The Bradford Board of Trade (BBT) held an 'Ask the Candidate' session with each local federal election candidate last week, giving them an opportunity to share their platforms and answer questions for constituents.
There are four York-Simcoe federal election candidates, including Conservative incumbent Scot Davidson, Liberal Party candidate Daniella Johnson, People's Party of Canada (PPC) candidate Michael Lotter, and NDP candidate Benjamin Jenkinks.
BBT Chief Administrative Officer, Tricia Lynne Barrett asked each candidate the same series of questions submitted by the public in separately recorded interviews.
A hot topic this election is vaccine passports.
While Liberal candidate Johnson and NDP candidate Jenkins said they are both in favour of a nationwide vaccine certificate program, Davidson and Lotter said their parties are not.
"We have to respect the health choices of Canadians and provide rapid testing," said Davidson. "Right now we see the prime minister dividing people, us vs. them. We have to show compassion right now, not divide Canadians. We have to embrace the technology and science around rapid testing."
"We can’t segregate society, it does not work," said Lotter. "If the vaccine works, then we don't need a vaccine passport."
Johnson says the Liberals want to ensure every individual is safe and healthy, and the way to do so is with vaccines.
"I will continue to support vaccines and any method including vaccine passports that will continue to keep our community safe," she said.
Jenkins says a federal vaccine passport is a useful tool.
"I grew up in Ontario and like many of you who attended school in Ontario, there is a requirement for vaccination for nine potentially contagious diseases," he said, "It's not an unprecedented idea for a government to provide a vaccine in recognition system, because we already have one."
Affordable housing is another key issue across the country. Candidates were asked how they would address this issue locally.
"We are not building enough homes to keep up with Canada's growing population," said Davidson, who noted the Conservatives are committed to building one million homes in the next three years and banning foreigners from buying and "bidding up" the prices of homes.
Lotter says the housing affordability issue is a provincial and local responsibility.
"There's nothing the federal government can do to change provincial and municipal zoning laws," he said.
"We need to overhaul how people are buying houses, and make sure people buying houses live in Canada," said Lotter. "If we don't invest in the root cause of the problems (inflation and supply)....we aren't going to get ahead of the problem."
Johnson says her focus is on helping young families and seniors own homes and downsize and getting renters to become homeowners. She says Liberals will put an end to blind bidding, put a stop to foreign ownership and look at how they can build more affordable housing.
"This is certainly a priority and we have a plan, and I will be a champion to make sure this gets done in our region," she said.
Jenkins says the current system is not sustainable and the country needs to look at housing as a human right rather than a commodity.
The NDP has plans to build 500,000 new units of affordable housing, half in the next five years.
"That will help a lot of families and bring down the demand for homes in Canada...it will cool off the market a bit and help get our community back to where it should be," he said.
When asked how they would address climate change in the riding, each candidate had their own particular focus.
Davidson reiterated his commitment to the Lake Simcoe Clean-Up Fund, noting they are the only party with it on their platform.
"That cleanup fund helped with the planting of trees, helped farmers reduce phosphorus levels," he said.
Lotter said environmental stewardship is what is needed at the federal level.
"We need to be able to provide clean drinking water, our soil needs to be cleaned, we need clean air," he said, noting that Canada contributes less than two per cent of the world's CO2. "We need to go to the countries that producing 30 and 40 per cent of the CO2 emissions."
He says Canada can't be held to a standard that they cannot achieve while paying a tax (carbon) that is not "scrubbing the atmosphere for us."
Johnson noted the importance of climate change affecting our farmers and the agri-food sector.
"I will continue to listen to our local community members, our farmers and hear how we can better support you and I will continue to work towards our goal of net zero emissions by 2050, ending plastic waste and making the investment to fight climate change now."
Jenkins says he decided to run in the election after reading the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change, which he called "a fairly dire warning."
"We (the NDP) are going to do all we can to make sure Canada is under 60 per cent of emissions from its 2000 levels by 2030," he said. "We are going to protect 30 per cent of lands and waters within Canada within the next 10 years."
He said he would make sure the federal government would help get the Holland Marsh Phosphorus Recycling Facility project going to make sure Lake Simcoe stays healthy, and environmental protection plans are enforced and maintained, and increasing public transit.
Each candidate shared their plans for COVID recovery in York-Simcoe.
Davidson said the Conservatives plan to create 1 million jobs by introducing a job search plan to get Canadians back to work, as well as launch the Main Street tax credit of 25 per cent of up to $100,00 for small businesses over the next two years.
"We are going to support the hard-hit sectors of COVID-19 by eliminating the ever-increasing alcohol excise pack, encouraging Canadians to get out and dine," said Davidson. "We will provide Canadians with a 15 per cent tax credit for travel within Canada."
Lotter said the PPC plans to reopen the economy while protecting the vulnerable.
"We can't lockdown again," he said. "If we don't have paychecks coming in, we do not have money to pay for anything."
Johnson says the pandemic has affected us all and when it comes to COVID recovery, she has spoken to many small businesses in the region who are appreciative of the support programs they have received throughout the pandemic, such as the Canada Recovery Hiring Program and wage subsidies.
"We're facing a once in a generation crisis, so our recovery post-pandemic is very important, this is something that we are focused on because all of us have been affected in one way or another," she said.
Jenkins says Canada has been lucky to have subsidies like CERB which the NDP fought hard to get.
"Going forward into recovery, Canada's household debt is lower than it's ever been so we are in a good place but need to build on that by fighting climate change, and by providing affordable housing," he said. "We also have plans to expand public transit."
He says the NDP will make it easier for people to form and join unions, and give them a stronger seat in the collective bargaining unit to get members what they deserve.
The full pre-recorded sessions with all the questions and answers are now available to watch on the BBT website here.