Sarnia-Lambton federal candidates participate in virtual forum

Virtual forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Sarnia and the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce. Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

A variety of local issues surrounding workforce, mental health, and homelessness were discussed during a virtual forum that involved five of the six Sarnia-Lambton candidates campaigning in the 2021 Federal Election.

The Rotary Club of Sarnia and the Sarnia-Lambton Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual all-candidates discussion Tuesday afternoon, moderated by Mike Elliott.

Participants included incumbent Marilyn Gladu of the Conservative Party of Canada, New Democratic Party of Canada candidate Adam Kilner, Liberal Party of Canada candidate Lois Nantais, Green Party of Canada candidate Stefanie Bunko, and People’s Party of Canada candidate Brian Everaert. Christian Heritage Party of Canada candidate Tom Laird did not attend the virtual meeting.

Jabs were made early on in the discussion through opening remarks as Nantais pointed to Gladu’s past recommendation to reopen the border at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic while Gladu accused the Liberal party of not having a plan in place post-pandemic.

Everaert called on all candidates during the forum. During each question, he mentioned his opposition to the province’s COVID-19 vaccination certificate system and concerns about employers implementing mandatory vaccine policies.

The first question asked candidates what their biggest priority was for the riding and how the issue would be addressed. Through random selection, Kilner answered first by stating there are a number of issues that need to be addressed, including mental health and personal freedoms.

“You heard the Member of Parliament speak about people’s religious freedoms and I strongly disagree as a United Church minister, I don’t think people’s religious freedoms have been infringed on in any way shape or form,” said Kilner. “I think people’s human rights have been infringed upon and I think we need to address that through banning conversion therapy as soon as possible … Banning conversion therapy is also choosing to support people’s mental health.”

Gladu referenced mental health supports during a separate question which dealt with addressing homelessness.

“The Conservatives will infuse money into our healthcare system and into our mental health, especially to move people into addiction recovery and make sure that we have more available, more affordable mental health supports, even by encouraging employers to have those programs,” she said. “We’ll also reintroduce the housing first program.”

Gladu also said there are many facets to the affordable housing crisis, adding there needs to be more diverse supply.

Nantais said issues surrounding affordable housing and homelessness have been long-standing problems that have gone unaddressed in Sarnia-Lambton.

“Housing was the issue that the Liberal Party led with during this election period because it is such a critical component to people’s wellbeing,” said Nantais. “When it comes to a Conservative platform, it’s hypocritical to say that the Liberals spend too much money and yet will turn and give supplements to those individuals who require additional services. You can’t have it both ways.”

Another question during the forum focused on job creation. Green Party candidate Bunko said there appears to be a mix of available positions requiring skilled workers and trained workers having difficulty returning to their jobs over pay and safety concerns.

“We need to be able to take away those insecurities of both their safety and also their worth,” said Bunko. “I’ve worked two minimum [wage] jobs just to be able to feed my two boys so I totally get where a lot of these people are coming from. That’s why we are supporting more of a universal guaranteed income to ensure that everyone is treated equitably.”

One question focused on Paris Climate Accord targets and what programs will be put in place to support Canadians making a shift.

PPC candidate Everaert accused all the other parties of having the same plan, adding that the PPC want to pull out of the agreement.

“The Paris Accord is dictated by groups in the United Nations to meet targets. We don’t want anybody making Canada’s decisions, we’re pulling out,” said Everaert. “Those targets are unattainable and they’re all under the UN blanket of control of what Canadians do.”

The 2021 Federal Election will be held on September 20. Voters should receive an information card by September 10.

Meantime, the Lambton Federation of Agriculture is hosting an in-person all candidates forum at the Brigden Fair on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Those who didn’t preregister ahead of time may be able to attend depending on capacity limits in the administration building. Contact information will be collected at the door.

Candidate profiles for the riding of Sarnia-Lambton can be found on our website.