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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Questions to the Candidates

As the federal election nears, the Essex Free Press asked local candidates vying to represent the Essex Riding in the House of Commons to respond to a list of questions to allow readers a chance to get to know them, their party platforms, and values better before October 21.

  Candidates included in this “Questions to the Candidates” section are: incumbent Tracey Ramsey (NDP), Bill Capes (PPC), Audrey Festeryga (Liberal), Chris Lewis (Conservative), and Jennifer Alderson (Green).

  The content in the responses have not been edited, and the answers from the candidates have been rotated for fairness.


Question 1: What qualities do you have that make you a leader and capable of representing the Essex Riding at the House of Commons?

  Alderson: I am a dedicated professional, volunteer, wife and mother. I understand the struggles of Essex County residents firsthand. I face many of my own struggles trying to balance my career with my family life and my budget. I will stand up for residents to combat the high costs of housing, utilities, tuition and childcare.

  Capes: I entered politics to represent the interest of the people within the riding of Essex as they express their point of view to me and my personal views will not interfere with that. Constituents need a voice that advocates on behalf of the expectations for the communities we represent.

  Festeryga: As a lawyer, businesswoman, Human Resource Specialist working in Long Term Care for 17 years, farmer, First Generation Canadian, wife, mother and 5 year Breast cancer survivor I have “walked a mile” in many of your shoes. My hands-on experience, collaborative approach to problem-solving while advocating for Essex (County) issues over the last 4 years best qualify me for Ottawa.

  Lewis: I have a vast array of experience, to represent the riding of Essex, well. I am approachable, honest and a good listener. I am a businessman and have worked on both sides of the border. I own a farm. I am a husband and father.

  As a Municipal Councillor, hockey coach and volunteer firefighter, I have always been community minded and involved.

  Ramsey: Since 2015, I have worked tirelessly to represent the people of Essex in Ottawa. I know the importance of good jobs and services for families and seniors who are struggling to get by. Essex needs a fighter to make sure our voice heard in Ottawa and I have the experience to continue to be that voice.


Question 2: What part(s) of your party’s platform do you think would be most beneficial to residents in the Essex Riding and why?

Capes: The entire People’s Party platform is focused on economic needs of Canada and how we can restructure in order to do business more efficiently. We are the only party that will balance the budget, lower taxes, create new job and marketing opportunities within Canada and lower costs of living for every Canadian.

  The economic realities of the world are working against the tax and spend mentality that other parties encourage. Interest owed on debt is the greatest risk to the social programs that we all need. Asking the young and the poor to suffer from economic stagnation and crushing debt because we refuse to modernize how we run our country is not a solution to our current issues.

  Festeryga: The Liberal Platform is focussed on making life more affordable– from infancy to old age –focussing on jobs and skills training, providing a more secure retirement for seniors by enhancing OAS & GIS by 10% at age 75 and increasing survivor’s benefits by 25%; increasing Canada Child Benefit (up to $1,000 more for infants under the age of 1), tax-free maternity and parental benefits, 10% lower fees for child care; 25% lower cellphone and wireless bills, increased Grants for post-secondary students; exempting the first $15,000 income from federal tax and implementing a national pharmacare while also investing in Climate Change.

  Putting more money in the pockets of residents improves our local economy and helps build stronger, healthier families.

  Lewis: I am hearing over and over that people are just not getting ahead. They are barely getting by. Life under the Liberals has become more expensive and the cost of the NDP plan will make costs rise, even more.

  Our plan is to help families get ahead by: Removing the GST from home heating; Providing a UNIVERSAL TAX CUT for the lowest tax bracket; Lowering everyday costs for groceries and gas by scrapping the CARBON TAX; Introducing the Children’s Fitness Tax Credit and the Children’s Arts and Learning Tax Credit; Expanding the Age Credit, benefiting the lowest-income Canadians; Stop the borrowing which increases interest payments; We will respect the taxpayers money and put more money in your pocket.

  Ramsey: Our New Deal for People takes on the big polluters, drug companies and corporate tax giveaways that have cost working people too much for too long. Together, we can invest in families, make life more affordable, and fight the climate change crisis. We’ll expand medicare to provide prescription drugs and dental care. Lower family bills with more affordable housing, child care, internet and cell phone service. Act now to cut climate pollution, defend our land and water, and create 300,000 good jobs in a clean economy. Crack down on the tax evaders and ask multi-millionaires and mega-corporations to pay their fair share.

  Alderson: Boosting the economy through the transition to sustainable jobs and fair trade agreements. Providing a Guaranteed Livable Income for all Canadian. The elimination of post-secondary tuition costs. Offering a national pharmaceutical plan.

Question 3: What is your party’s stance on providing funding to big corporations/should stipulations be added to contracts when government funding is allocated to require companies meet certain criteria and stay in Canada?

On Thursday, October 10, Michael Coteau – a third-term MPP for Don Valley East and an Ontario Liberal leadership candidate – took the time to catch-up and campaign with Essex Riding federal Liberal candidate, Audrey Festeryga. He said he came to the region to support Festeryga because this election is about making a decision about who can represent Essex in an effective way.

Festeryga: Yes - Funding for large corporations will fall under the Strategic Innovation Fund, supporting smart investments in research and innovation for large projects. It gives Canadians the tools to turn ideas into solutions, science into technologies and start-up companies into global successes. Funding approvals also include commitments on jobs and R & D, unlike previous programs.

  Examples of investments include helping Canadian researchers pave the way in the field of regenerative medicine and stem cell research, investing in satellite projects that will help improve access to broadband internet in all parts of the country. By making smart investments in research and innovation today, we’re creating new and sustainable jobs and better opportunities for ourselves and future generations.

  Lewis: A new Conservative government will conduct a review of all business subsidy programs in order to eliminate $1.5 billion in corporate handouts that don’t create jobs and support economic growth in Canada.

  Those savings would instead go towards new measures to help hard-working Canadians.

Conservatives will make sure that funds spent on research and development will benefit Canadian companies, so that the intellectual property, technology, and resulting profits will benefit Canadians.

  We will also review innovation programs to ensure that they are supporting Canadian companies with patents, technologies, and economic benefits that remain in Canada. Conservatives believe that government support should help Canadians by creating jobs and opportunities.

  Ramsey: Companies receiving government funding should be obligated to maintain Canadian operations, commit to a jobs footprint and respect the commitments made to workers. In Windsor-Essex we have watched corporations take funding only to leave workers and communities behind.

  Workers should never, ever feel abandoned by their government. But that’s exactly what many autoworkers and their families feel today. And it’s the result of the choices made by Liberal and Conservative governments.

  The NDP will make sure that big corporations fulfill their obligations to the workers of Essex. New Democrats will take immediate steps to boost corporations’ accountability, end insider benefits, and take the influence of big money out of government for good.

  Alderson: The Green Party will eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and corporate tax avoidance by companies doing business with Canadian consumers, yet not operating directing in Canada. The Green Party will offer support to the green energy sector, sustainable agricultural and food processing, and any industries that will create gainful employment that benefits Canada and the planet. We would certainly ensure any funding provided to organizations is only provided under an agreement to stay within Canada and the area.

  Capes: We will discourage business subsidies or corporate welfare. It is not the mandate of the government to pick winners and losers among the business sector. Currently there are $14 billion in subsidies according to the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary and this creates unfair advantage and distortions to our markets and limits our ability to trade fairly with others.

  Our combined tax rates places us at 12th highest of the 36 OECD countries. Our lower tax rates, our phased out capital gains tax as well as our accelerated capital depreciation plan would encourage investments to research & development and innovative processes as well as equipment needed to be productive and profitable.


Question 4: Trade has been a contentious issue. What steps should be made to ensure Canada, and its businesses, are treated fairly on the global scale?

Lewis: Today, one in six Canadian jobs is linked to our exports, and trade accounts for 60 per cent of our GDP.

  Canada is a trading nation. International trade has sustained our quality of life, creating opportunities and financing our industries. To expand Canada’s trade towards emerging markets and reduce dependenceon the US, we will engage the United Kingdom and the countries of Mercosur and ASEAN in negotiations toward free trade agreements. These new markets present opportunities for Canadian businesses to grow and increase their exports.

  To support Canadian industries, a new Conservative government’s focus will remain squarely on promoting Canada’s competitive advantage in global supply chains. To ensure that our trading partners live up to the spirit, not just the letter, of our agreements, we will insist on chapters dealing with non-tariff trade barriers in future trade deals.

  Ramsey: People in Essex know how important good trade is for our region. Trade deals need to be fair, respect human rights, protect the environment, and put the interests of Canadian workers and communities first. Unfortunately, under Liberal and Conservative governments, trade negotiations have too often hurt our industries and cost us jobs. We already pay some of the highest prices for drugs in the world, yet the Liberals & Conservatives have signed trade deals that will make drug costs skyrocket.

New Democrats support fair trade that broadens opportunity in all areas of the country, while protecting our industries and upholding labour standards, environmental protections, and human rights. We will always defend Canadian workers and industries in trade negotiations, protect supply management, while standing up against unfair tariffs and medication prices.

Alderson: Essex County produces many goods that are distributed worldwide. This includes agricultural goods, food and beverage, along with parts and supplies for the automotive market and other manufacturing sectors. The Green Party should support local industries by replacing at least one third of imported products with domestic products. As a party, we would also ensure fair and equitable trade agreements are established and that our damaged relationships with foreign nations are repaired.

  Capes: Trade is a serious responsibility for an export economy such as ours. We would repair our damaged relationships with our traditional trading partners and also expand our interest to any country that wishes to engage in trade that is fair to our interests. We would also phase out our supply management system thus allowing us more products to export as well as dismantle our inter-provincial trade barriers that account for $80 billion in lost opportunity yearly.

  By creating an environment that is more productive for our Canadian industries, opening new foreign and domestic markets to service, mobility of skills within Canada and unlock our energy resources we will have a more dynamic economy to weather global issues. Foreign investment will return with stable markets.

  Festeryga: In this current climate of global instability and with the rise in protectionism it is more important than ever for a trading nation like Canada to have stability with its trading partners.

  We are the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with all other G7 nations- that gives our businesses access to billions of customers around the world. Our goal was to increase Canada’s exports by 50% by 2025. But Canada’s exporters are vulnerable to unfair practises by other countries who don’t respect rules-based trade. We will help Canadian exporters and companies facing commercial or trade disputes abroad immediate, on-the-ground help through a Canada Commercial Consular Service to help connect companies with timely, local legal assistance and support.


Question 5: What qualities do you most respect of your party’s leader?

  Ramsey: Jagmeet Singh stands up for Canadians with compassion and optimism. He knows that Canadians are struggling while rich corporations get richer and have different rules. He meets challenges head on, offering Canadians a bold, progressive alternative to Liberal and Conservative governments that have failed us.

 Alderson: Elizabeth May is highly intelligent and very driven, yet ethical. She genuinely cares about Canadians, young and elderly and newcomers to those who have been here for generations. I find her dedication to the green vision and perseverance very admirable.

  Capes: I am most respectful that Maxime Bernier has been true to his personal vision and that vision is reflected in our party platform. Others have incorporated our ideas to buy votes, but we offer the same message we had since the beginning.

  Festeryga: Justin Trudeau cares deeply about Canadians, the environment and leaving Canada a better place for future generations. He values diversity and gender equality. He respects the outdoors, green spaces and National Parks as evidenced by the Canada 150 celebrations inviting Canadians to visit National Parks free of charge.

Lewis: Andrew Scheer is an ordinary person with real life experience and a common sense approach to leading this country. He is sincere and relatable and he understands real family issues. Andrew is a strong and respected leader who will represent Canada well, across the world.


Question 6: What is the best approach to immigration?

  Alderson: There is so much opportunity available in Canada and we need to share the opportunity with those who have the skills, abilities and work-ethic to prosper here. We need to ensure highly trained professionals are able to gain entry in order to fill the labour shortages we have. We would also allocate more funding to provide English and French training to new immigrants. We would eliminate the Temporary Foreign Workers Program and work with employers to establish a plan for permanent residency.

  Capes: Immigration is critical to our future wellbeing. 26% of our current immigrants and refugees are directly chosen for skills or experience to fulfill our economic needs. The remainder are admitted through the reunification or refugee programs and find work where they can. More than 41% of all immigrants settle around Toronto or Vancouver, among the least affordable cities in the world.

We will lessen immigration to 150,000 yearly and increase the percentage of those that include skills highest in demand. We will ensure temporary work visas are not taking jobs that Canadians need. Birth tourism will be ended. Each immigrant will have a face to face interview with Canadian officials before entry to Canada. Canada will no longer adhere to the U.N. Global Migration Compact.

  Festeryga: Canada’s immigration system is one of the best in the world. Every year more than 300,000 people are approved to make Canada their permanent home under 3 categories- economic immigration, family reunification and humanitarian considerations. Canada doesn’t offer a free pass to anyone – there’s a strict process -including complete security and background checks. Most people successfully apply to immigrate to Canada based on education, skills and experience or family reunification principles.

  Canada also has a proud humanitarian tradition that includes resettling refugees from abroad and an in-Canada asylum system for those who fear persecution, torture or death. To help the agri-food sector, Canada is launching a 3-year pilot to bring in fulltime non-seasonal agricultural workers that will include a pathway to permanent residency. Canada’s story is the story of immigrants – of people who came here seeking a better life – and of the people who welcomed them.

  Lewis: I think the Conservative plan is well designed to address the important issues identified in the current immigration system.

  As Prime Minister, Andrew Scheer will: Put an end to illegal border crossings at unofficial points of entry; Close the loophole in the Safe-Third Country Agreement that allows some people to skip the line and avoid the queue; Safeguard and emphasize economic immigration; Set immigration levels consistent with what is in Canada’s best interests; Stand up for families and ensure that spouses and children can be reunited; Ensure that our system prioritizes people facing true persecution; Work to reunite survivors of genocide, who have already resettled in Canada, more expeditiously; Improve credential recognition and make it easier for new Canadians who have existing skills that meet our standards to ply their trades here; Promote the private sponsorships of refugees.

  Conservatives will restore fairness, order, and compassion to the immigration system.

Ramsey: Welcoming new talent and energy from around the world builds our communities and boosts our economy. Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world and we are richer and stronger for it.

Yet, under the Liberal government, too many new Canadians are waiting years to reunify with family members. And instead of helping, too many Conservatives want to make the situation worse with dangerous statements that seek to divide our communities.

Our immigration system should be accountable to Canadians and rooted in the values of fairness, respect, and dignity. We know that immigrants strengthen our country and we will always stand against those who would use fear of our neighbours to divide us. We believe in a Canada where newcomers can rely on a fair process and find success when they arrive, where no one is separated from their loved ones for years because of backlogs.


Question 7: What is the best approach to be environmentally mindful?

  Capes: “Environmentally mindful” is to recognise that our changing climate is just one dynamic of stewardship of our country. Technology gains and immigration have brought forward the fact that our municipal plans are not keeping up with change. Opportunity exists to invest wisely in our rural infrastructure, to enable modern technology gains that support innovation, climate change mitigation, transportation upgrades and housing into less expensive areas. This would support rural businesses, farms and schools. We also need to be mindful that renewable energy is not clean or harmless and further research is needed. Toxic solar waste that is difficult to recycle, bird kills and polluted ground water from wind farms show we have much to do for our energy solutions.

  Festeryga: Climate change is real, science has made that clear. And we can’t wait to act – setting a price on pollution has worked in BC while creating new jobs. A National Climate Plan to move Canada forward toward a net-zero emissions future is the best way. This requires cutting emissions from Canada’s biggest polluters, including oil and gas and includes Natural Climate Solutions such as planting 2 billion trees over 10 years to clean the air and protect our communities.

  We can all do our part, but when disaster hits, a new low-cost national flood insurance program, and a new Employment Disaster Assistance Benefit will to help. The time to act is NOW!

  Lewis: 1. Green Technology, Not Taxes, 2. A Cleaner/Greener Natural Environment, 3. Taking the Climate Change Fight Global.

  Green Technology, Not Taxes is the best way to lower Canada’s emissions. We will support green technology innovation, development & adoption.

  We will build upon the work that our farmers, hunters, anglers, Indigenous peoples, and volunteers do every day. We will encourage community engagement & consultation to conserve and protect our air, land, water and wildlife.

  Canada will make a global impact. Entrepreneurs, businesses and hard-working Canadians will create new ‘Canadian Clean’ products and market them around the world as an alternative to the carbon intensive option. Canadian innovators will be reaching global markets!

Ramsey: Canada is not even on track to meet the modest targets - let alone the stronger ones required to prevent dangerous climate change.

A New Democrat government will declare a climate emergency and put in place ambitious, science-based greenhouse gas reductions targets that will help stabilize the global temperature rise to 1.5C. We’ll put these targets in legislation and ensure accountability by creating an independent Climate Accountability Office to do regular audits of progress on climate goals.

We would immediately end fossil fuel subsidies and hold big polluters accountable.

Alderson: Greens oppose all new fossil fuel pipelines. We are the only party to take a dedicated stance on this. Greens will rapidly increase our renewable energy infrastructure, so that fossil fuels can be phased out entirely by 2050. We will support the move to zero waste generation and ensure local food security for all communities. We will also strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to restrict the approval and use of toxic chemicals that effort our health and environment. We would ban all toxic ingredients used in personal care products as well.


Question 8: What is your party’s plan on the future of gun ownership? Why is that the best policy for Essex/the country?

  Festeryga: We want to make gun laws stronger, banning all military-style assault rifles while protecting the rights of hunters and farmers by NOT BRINGING BACK THE LONG-GUN REGISTRY. Hunters and farmers do not need to use assault weapons. Gun ownership, especially in rural Essex County is common; we will give municipalities the ability to further restrict or ban handguns in order to be able to locally deal with gun crime and make our communities safer. We have seen the tragedy of military-style assault rifles, designed to inflict mass casualties- they have no place in Canada. Canadians know that “thoughts and prayers” don’t make our communities any safer.

  Lewis: To support lawful firearms owners, we will repeal Bill C-71. Bill C-71 brought in a backdoor gun registry, which is useless and ineffective because it targets farmers and duck hunters. Our approach will target gangs and criminals instead.

  Criminals don’t follow laws; they break them. Canada needs firearms laws that actually target criminals. A Conservative government’s firearms laws will get illegal guns out of our communities and make sure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

  Andrew Scheer’s plan consists of the following proposals: Prison time for knowingly possessing a smuggled gun; Tackling “straw purchases;” Create a CBSA Firearms Smuggling Task Force; Temporary gun seizures for detained mental health patients; Lifetime firearms ban for violent and gang criminals; New penalties for selling guns to prohibited users; New tools for police to solve gun crime.

  I will always stand with law-abiding gun owners.

Ramsey: As a New Democrat and proud member of our community, I want to make sure that our laws strike a good balance between public safety and the ability for lawful firearm owners to hunt and shoot recreationally without unnecessary red tape.

I have listened carefully to what our farmers, and hunters are saying about this issue as I proudly represent a rural riding.  I’ve spoken to many farmers over the last 4 years and I understand the need for legal firearms to protect their livestock.  As you know, restricted firearms under limited circumstances are allowed for one’s lawful profession/occupation.  I can assure you I will not support any policy which restricts these allowances. 

  Alderson: All law-abiding citizens should be able to own guns for hunting and sport, providing the guns are registered, and are used and stored in a safe manner. However, we will ensure illegal handguns are intercepted and kept out of our communities. The Green Party plans to launch a confidential buyback program for handguns and assault weapons.

  Capes: Legal firearms owners account for over 2 million of the most highly vetted Canadian citizens. The law needs to protect their property rights, be respectful and fair without fear of arbitrary prosecution while maintaining public safety. We will replace the Firearms Act with new legislation that will prioritize improvements to public safety and fight crime.

  We will change the costly licensing system with lifetime possession certification for qualified legal owners as long as they remain lawful. We will ensure that firearm classification is dependent on function and not looks. We will mandate that firearms legislation can only be completed through Parliament and not by the RCMP or cabinet for political means.


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