Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Election Special: Local Candidates Respond

With less than a week left until Canadians vote in the 2015 Federal Election, some of the local candidates responded to some questions. All four candidates for the Miramichi-Grand Lake Riding were invited to respond. Below are answers we received from two candidates: Matthew Ian Clark from the Green party and Pat Finnigan from the Liberal Party.

UPDATE (October 15, 2015): Responses have been added from Conservative candidate Tilly O'Neill-Gordon. 
Matthew Ian Clark, Green Party

Why do you think voters should consider voting for you? What do you think makes you worthy of their vote?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): First and foremost, the Green Party does politics differently. The is no party "whip" in the Green Party to tell Green MPs how to vote in the house of commons. When you look at the Green candidates across Canada you will not find a single “career politician.” Green candidates are regular people like you who just want to make a real difference and represent the values and interests of their constituents. When a Green MP goes to Ottawa, we tell the house of commons what the people who elected us want us to do for them, rather than coming back to our riding to tell the voters what Ottawa has decided they are prepared to do. A vote for me would be a vote for what you want rather than what others think you should want.

Pat Finnigan, Liberal Party 
Pat Finnigan (Liberal): I’m a small business owner and I've always tried to make a difference in my community. Most people know me as "Mr. Tomato". With our family business, we're currently employing 40 people in three locations. I've been supported my whole life by this community and now I'm looking to give back. I'm a proud Liberal because our plan will support small and medium sized business and invest now in creating jobs and supporting families. This will allow our young people to stay and work here in the region.

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon, Conservative
Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative):  As you know, people of all ages, including students, are tired of hearing promises upon promises from politicians but they rarely see these promises fulfilled.  As some of you know, I’m a retired teacher and I’m not your typical politician type.  I’m just a local girl who really wants to see our region prosper.

So, when I ran for office, that is really the only promise I could make to the people of this riding.  I wanted to see jobs coming to this area.  I wanted to see prosperity and growth in all areas of this riding and this is what I set out to do.

Furthermore, as life is so much more expensive than it was 20 years ago, the jobs that I needed to create would have to be good paying  jobs where people could actually build a future.  I kept my promises and with the help of my colleagues in Ottawa, I was able to create 550 high paying government jobs for our riding with the added Federal Payroll Center. I was also able to create over 300 jobs in the forest industry and summer student jobs in the value of $2,800,000 since I have been your Member of Parliament.   These are promises made and are promises kept! Please click on this link to see my Report card of the accomplishments I’ve successfully completed and determine for yourself how strong my commitment to you, the constituents has and will be: http://tillygordon.com/en/schedule.asp
That’s an A+ Report Card! Proven hard work, I kept my word!  The reason why I am seeking re-election is that, although my team and I created all these jobs and investments, we feel there are many more opportunities for job growth and I want to finish the work I started.  I hope voters will remember that I kept my word and honour me with their support again.

New Brunswick is a province that continually sees younger people leaving for other opportunities. If you were elected, what would you do in this riding to address that issue?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): The Canadian Sustainable Generations Fund will make critical investments in trades, apprenticeships, and education, and will ensure that all Canadians have the skills and training to prosper today and contribute to building the Canada of tomorrow. We will create sustainable jobs for not only youth but all Canadians by reintroducing and expanding the home renovation tax credit, to create incentives for individuals and companies to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient and accessible. We will unleash an army of carpenters, electricians and contractors to take outdated and leaky public buildings – schools, universities and hospitals – and plug the leaks that increase greenhouse gases and costs. These are jobs that can be created on day one, there just needs to be the political willpower to make it happen.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): Our plan will invest 60 billion dollars nationally in infrastructure to grow our communities and create jobs. We will invest in creating jobs from developing environmentally friendly technology and also invest in social infrastructure that provinces need to support families. This will help build new affordable housing and senior complexes, and create jobs while doing so. Finally, for young people specifically, we will create 40,000 good youth jobs each year for the next three years, by investing $300 million more in the renewed Youth Employment Strategy.

We will also more than double the almost 11,000 Canadians who access Skills Link each year. This program helps young Canadians – including Aboriginal and disabled youth – make a more successful transition into the workplace.

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative): Younger people are indeed the future of our communities.  If you leave, who will continue the work of building our towns and villages?  Who will volunteer in our local community rinks, hunting/fishing clubs, Seniors Organizations, etc?  That is why I feel so strongly about the need to create high paying jobs.  It is true that some young people want to travel and adventure into different parts of our great country, and it is honorable to adventure,  but some of you would like the opportunity to stay here and enjoy the great quality of life and strong family roots we hold here in New Brunswick.  For this reason, it is my priority to work toward the creation of good and high paying jobs so that you have a choice to stay here if you so wish.  I hope you stay and help us continue to build this fantastic region.  With you behind me, standing together and working hard, we can’t fail!

How important are smaller rural communities to you and your party? How would you support and promote smaller communities?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): Small communities are vitally important. The Green Party feels that best way to keep small communities thriving is by supporting local small businesses. Small businesses and the Canadians who own them are the central driver of our economy. They create more jobs than any other part of our economy. Those incomes and profits remain in the community, providing stable employment. Putting Canadian small businesses first means reducing red tape for small business owners and enacting “Think Small First” legislation to ensure that new federal laws and regulations enhance, rather than hinder, an economic environment where local businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): Rural communities are vital to who we are. They are a big part of our region and they are an important part of our culture. Our infrastructure investments can be used to support these communities through roads, cell phone coverage, and internet access so they have the same access to information and communication as urban areas. It also goes back to having jobs spread out across our riding. You can't just develop one area. You have to invest across the region so the communities have jobs to support the families who live there. If you don't have that, people move out west or to a city looking for work.

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative): Too often, governments spend a lot of energy to convince foreign companies to move their operations to our cities.  The problem with that is, too often, smaller communities are left out of the equation and very few jobs are ever created in small communities.

My plan to create jobs in smaller communities is not very flashy but it has proven successful over the years.  My plan is to work with small and medium size businesses to help them grow or diversify their business.  Keeping Taxes low, allows business’s to invest their revenue back in to their business and opens doors to hire more employees, growth!
Business people are like artists.  They are always thinking about a new idea, a new direction or a new plan.  There are many businesses that have been settled in this region for a great number of years.  They are here, they believe in our communities and they want to grow.  I have worked with some of them and I will continue to reach out to all local businesses to encourage them to take the next step and consider expansion or diversification.  This approach allows governments to create jobs in the smallest of communities.  This has been my strategy and will continue to be as we have to bring growth to all communities, not just the big cities.  http://tillygordon.com/en/schedule.asp
This link also shows you the commitment I assisted to invest in our local communities.   

Most young people spend 13 years in public education. What are your thoughts on the education system? What do you see as its strengths and weaknesses? What changes/reforms do you think are necessary?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): Personally I feel that there are certain things that have been lost over time in the the education system. For example, simple things that have been taken for granted in the past such as learning to hand write in cursive seem to no longer be a priority in the public school system. There seems to be a lack of education in subjects such as environmental science, accounting, personal finances, and political science. It seems to me that many people coming of age to vote know little to nothing about our Westminster parliamentary democracy and why it is so critically important to exercise one's basic fundamental democratic right to vote. Post secondary education is now more important than ever and for many students it has become prohibitively expensive over time.

Through consultation and collaboration with provincial governments and universities and colleges, by 2020 the Green Party will abolish tuition fees for post-secondary education and skills training for Canadians, guaranteeing that income is never a barrier for qualified students. It is widely recognized that Canada’s success depends on an educated population, yet we burden youth with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. As our plan to abolish tuition fees is being phased in, we will invest in the success of current students, jump-start the Canadian economy, and give our graduates a hand-up by implementing a debt-forgiveness program. Our plan will eliminate any existing or future student federal debt above $10,000. We will abolish charging interest on new student loans and will increase available funding for bursaries.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): The K-12 education system is primarily a provincial responsibility, but the federal government plays a role in supporting provinces with funding and other programs. The federal government also works with all provinces to ensure that everyone has access to high quality education, no matter where you live in Canada. There are three areas that I think should be improved.

First, we need to do a better job supporting education for first nations and aboriginal students. Chronic under funding of the First Nations education system has held First Nations students back. Less than half of students on reserves graduate from high school. To help fix this, we will invest new funding each year in K-12 programs. This will include money committed by Stephen Harper that has yet to given to first nations plus an additional $300 million per year in incremental funding, totaling $750 million per year by the end of our first mandate. Over the next four years, this represents a $2.6 billion new investment in helping First Nations students learn and succeed.

The second, we will involve young people in government. At its highest levels, our government needs to do a better job of understanding and addressing the needs of Canada’s young people. We will create a Prime Minister’s Youth Advisory Council, consisting of young Canadians aged 16 to 24, to provide non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister on issues facing the country.

Also, we need to make it easier for young people to vote and learn about how democracy works in Canada. We will engage with first-time voters and encourage more Canadians to vote. Every young person should be registered to vote when they turn 18. We will work with interested provinces and territories, and Elections Canada, to register young Canadians as a part of their high school curriculum. To ensure that no young person loses the opportunity to vote, we will have Elections Canada to stay in contact with them if they change addresses after graduation. Finally, to encourage more voter participation, we will support Elections Canada in proactively registering Canadians from groups that historically have lower turnout, such as students.

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative): In our new economy, learning has become a life-long activity.  It is a fact that most people will have more than one career in their lifetime.  I have been a teacher for 30 years before choosing to change my field of work and try to help my communities in a different venue.  But I can assure you, those who choose Education as a career, are passionate about making a difference in lives!  They are the professionals and the improvements, or suggestions in Education should come directly from them (with student input) to make improvements and changes.  We need to listen to our Educators, they are viewing the ins and outs daily and that’s where we should start.

It is true that some careers do not pay a lot and some choose a career because the pay is better.  My best advice to you is that you follow your heart and choose the direction that makes you feel alive.  If you feel alive, it will make the people around you feel alive as well.  If you enjoy your work, you will perform it well and you will be appreciated.  Also, work is usually one third of the day but it affects, for better or worse, your time at home and even your sleep pattern.  Enjoying your work is so important, so follow your heart.

Why do you think younger people, even those who are still too young to vote, should take an interest in politics and the government?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): Young people should absolutely start engaging in politics if for no other reason than to know how decisions are being made that affect nearly every aspect of their daily lives. People who are engaged with the political process are paying attention to what the people they elect to represent them are doing for them and perhaps, more importantly, what they are not doing and should be. Voter apathy is a result of people feeling that their vote doesn't matter and that no matter who gets elected, it won't make their lives any better. The right to vote is so often squandered and it's a shame because it is the most powerful thing that you, as a citizen, can andabsolutely should do, as soon as you are able, to make a difference and have your say in who gets to make decisions on your behalf.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): Young people should care because they will inherit the results of decisions made today. If you care about the environment or helping other people, you need to speak out and tell politicians what they should be doing. Young people will be running the country next, and you want to make sure it's not ruined before you get there. 

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative): Most of you will vote in the next federal or provincial election.  What issues are important to you?  What areas of your life are affected by government decisions?  Only when you know the facts, you can better decide which political party has the ideas and policies that you agree with.  Although most students are too young to vote, I encourage you to look at every political party’s platform to see what you agree with.  It’s good to know what candidates are saying so you can ask them to give account of the promises they are making today.  I’m very pleased that your school is taking the initiative to Educate you on the Election, with teaching comes learning.  Google is a tool of today as well, it is so important for our youth, our next leaders, to understand the levels of government, inter-departmental workings, and I urge you to take the time, investigate, understand and get involved!

Youth brings new energy, ideas, enthusiasm as well as specialized skills, unique capabilities that can change outcomes and take us in new directions.  You could be that someone!

Many younger people are concerned over what the world will be like in their future, particularly around climate change and environmental issues. What do you think are some of the more pressing issues that need to be addressed when it comes to climate change and other environmental concerns?

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): Climate change is both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity that Canada has ever faced. While the consequences of failing to address climate change would be catastrophic, our transition to a green, sustainable economy will create good local jobs, shorter commutes, more livable cities, and cleaner air and water.
Our plan is to move to the virtual elimination of fossil fuel use in Canada by mid-century. We have set ambitious targets, yet the scale and urgency of this challenge demands nothing less. As Canadians, we will rise to this challenge and, in doing so, create a strong, stable, and prosperous economy today and for our children and grandchildren tomorrow.

For Canadians to benefit from this transition, we need to elect Green Members of Parliament. Only Green MPs will stand up to defend our coastlines from increased tanker traffic, our rivers and parks from reckless pipeline projects, and our economy from further pursuit of high-risk extractive schemes that threaten Canada’s long-term prosperity. Only Green MPs will position our economy to reap the full benefits of the inevitable global shift to a fossil-fuel free economy. It is time for Canada to take bold climate action.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): Protecting the environment and addressing climate change is very important to me and the Liberal Party. We will work with the provinces and territories to establish national emissions-reduction targets, and ensure they have targeted federal funding and the flexibility to design their own policies to meet these commitments.

Partnering with the provinces and territories, we will create a new Low Carbon Economy Trust. The Trust will provide funding to projects that materially reduce carbon emissions under the new pan-Canadian framework. We will endow the Low Carbon Economy Trust with $2 billion in our mandate. We will protect our communities from the challenges of climate change and grow our economy by making significant new investments in green infrastructure.

We will also fulfill our G20 commitment and phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry over the medium-term. We will also work in partnership with the United States and Mexico to develop an ambitious North American clean energy and environmental agreement.

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon (Conservative): I think most people are concerned with the state of our environment.  We all want clean air, we all want pure water to drink and we all want to be healthy and enjoy our beautiful nature.  The question is, how do we drive our cars, heat our homes, create jobs and produce goods (cell phones, computers, etc) and keep pollution to a minimum.  Canada produces 2% of the world pollution.  Every government, federal or provincial, works hard to bring forward new technologies to reduce pollution and the environmental footprint in our communities.  Although we are better than 30, 40 years ago, there is so much more to do.  We must continue to work together to assure a clean future for the generations that will follow after us.  I think Miramichi-Grand Lake will continue to be beautiful but we must not rest in our efforts for a cleaner environment.  If any of you have any suggestions on this issue or any of the above discussions, I’d love to hear from you!  You can contact me via my website at tillygordon.com or via email reelecttilly@gmail.com and also by phone at (506) 622-7161.

Imagine you are elected. Now fast forward to four years from now. As the MP for this riding, describe what this riding would like in four years time.

Matthew Ian Clark (Green): First of all, I would make sure that the job losses are stemmed. Too many jobs on the Miramichi alone have been lost due to a lack of political willpower on the part of the incumbent government. The riding has been suffering from MLAs and MPs who are not standing up for their constituents and what they both want and need to remain prosperous.

The first-past-the-post voting system has lost the confidence of Canadians. Our promise is to replace the first-past-the-post system with a form of proportional representation within the first year of the next Parliament. We will determine the form of proportional representation best suited to Canada through extensive public consultation by an all-party committee. The Green Party does politics differently. We don't cram destructive legislation into omnibus bills, hoping no one will ever read it, and are firmly committed to making this the last unfair election.

A vote for a Green Party candidate, like me, is a vote for your interests in Ottawa. The Green Party is in nobody's pocket and will not be bought by large corporations and their interests. We would make your lives as students, some of whom plan to soon begin your university and college careers, better by making that education affordable in the near term and tuition free by the year 2020. We will make it easier to run the small business that hires students upon graduation by lowering the small business tax so that they can afford to keep people employed. Miramichi-Grand Lake could be in great shape four years from now if the political willpower exists to make it so. A vote for me would be a great way step to take in the right direction if that is the riding you'd like to see in four years time.

Pat Finnigan (Liberal): If I am elected as MP, I hope four years from now there are more jobs in our area and more young people choosing to stay and work here. I also hope that families, seniors, and veterans are better supported and represented by the government. I also hope to have a strong relationship with every community in the riding so that people are comfortable approaching me with their concerns and they feel well represented in Ottawa.

Information compiled by: DeAnna Donovan
Photos from the political party websites