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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Candidates participate in Essex Free Press exclusive Q&A

To help readers get a better understanding of the candidates running in the 2021 Federal Election, before they head to the ballot box on Monday, September 20, the Essex Free Press issued a series of questions for the candidates to answer.

  The answers were implemented based on alphabetical order of the candidates’ last names for the first question, then rotated for the remaining questions for fairness. The six participants – Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC), Audrey Festeryga (Liberal), Andrew George (Independent), incumbent Chris Lewis (Conservative), Nancy Pancheshan (Green), and Tracey Ramsey (NDP) – were asked to keep each answer to 150 words or less.

  Staff of the Essex Free Press have not edited the answers, unless a portion at the end of the answer was removed due to exceeding the space limit.


Question one: Why are you running to become the MP for the Essex Riding

and what qualities would you bring to the position?


Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC): I am a married mother of three and a local business owner. Family, faith and freedom are of utmost importance to me. I will provide a transparent, unedited transfer of information from within the walls of Parliament to my Essex constituents. My role is to be a conduit and extension of your voice and values, regardless of which Party you vote for.

I am tired of hearing about bills that affect us after the fact and knowing now how many facets of our Country have changed over the past several elections unbeknownst to us and without us even being asked how we want our vote to be placed. Why are Party Leader orders determining our votes? 

I am a driven, passionate, hard working business owner who is one of less than 400 individuals across Canada to be granted the business opportunity I have because of my skills, experience, ability to learn, ethics and community involvement. I am running to bring much needed change to our riding and our Country as I am now fearful, versus excited, about the future of my children and grandchildren. What has happened to Canada?  We need change.

Audrey Festeryga (Liberal): My experience as a lawyer, business owner, negotiator and health care administrator will ensure Essex issues are heard and responded to by the government.

  As a first generation Canadian born to German immigrant parents, I have a strong work ethic – which comes from my parents’ drive to succeed, my roots on the family farm (which I still farm today) and my desire to give back for all the blessings I have received. As a mother of two, I advocate for children and youth with a focus on the future and the environment; for seniors, childcare and affordable housing while championing the region’s agriculture, small business and manufacturing sectors.

  Climate change/green technologies offer our Region innumerable opportunities. I plan on working with all levels of government so that families can afford to live, thrive and prosper in Essex.

  AS YOUR VOICE in Ottawa- I am compassionate, effective and tenacious.

  Andrew George (Independent): I believe we still have time to preserve some semblance of a free and prosperous society, properly balanced with nature; but time is fleeting.

  In that sense, I am not only running for Essex, but for all Canadians; past, present, and future. What I bring to the position is my own honest ambition and innovative ideas - both of which I’ll offer freely throughout these 3 weeks, in a ‘virtual campaign.’

  As an independent candidate, I have only 1 advantage over the Big3 political parties: I can tell the Truth openly without any party poopers whipping my opinion different. 

Chris Lewis (Conservative): I am seeking re-election as the MP for Essex because I am not willing to give up on the greatest country in the world. I have so much fire in my belly. I want to leave a legacy for future generations - to leave this world a better place than I found it. I have hope that our best years are ahead. With the right leadership Essex and Canada will prosper again.

People have said, “Chris I feel horrible that you are the MP during the worst time in memory”. Actually, it’s the opposite. Such times call for leadership. I am compassionate. I have a strong work ethic. It’s been long hours, seven days a week but it has been so gratifying to be able to help people during the worst of times. Also, my years of business experience helps me see the big picture and how to get results.

Nancy Pancheshan (Green): I was inspired to run in the election for a few factors; the first was my experience protecting Ojibway Prairie, a globally endangered ecosystem in Windsor. I learned Essex has some of the least natural areas in all of Canada, and they continue to decline. In 2013, we had 6.8%, and now- 5.7 %. Environment Canada says we need 30% to be prepared for climate change. We are very ill-prepared and going in the wrong direction. 

  Another reason is the bailout money Canada gives to fossil fuel and nuclear corporations. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Canada provides these corporations $25 billion a year.  Remember the Chrysler and GM bailouts? That was a one-time bailout worth $13.7 billion. Why are we bailing out fossil fuel corporations each year?  

I will work tirelessly to bring a green vision to Essex and Canada. A vision that includes a focus on; our quality of life, away from polluting energy use and an end to the $25 billion bailouts given to fossil fuel corporations.

Tracey Ramsey (NDP): When I was your Member of Parliament, I always stood and fought for everyone in Essex.  I’m a hard worker, a fighter and I have never stopped working for you and our communities.

  I am running again because in time of need, in time of despair, when things get tough- this is when people expect leadership from our elected officials- instead we were met with silence for the last two years.

  During the pandemic, I was fighting for frontline healthcare workers, people in LTC and their families. I also fought for the vulnerable migrant workers and was part of the NDP Taskforce on Building Back Better. The fight isn’t over, the recovery is going to be critical for everyone. We need someone in Essex who will stand up for us in Ottawa and get our voice back. I know I am that person.


Question two: What is your position on COVID-19 vaccinations

and the possibility of vaccination passports?


Audrey Festeryga (Liberal): I received my first Covid-19 vaccination as early as I could – March 2021 followed by my second jab in June, not only to protect myself, my 80+ year old mom, my neighbours and my community, I know that getting vaccinated is how Canada will get out of this pandemic. It’s good for the economy, small businesses and local entrepreneurs.

  I am pleased that Doug Ford has indicated that Ontario will be requiring Proof of Vaccination commencing September 22 and am pleased that a re-elected Liberal government will provide the provinces and territories $1 Billion to make this ‘passport’ a reality.

  Those like my family, separated by an international border, essential workers and small business owners will find the Proof of Vaccination convenient every time they cross the international border.

Andrew George (Independent): I had COVID-19 in the first wave, beginning of April 2020: mild symptoms of fever, chest congestion, phlegm, and loss of taste for about 4 days. I battled it with a 3 week quarantine, essential oils, iodine drops, probiotic drinks and sitting around a campfire, crying for my children and pondering life & death.

  I still suffer from diminished lung capacity. But when it abated, I had a different outlook on life. We’ll never know how much time we have; and I wanted to make sure that my young children knew who I am, what I stand for, and how much I love them. So I started making little videos of our life and uploading them to the blockchain.

  I don’t believe in Stay Home, Stay Safe. I do however believe in Stay Home, If You’re Sick.  I believe in freedom of choice & personal responsibility.

Chris Lewis (Conservative): I have always and will continue to stand in defense of personal freedoms. Conservatives support Canadians’ right to determine their own health choices. With rights, however, come responsibility. I believe that rapid testing, for example, to board a train or plane is a reasonable middle ground. For international travel, at the end of the day, each country will make their own decisions.

  The issue of what restrictions are put in place for public venues will be up to each individual province. Decisions made by the Government should always accommodate Canadians’ right to determine their own health choices.

Nancy Pancheshan (Green): It is vital that many Canadians get vaccinated against COVID-19. It is curious though, that the Liberals’ announced a plan for mandatory vaccination, two days before calling an election, yet provided no details for the plan.

I believe that it is a person’s right to decide whether to get vaccinated, though that decision may cause an individual to lose out on sporting/music events, travel, education, putting loved one’s at risk, as well as their own life.

  Tracey Ramsey (NDP): New Democrats have been clear that we need strong leadership when it comes to getting Canadians vaccinated. We know vaccines are our best way through the pandemic. Canadian families should be able to access vaccine passports as easily as possible. And they should be able to use them here at home – not just when travelling internationally.   

  The NDP will make proof of vaccination easy to get for everyone across the country – no matter what province they’re from. Working with provinces, we would ensure people in communities with low vaccination rates have easy, barrier-free access and all the information they need to feel secure in getting vaccinated. We would also legislate sick leave and vaccination leave in federally regulated work places.

Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC): The unprecedented government approach to this Covid-19 pandemic has had negative repercussions on Canadians’ physical and mental health, economic well-being and our rights and freedoms. The standard approach to pandemic management has always been to protect the vulnerable and allow the rest of the healthy population to go about their regular lives while building herd immunity. 

  Lockdowns of entire populations was never part of any pre-pandemic planning. We will fight against and help individuals to fight against, mandatory vaccination and against the vaccine passports. We would support provincial measures to protect the most vulnerable, but stop bailing out provinces that impose economically destructive lockdowns. We will support medical research and development of therapies to treat covid-19 and other viral diseases as they will always be here.

Coercion and discrimination can never be a part of making personal medical decisions.


Question three: As Bill C21 – An Act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to make consequential amendments (firearms) – received second reading, how would you vote on the legislation? Should municipalities be given the option to restrict the storage and transportation of handguns?

Andrew George (Independent): In Canada, guns don’t kill people. 

  Old age kills people. Car crashes at 100kmh kills people. Fentanyl and Opioids kill people. A carcinogenic diet of fake, glyphosate-ridden food kills people.

  People die all the time, they always have, always will.

  It’s only recently though that so many people have died of suicide & vaccine-related adverse-events.

  Firearms legislation is just another distraction from real problems.

  But, more to the point, I don’t believe municipalities should be in the business of restricting personal freedoms.

  However, if a council wanted to have a knee-jerk reaction to some unknown domestic terrorism incident, I think restricting business licences for gun-related businesses is within their purview. 

  Chris Lewis (Conservative): A) First and foremost, if Justin Trudeau and the Liberals really believed this legislation is the answer to violent gun crimes, they would not have left the Bill to die on the Order Paper in the midst of a pandemic. I know that farmers, duck hunters, sports shooting owners, paintball and airsoft enthusiasts are lawful gun owners. Even if their paintball guns look scary, that does not make them criminal.

  I would never vote for Bill C-21 or similar legislation. What I would do is support our border officers and police officers and make sure they have every tool they need to stop illegal gun smuggling which is the real source of violent crime.

B) Absolutely not. Firearms are federally mandated. That responsibility should never be put on the laps of municipalities.

Nancy Pancheshan (Green): C21 was an attempt to curb gun violence in Toronto and events like the horrible mass shooting in Nova Scotia. It proposed such things as; all municipalities can ban handguns and the federal government to buy back banned firearms. Though gun violence has increased for the 5th straight year since 2019, the violence is mostly related to gangs and “crime guns”, people that wouldn’t obey the law anyway. C21 would not stop criminals from smuggling guns and/or buying them.

I believe the best way to curb violence is to curb “crime gun” demand. Poverty will cause people to do things they might not normally do. Many proponents said C21 simply wouldn’t work. The money that C21 would’ve cost would be better spent on community investments, solutions created by each community, to curb poverty and the “crime gun” problem. Thankfully, when the Governor-General dissolved Parliament, C21 was terminated.

Tracey Ramsey (NDP): Many communities in Canada are dealing with an increase in gun violence which is worrying people. Responsible gun owners aren’t the problem. Our focus is on the spread of illegal handguns and preventing them from crossing our borders.

  Unfortunately, between 2011 and 2015 the Conservative government made cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency that left a gap in their capacity to go after gun smuggling and guns coming over the border. And the Liberals did nothing to fix this. New Democrats are committed to working with border guards to keep illegal guns out of the country. 

Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC): I would vote no based solely on the fact that contained in this legislation is an attempt to allow for peace officers to execute warrantless searches on offences. This is clearly a violation of the charter of rights and freedoms and completely goes around the judicial process of obtaining warrants. Hunting and shooting are very much a part of Canadian culture and should be respected as such.  They also allow Canadians to feel secure in their persons which is another respected Charter right. 

Canadian gun owners are very compliant and have some of the World’s most restricted gun laws. It is very alarming when Political Parties keep focusing on and punishing the law abiding citizens who have not done anything wrong, versus directing their focus to the criminal gun activity.

Audrey Festeryga (Liberal):  Growing up on a farm, I remember the thrill of achieving a “bullseye” with a pellet gun as my brothers and I, under the watchful eye of my father competed to see who had the best shot. Unfortunately, in Canada, American-style gun violence is rising as are hate crimes, racism, discrimination and xenophobia. Gender-based violence and gun smuggling is also increasing.

  Prevention efforts, banning the use, sale or import of assault weapons most used in mass shootings from our communities is a start.

  Communities should be allowed to pass bylaws related to handgun storage and transport in their jurisdiction to create safer communities.

  I would vote in favour.

Question four: With prices of homes skyrocketing across the nation, and especially noticeable in the Windsor-Essex County Region, what is your plan on how to make housing more affordable?


Chris Lewis (Conservative): I continue to hear at doors how scared our young adults are. They wonder even if they could afford to buy a home if they could they even find one. The biggest issue for affordable housing is the demand far exceeds the supply. The pandemic worsened that condition. So does non-resident foreign speculators buying Canadian real estate and then leaving these homes empty.

Conservatives are committed to building one million homes over the next three years. As part of our plan, we will be releasing 15% of federal government owned land for development. We will also make mortgages more affordable, for example - open up a new market for seven to ten year mortgages to stabilize the market. We will also ban foreign non-resident buyers. Our housing plan is laid out in full on Pages 54 and 55 in our “Canada’s Recovery Plan”. The entire plan can be viewed at:

  Nancy Pancheshan (Green): The average house in Essex costs $542, 000, people are spending 30-50% of their income on housing, and spending more on basic living costs. Many younger Canadians will not be able to afford a home. We are one of the richest countries in the world, yet many cannot afford to buy a home. Our rent costs are also out of the park. 

  The Green vision includes; creating incentives to make homes more energy-efficient and affordable to run, building 25, 000 affordable housing units, refurbishing 15, 000 more, and introducing tax incentives to support the construction of rental housing.  Federal incentives for the purpose of rental housing were eliminated in the 1970s. Every party has a similar plan, I would work with all parties to solve our housing problem.

  Tracey Ramsey (NDP): The NDP have an extensive plan to deal with the housing crisis which will help families find an affordable place to live. We know that a lot of people with good paying jobs are unable to afford a home or pay for the rising cost of rent. That’s why we are promising to increase the supply of affordable homes, take big money out of housing, give families more support and make homes more affordable.

  To achieve that we have committed to building 500,000 new affordable homes, give families $5,000 a year to help pay rent and implement of 20% foreign buyers tax, among other things. 

  Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC): The current housing issue is greatly a supply issue. One of the biggest factors influencing the supply issue is mass immigration compounded by a high volume of international students. In 2019 alone, Canada issued 402K new study permits. Windsor-Essex has a high volume of international students. This inflates the rental market as the supply is low and the demand is high. 

Experts in the housing market express the need for the government to alleviate the red tape to allow development of new housing to get to market faster. The supply must ramp up to keep up with population growth or the demand needs to be lessened.

  Audrey Festeryga (Liberal): My neighbours and I were discussing the current shocking price of homes and how quickly they do sell.

  Our 3-part housing plan makes housing more affordable:

  1. Unlock Home Ownership- help save up to $30,000 for a first house, a new Rent-to-Own Program, a new Tax-free First Home Savings Account, and other programs to help reduce monthly mortgage costs and make home-buying more affordable;

  2. Build More Homes - build, preserve or revitalize 1.4 million homes, working with municipalities and developers – to accelerate affordable and social housing, Housing Construction, convert empty office space & bring different generations under one roof, while supporting Indigenous Housing and working with municipalities to end homelessness.

  3. Home Buyers Bill of Rights -to ensure that the process of buying a home is fair, open and transparent; 2 year ban on foreign buyers/ownership so that housing stock is available for Canadians and ensure that rents are fair.

  Andrew George (Independent): Short-Term (forced transition period of 3 years) (slight dip in prices forecast, but domestic demand would be strong)

  1) No foreign ownership (Canadian citizen or permanent resident only)

2) No corporate ownership (homes & mortgages must be registered in the name of a real, living person)

3) Maximum 5 homes/units per person (apartment building counts as 1/condo unit counts as 1) Longer-Term (after the 3 year transition period)

4) Serious financial penalties levied on non-compliant.

5) Incentives to emphasize build-out of high-rises in urban cores.

6) Higher development fees to disincentivize suburban sprawl.

7) Review and modernize the landlord/tenant act to function better for all parties.


Question five: What environmental issues are most important to you and what action would you advocate for?


Nancy Pancheshan (Green): Climate change is the number one issue. In Essex, one-hundred-year storm events are now routine events. Some people are worried their house is going to flood every time it rains. The storm events of 2016 and 2017 cost $526 million along. This does not include the millions our towns made in repairs to roads and bridges. Essex also has the highest air pollution and cancer rates in Canada. 

  Essex boasts unique ecosystems, providing natural drainage, they also cool and clean our air. A Green vote will see an end to the yearly $25 billion bailouts given fossil fuel corporations. These funds will be used to expand our natural areas from 5.7% and to reach the 30% mark advised to Environment Canada to prepare Essex for climate change. A vote for Green would protect Essex’; unique beauty, natural drainage systems, air and water.  

  Tracey Ramsey (NDP): All Canadians have been horrified by the climate emergencies facing several parts of our country over recent months. In Essex, residents have experienced severe flooding for the past few years which have devastated homes in the area.

  We are committed to expanding federal funding to respond to disasters, and support communities in proactively adapting their infrastructure to withstand floods. When I was your MP, I introduced a National Freshwater Strategy to protect the Great Lakes. Protecting these precious bodies of water is important to our region of Essex but also the country. I am committed to continuing this work.

  Beth Charron-Rowberry (PPC): The world’s climate has always changed and will continue to change. Until twelve thousand years ago, much of Canada was under ice and it is thanks to natural climate change that we can live here today. 

The policy debate about global warming has been hijacked by big governments who are using propaganda to impose their views. Please read our platform item in regards to climate change and our environment. We do not believe that giving the Federal government more taxes is the right approach.

You cannot tax your way to a cleaner environment while rewarding the Countries who do the most polluting. China emits more CO2 than the entire world combined while Canada accounts for just under 2%. We would leave the Paris Accord as it does not hold the two biggest polluters (India and China) accountable to the same regulations as the rest of the World. 

We would repeal the carbon tax. 

 [the remainder of this answer was removed due to exceeding space limit provided]

  Audrey Festeryga (Liberal): Protecting the environment is EVERYTHING. Climate change is real. It is a real crisis. Canadians are demanding Real Action.

  The Liberal plan is the only plan endorsed by the Green Party, and other climate activists. It is an ambitious plan to accelerate climate action for more jobs, cleaner communities, and less pollution. How? By building a net-zero electricity grid and ending thermal coal exports, making it easier and more affordable to own a zero-emission vehicle and create new jobs in the clean economy while supporting all workers.

  Everything from training 1,000 new firefighters to helping Canadians make their homes more resilient, cutting pollution to planting trees and nature conservation while protecting old growth forests in British Columbia. A single-use plastics ban, oceans clean up and Freshwater Action Plan are also essential.

  Canadians need us to act boldly now. We are the envy of the world.

  For Bold Climate Action, vote Liberal, Audrey For Essex

  Andrew George (Independent): I am known online as Dharma_Gardener, what do you think I advocate for?

  Episodes of my campaign ( are dedicated to the present state of nature around the world, and what can be done to improve it.

  First and foremost, I encourage everyone to dig up your grass, and grow front yard gardens.

Secondly, there should be no transportation of fossil fuels/nuclear fuels within 50kms of the great lakes & its tributaries (CAN & USA).

  Thirdly, tar sands projects can continue to operate, but must become carbon neutral (nearly impossible without innovation).

  Fourthly, national reforestation action must be taken, and can be a big driver of good-paying seasonal jobs.

  Chris Lewis (Conservative): I have a number of local environmental concerns that I would continue to prioritize – flood mitigation in Lakeshore; shoreline protection, and large algae blooms in the western basin.

I also will prioritize the agriculture sector. I want our local producers to know that I have their backs as they continue to steward the land now and for future generations using the latest, most innovative practises.

Also, I want to support Municipalities to upgrade their aging infrastructure so heavy rains will not leach raw sewage into our waterways. Essex residents deserve to enjoy our magnificent Great Lakes and local beaches without the fear of e-coli contamination.

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