the longest-sitting minority government in the history of Canada. So I think that's a record we can be proud of. There was no point in allowing Parliament, as it's working now, to continue. The people will decide. It's a democratic system and I think one that will return us to Ottawa."

 Michael Oddy: "No, I don't think it's the right time on one level because I think we had a fixed election date … on the other hand we're in a crisis in terms of the environment and I guess there's no better time to get at some of these issues and get something done because we've been wasting the last two years with nothing being done on the environmental front. We can't wait a whole lot longer."

 Bill Smith: "For Stephen Harper it is, yes, and the reason why is the downturn in the economy we expect in the next three to six months his numbers are going to plummet. So he has to get it out of the way right now. Is this the best time for the country? I don't think so. He had a fixed election date for October 2009 and he broke the spirit of the law in going to an election early. It speaks to the issue of trust with Stephen Harper when it comes to the Atlantic Accord, income trusts, cuts to cultural funding and this is another one to add on."

 Q: What makes you think that you're the best choice as MP for this riding?

 GE: "I've served as a member of Parliament before and I know what has to be done and I feel I can serve this riding with honesty, integrity and a deep sense of caring for the concerns of people. I have a great deal of background in public service, government departments and agencies and I feel that I have the qualifications and the interest of serving the people of South Shore-St. Margarets."

 GK: "Everyone, when they put their name on the ballot, they obviously think they're a person that can do the job. My asset, I think, is the fact that I grew up in this riding. I was a farmer and Christmas tree grower and logger before politics. I've got some good life experience working in the offshore here in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I think I have a broad spectrum background. And I'm a common-sense person. My best asset as a parliamentarian is that I'm a good listener. You have to be able to listen to be able to respond to what constituents want."

 MO: "It's not so much the personal choice. You maybe noticed with the Green party signs we don't put our names on them. We kind of downplay the ego side of the question. For us, it's more of the bigger picture. It's predicated on the Green belief that we're looking seven generations hence and even though our whole plan, Vision Green, may not be something everyone says, 'hey, this is amazing,' the vision, the motion that we have a longer-range way of looking at the world and way we're going to plan to deal with problems. I think, for me, that's what people should be thinking about. What party has a position that has a long-term view of sustainability for the children and the grandchildren down the road here."

 BS: "I don't think, I know I am. For two reasons. When you look at Gerald Keddy and the stance he took on the Atlantic Accord, he didn't stand up for his constituents. He chose Stephen Harper over his own constituency. I think on some level all candidates are nice. They're putting their ideas forward but we need someone who's going to be a voice, who's going to stand up for the constituency and who's going to have to come forward with ideas. I challenge my competitors to come up with ideas that are more broad reaching in scope and are more significant to the riding than I will come up with."

 Q: What sets you apart from your opponents and their political affiliations?

 GE: "I think for one thing the program of the NDP would set me apart from my political opponents. The other parties have a history of focusing on large corporations and large business interests whereas we are focusing on the issues at the kitchen table. We're focusing on the everyday concerns for ordinary working Canadians, putting people and their families first."

 GK: "I'm a good listener. I also believe that my background and my upbringing sets me apart and I think I am a person who understands what it's like, the challenges between rural Canada, coastal Canada and urban Canada. There are different issues throughout this riding. There's a pretty strong economy here that's managed to survive in some tough times. I think you have to understand the complexities of it and I think that's key to representing it."

 MO: "I think the key is the Greens actually think long term and also I think there's a certain cynicism amongst politicians in general. They see them as kind of self-serving, just interested in getting and achieving and maintaining power and I think what is refreshing about Greens, I'm not seeing this as some type of job to get some position to attain. I almost see it a bit as public service. We need to get these issues on the agenda. What sets us apart is we don't think in four-year cycles. We think six, seven generations hence. What plans do we need to start putting into action so we'll have some type of sustainable future."

 BS: "I think it's a combination of both my educational background and my life experiences. My background is a biochemist and I think that we need to look in addition to encouraging our traditional sectors of fishing and forestry on the South Shore and trying to enhance and maybe look at value-added opportunities, we need to look beyond that for the global economy of the 21st century. And my background as a biochemist, I think there are significant opportunities to have partnering relationships between our empty buildings on the South Shore and providing leadership to partner with our provincial and municipal government to fill those empty buildings with, for example, start-up research companies. My colleagues simply do not have the background and I don't think they have the understanding."

 Q: What's your personal feeling about Canadian participation in the war in Afghanistan?

 GE: "I feel that it was a mistake for us to enter that war. We should never have been in there in the first place. There are no clear goals as to what is to be accomplished and we are not - if we want to say - winning that war. The situation is worse than before we went in. The crime is up. There is a lot of corruption in the government there. There's not any real improvement for people in the area and worse there are a number of people being killed, not just soldiers but innocent civilians, and basically I think the only reason we're in that war is we followed Bush blindly into a situation that is not winnable. What we should be doing is focusing on bringing peace to that area and channelling our efforts through diplomatic means to try to bring about a peaceful end to that situation."

 GK: "Afghanistan is one of those issues that's a tough issue. I voted, when we forced the previous government to vote on sending our troops to Afghanistan, and I voted in favour of sending them. I also support the prime minister's position that we will withdraw by 2011. I don't think we can participate in this deployment forever. We will probably need to have some presence there in a training capacity, in some protection for our people who will be working in Afghanistan, trying to rebuild that country, but we can't stay there forever. Any time that you vote to put men and women in danger you take a huge responsibility on and one that I think most parliamentarians carry as a very heavy burden."

 MO: "The Green party itself is opposed. It's not in the tradition of Pearsonian sort of peacekeeping where Canadians traditionally went in to try and become a constructive force to keep enemies apart. What this is, is an American-led war on terrorism. It's not winnable. On the other hand there's no military solution to this problem. We would say and I agree with this, withdraw as of February 1, 2009. We would say we should be pulling our fighting soldiers out. We would be willing to go back into Afghanistan if there was a legitimate U.N. peacekeeping mission. I deeply respect the Canadian service people who have gone over there with the best intentions. There may be valid reasons to fight and die but Afghanistan is not one we should be in."

 BS: "It's a really complicated issue. Personally I don't feel we should be there but we've made a commitment. We've been known as peacekeepers. We've been known as a country that's known for humanitarian efforts and I think that's what we're best at. What I think we need to do is make sure that we have the backup that we need down there so if we've made a military commitment for the next three years that our government is insistent with NATO that we need more help down there and really beef it up."

 Q: Based on what you know of other plans of other parties, which pillar(s) of their plans do you wish you or your party thought of first?

 GE: "Actually I can't say there is any particular pillar of the parties we wished we'd thought of first because a lot of things we see in their platform are pretty much along the lines of things we have been advocating except that perhaps our approach is somewhat different. The goals for most of the parties are to improve the situation of people but it's where the priorities are being put and we feel that we have put our priorities in the right direction. In modesty, we feel our platform is better than the other parties' platforms and we hope to be in a position to implement those policies."

 GK: "In all honesty I've been watching the plans of the parties somewhat. I always believe I have to defend my party's policy and the other parties have to defend their own. I really think in this election our economic policy with changing economic times and a weakening economy out there is the right policy. We have been a very fiscally responsible, steady-as-it-goes government. When I look at the plans of the other parties I don't see them as being affordable. I can't imagine how they can bring them into place without bringing the country into deficit in a time of a weakening economy and I think that if there is a single issue in this campaign it is certainly the economy."

 MO: "It's interesting. The Liberals are now going around with a carbon tax plan and that's basically what we've been talking about for years. In some ways they took that one, but that's okay. That's one thing about Greens, we've always said take our plans. Do it. I'm not really aware of any policies the NDP or the Conservatives had that I wish we had."

 BS: "St&È;phane Dion has the best ideas I've seen in a long time. When I look at the Green Shift, for example, I'm looking at a piece of legislation that in my estimation is the most significant pieces of legislation that I will see in my generation. I don't have to look at the other parties' plans to answer your question. To look at the other parties and what they may have come up with, I really like what we have."

 Q: What significant issues pertinent to this riding are you surprised no one is readily speaking about?

 GE: "People have spoken about a lot of the everyday issues facing them. I'm not really able to pinpoint anything I feel they should be talking about. People will pretty much tell you about their concerns. If I were to represent this area I would certainly do everything in my power to facilitate resolutions to those problems by working with the appropriate authorities and also deal with the issues that are of federal concern."

 GK: "I think most of them are being addressed. By the time you go from the Conservative plan down to the Green plan there is a pretty wide spectrum of ideas out there and I really don't know of many that are not addressed. By the time this campaign is over there won't be many issues that won't be discussed."

 MO: "I haven't heard much about the local economy in terms of out-migration. Traditional industries are actually in decline. What I would like to see is some discussion about how can we create and sustain well-paying, quality jobs along the South Shore. There are renewable technologies which would be hiring electricians and plumbers and other technologies giving people decent jobs that they wouldn't have to leave the local region. I'm hoping in the debates we'll hear some of these plans."

 BS: "Out-migration of young people on the South Shore. We've had significant double-digit declines in communities that have gone on over the 11 years that Mr. Keddy has been in and he's been totally absent on any meaningful discussion on how we can encourage a cohesive effort between municipal and provincial governments so they can set up some sort of economic stimulus package for the South Shore."

 Q: What do you see as the future challenges of public health care in this country and what are your personal theories of how it can be fixed?

 GE: "One of the big challenges is to ensure that every family in Canada has a family doctor because having a family physician will certainly go a long way to prevent people from having more serious health concerns and also be a great step in improving our health care system. Our party has a plan to train more doctors and nurses and to make sure resources are there to adequately fund for personnel, and we also feel the big challenge is to stop the privatization of the public health care system because as the system gets more and more privatized, it really creates an inequity whereby you have a situation where if you can afford to pay for health care then you get it, and those who can't afford to pay are lacking very basic necessary services. So, we have to halt the privatization of our health care system."

 GK: "I'm a big supporter of public health care. In the long run the sustainability of health care, I think, is a challenge for any government in Canada. The whole pharmaceutical issue, the whole diagnostics issue, the whole primary care issue - all of which are not covered by public health care. We have a number of medical procedures and processes that are not covered by public health care. I don't know if we can expand public health care to incorporate those and afford to do it. I don't have the answer. I know for me, maintaining public health care is very important. I think there are ways to improve it and sustain it."

 MO: "You can hire literally hundreds of oncologists across the county and Nova Scotia but you still have lots of sick people coming in. And unless we start dealing with some of the problems at source, there's always going to be the disease that exists. What we need to be doing is saying how can we reduce the amount of sick people coming in. Precious little is being done to deal with the prevention aspect of it. There's lip service paid. We need to get away from this sickness model. We need to go to a healthy model and then bear in mind we'll always need medical attention for people who are legitimately sick."

 BS: "I think we need to look at a couple of different things. You need a politician to stand up and say do we really need to be putting more money into health care right now or do we need to be working out the inefficiencies in the current system and I think that's the first thing to find is where the inefficiencies are and act on them and have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say this has to stop and this we have to do more of. There has to be some crossover between federal and provincial discussion when it comes to health care. They have to be intertwined. I think we should flood the system with nurse practitioners. We need to put learning institutions in place where nurse practitioners can be trained and actively brought into public health in Nova Scotia. You can employ one and a half to two and a half nurse practitioners for every family doctor you get and they see as many patients if not more and their prescribing practices are less. What we need to do is not be afraid to think outside the box in terms of cost reductions, working efficiencies and bringing in other health care models that have been working in other parts of the country."

 Q: If elected to office and should you be faced with a vote in a situation where your constituents reflect a position differing from that of the party you represent, which entity will you support in casting that vote?

 GE: "I would certainly support the concerns of constituents. That's why you're in there. You're in there to represent your constituency and sometimes if that means paying the price by going contrary to what your party position is then so be it. Witness a fine example of that with the Atlantic Accord where Bill Casey stood up for Atlantic Canadians and he paid the price his party inflicted upon him but certainly he did the right thing by standing up for his constituents."

 GK: "Votes for any parliamentarian are always difficult because quite often parliamentarians have more information than their constituents know they have. I've always believed that a parliamentarian's job is to represent the constituents to the best of their ability and I think my voting record proves that I'm a pretty independent thinker and a pretty independent voter. I've voted on a number of controversial issues different than my party has. It would have been very easy to have crossed the floor and voted against my government in the budget. People would have thought that was a great thing to do. We wouldn't have been able to accomplish a thing. Behind the scenes what people don't understand is that the prime minister had given his word to all the government MPs from Nova Scotia that he would fix the accord changes. And he kept his word. And Peter MacKay and I were able to deliver an improved accord to Nova Scotia. I think people understand now it was the right thing to do. To explain that at the time was very difficult."

 MO: "It would depend on the specific situation. It's a tricky one because we live in a first-past-the-post system so you're elected to represent your riding, you're also elected as a member of a political party of a political stripe. Then you always have to factor in a moral conscience discussion. In most cases you should be reflecting the needs of the people in your riding bringing it to Ottawa. But it's also true most people vote for the party. I think there's room for a bit of both. It's not a simple either/or. I think it's more convoluted than that."

 BS: "My constituents. Your boss is not a Stephen Harper or a St&È;phane Dion. Your boss is the people that put you in in the first place and Gerald Keddy forgot that."

 Q: What makes you think your party's "green" plan will work?

 GE: "Ours is, as you know, a cap and trade system where we would penalize the big polluters and reward those who are not polluting and we would set real hard targets and those targets have been worked out in consultation with leading scientists. It's a system that has worked in other countries and it would not place undue hardship upon the people who could least afford it whereas Mr. Dion's carbon tax will hit people who can least afford it but above that our plan will channel any revenue that comes from the cap and trade system back into green solutions. We think it's a very workable plan."

 GK: "I think mainly the common sense of it. It penalizes the big emitters and will reduce greenhouse gases and other major pollutants out there. Our plan will reduce all of those and in particular reduce greenhouse gases by 2020. Those are major reductions. I think the tremendous difference between the Conservative plan and all of the other plans is our plan taxes the emitters, taxes big business. The other plans, the majority of them, tax the consumer and I don't think the consumer at this time with the economy with the position that it's in can afford another tax."

 MO: "The evidence we have from Sweden where they've had a carbon tax in place for a number of years now is that they've had a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. That's not going to be enough. I'm not sure at this point the Green plan as it's set up here will bring about the reductions the scientists say we need to do. It's going to require a major investment in new technologies that are going to have to replace the aging industries that are causing all of the problems. The direction that the Green vision pushes is in all those areas. So I think in combination those things working together will be an essential point of trying to make the changes that are possible."

 BS: "It will work because it has to work. If you look at places in the European Union it's been in place for years already. The beautiful part about the Green Shift is that the revenue taken in goes right back into low- and middle-income Canadians' pockets. Canadians will realize the environment and the economy - they are interrelated. The nice part of the Green Shift that seems never to get talked about is that there are some significant corporate tax advantages that encourage corporations to go green. Now we have an opportunity to step up and be a global leader."

 Q: Please start your answer with a yes or no. Do you expect to win this seat?

 GE: "Yes, I do. I feel very optimistic. I think people are starting to realize the NDP is a real alternative to what we've had in the past and they know we are working for people and their families and I feel a lot of support throughout the riding."

 GK: "Yes, I expect to win this seat but absolutely we should not take it for granted. We will work hard every day. We will do as good a job as we can possibly do to get our vote out. I've not dodged any issues. I've been straightforward in them all and we will wait until election day to count the ballots. On election day I would expect that we will return a Conservative government to Ottawa and I would certainly expect to be a part of that government."

 MO: "No, I don't expect to win this seat. I'm hearing people say 'I am so fed up with the other guys I'm going to vote Green this time.' But I've also heard them say 'I'm really worried about what a Stephen Harper majority will do to this country.' But I hope that the environment wins. I hope that whomever is elected in this riding is someone who will carry forth that agenda to the larger national stage and say we've got to do something."

 BS: "Yes."

posted on 10/07/08
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