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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

ECFA holds ag-related debate with federal election candidates

-Lewis exits the debate after the first question

due to pain incurred at recent fall at family farm-

Lyle Hall, President of the Essex County Federation of Agriculture (centre), welcomed four area hopefuls who are vying to represent the Essex Riding in Ottawa after the October 21 election – Audrey Festeryga (Liberal), Bill Capes (PPC), incumbent Tracey Ramsey (NDP), and Chris Lewis (Conservative) before the agriculture-themed debate took place at the Essex Civic and Education Centre last Thursday evening.

by Sylene Argent

Ahead of the October 21 election day, representatives of the Essex County Federation of Agriculture (ECFA) asked candidates vying to fill the Essex Riding seat at the House of Commons to be open and frank last Thursday evening as they participated in two-hour debate at the Essex County Civic and Education Centre.

  The meet the candidates night offered area farmers an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates in attendance and hear what they had to say on a variety of farming-related topics, including climate change, supply management, trade, access to broadband internet in rural areas, government support, and food quality.

  ECFA welcomed four area hopefuls vying to represent the Essex Riding in Ottawa– Audrey Festeryga (Liberal), Bill Capes (PPC), incumbent Tracey Ramsey (NDP), and Chris Lewis (Conservative) – to the event.

  Capes said the complexities of managing a modern farm is changing, he said he would not pretend to understand those issues fully, but is not without farm experience as he used to work on an uncle’s farm during the summer months.

  Festeryga said being a farmer is a big part of who she is, noting every single issue Canada faces impacts farming in some way. She said farmers do not want the short or easy way out.

  Lewis said he grew up on a family farm. He said he understands the difference between a crop yield cheque and insurance cheque. He said he understands the blood, sweat, hours, and tears farmers put into every acre, which may not always result in a good yield.

  Ramsey said since being elected during the last election, she has fought beside farmers on a variety of issues. She said too many family farms have disappeared. Whether its CETA, TPP, or the new NAFTA, farmers have been thrown under the bus, she said.

  With farming being a global competition now, and with trade disputes going on that are out of Canada’s hands, the candidates were asked what they would do to help farmers if elected.

  Capes noted the PPC does not support supply management as the party wishes to keep the government out of farmers’ lives. He said the PPC would phase-out supply management and promote inter-provincial trade and open up trade markets.     

  Festeryga said the Liberals strongly support supply management as it is a Liberal-implemented system. She said her party recognizes the importance of farming to the economy and that the dairy industry provides thousands of jobs across the nation. She said the Liberals announced compensation to dairy farmers over the next eight-years and has lowered the small business tax.

  Conservatives, Lewis said, always understand the importance of Canada’s supply management sector. He said it is necessary to put the interest of family farms first.

  Lewis then announced he was in pain and would have to leave the debate. He said he would answer the remaining questions and supply the answers to area newspapers. He apologized for having to leave. Ramsey offered to reschedule the debate if Lewis was not feeling up to par, but he insisted the event continue.

  Ramsey said farmers have been challenged across the board because of cuts. The NDP, she said, believes a better deal is available in terms of the new NAFTA. The threat really does exist from the US market. She said farmers have come to the government noting they want supply management. The blue cow product symbol means something to Canadians as it indicates the milk was produced close to home, she said.

  On the topic of climate change, Ramsey sees farmers as climatologists with the work they are doing and it is a serious issue. She said fossil fuel subsidies to big oil needs to stop and they should not get away with polluting. Young people want action on climate, she said.

  Festeryga said climate change is a profound threat to the economy. There is no excuse in 2019 not to have a plan. The Liberal plan includes 50 measures that were developed by Canadians. Progress has been made, but much still needs to be done, she said.

  The PPC, Capes said, does not agree there is a climate emergency. The party does support environmental suitability and climate impact mitigation efforts. He said the PPC would pull out of the Paris Accord.

  “We are not willing to destroy our economy for a minor gain that Canada can contribute to the problem,” he said, adding provincial action will be allowed.

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