CKL federal candidates discuss local concerns, funding

CLK federal candidates roundtable discussion. October 8, 2019. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

Candidates campaigning in the 2019 federal election are in the homestretch, as election day is less than two weeks away.

There are six candidates campaigning in the riding of Chatham-Kent-Leamington. Conservative candidate Dave Epp, Liberal candidate Katie Omstead, NDP candidate Tony Walsh, Green Party candidate Mark Vercouteren, and People’s Party candidate John Balagtas took part in a roundtable discussion with Blackburn News, which aired on Country 92.9 FM on Thursday evening.

The candidates answered questions that ranged from environmental concerns, infrastructure funding, agricultural spending, and the economy.

When asked how each party would address the deficit, NDP candidate Tony Walsh said their party aims to “stop the corporate handouts”.

“When it comes to taxation in our revenues, right now the richest are using loopholes and havens to evade their taxes and the regular people are paying the price,” said Walsh. “The NDP’s plan is to introduce a one per cent wealth tax for those with a net worth of over $20-million. We want to get rid of the tax loopholes for the richest and increase taxes on investments and profits of large corporations. We need to get tough on tax evasion.”

Green Party candidate Mark Vercouteren echoed the message of going “after the wealthy”.

“We’re also going to end offshore tax dodging by taxing funds hidden in offshore havens, requiring companies to prove that foreign affiliates are actually functioning businesses for tax purposes,” said Vercouteren. “Also, I believe it’s time to go after the big companies that have been coming in and taking our media… Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, they’ve pretty much been operating tax-free and we think it’s time to end that.”

When speaking to the topic of environment, Liberal candidate Katie Omstead spoke to what the Liberals have done while in office and the party’s commitment moving forward, in regards to planting more trees.

“Both Essex County and Chatham-Kent have very low tree coverage in all of Ontario. The Liberal government has done a lot for the environment in the past four years,” said Omstead. “But the thing that excited me most regarding trees, in particular, is the commitment in the platform to planting two billion trees across Canada. This is a huge commitment and this is something I would fight for on a local level to ensure that all across this riding, in every community, we get our fair share of those trees.”

In regards to flooding and erosion concerns within the riding, People’s Party candidate John Balagtas said this is a problem caused by a lack of infrastructure funding.

“Studies have to be done on how to properly handle these things,” said Balagtas. “Maybe we can look at other countries that are suffering from this type of problem with regards to water erosion so that we can learn from them and maybe put that same technology here to help those people. Definitely we have to put the amount of funding necessary to be able to do that.”

In the meantime, a question from the mayor of Chatham-Kent was in regards to infrastructure funding that flows down to the other tiers of government. Conservative candidate Dave Epp agreed that infrastructure funding has not “been coming here”.

“Often the federal government comes along as an agency or as a funder with direction with requests of recommendations from lower levels,” said Epp. “Certainly as your member of Parliament, taking those recommendations, those projects that are needed here is a fight that I will take to Ottawa — recognizing of course that we are a broad country and the federal government, the principals that would be invested here apply across the whole country.”

Below is a link to listen to the entire roundtable discussion, which aired on Country 92.9 FM / 630 AM. The sixth candidate named within the Chatham-Kent-Leamington riding is Paul Coulbeck of the Marijuana Party.

Election day is on Monday, October 21. Voting details can be found by clicking, here.