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Candidates Square off at Cornwall Chamber Luncheon

Posted: September 21, 2015

(September 21, 2015)

By Greg Peerenboon, Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

About three dozen people, mostly business-types, were presented with a number of dishes to chew on during a Chamber of Commerce organized Q&A luncheon Monday at a Pitt Street eatery. Despite a preponderance of business-related issues, the spiciest item on the menu appeared to be health care, which incumbent Conservative MP Guy Lauzon cited as the second most important issue to voters he’s met on the campaign trail. Liberal candidate Bernadette Clement pounced on that ranking. “No matter what time of year, health care is the No. 1 issue,” Clement said, in her response to a question on whether pharma-care would be expanded, from luncheon guest Elaine MacDonald, who was representing the Ontario Health Coalition.

Neither Clement nor Lauzon would pledge to expand pharma-care, but both touted their parties’ health-care commitment. Lauzon claimed his governing party has increased funding for health care by 70% in nine years, but this money hasn’t been fully utilized by the provinces.”Only three per cent of (our) six per cent (increase) is going to health care,” he said, of the Ontario’s government’s use of health-care dollars.

Clement tried to lessen the effect of the Conservatives’ health-care funding by criticizing Stephen Harper’s lack of dialogue with provincial premiers. “We have a prime minister who doesn’t meet with the premiers until he is absolutely forced to do so.” Clement promised a Liberal government would at least meet with provincial counterparts over pharma-care. Green representative Elaine Kennedy, however, did promise that her party would provide a better pharma-care system.

“But we also believe we should invest in ways of keeping people healthy,” she said. The agri-food industry was also a topic when Lesley Lang, executive director of the Cornwall & Counties Community Futures Development Group, asked if they would support a recent report commissioned by the United Counties of SDG, titled Building on Agri-Food in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

None of them admitted to reading it, but welcomed a chance to utilize it as a way of improving agriculture.

Kennedy welcomed a chance to incorporate its findings to make local agriculture more sustainable.

Lauzon said agricultural endeavours are in “everyone’s best interest” because the economic spinoffs make a wide impact. Clement said local agri-businesses could use a boost to market their products to become more viable.

In terms of providing direct economic assistance, Clement touted the Liberals’ plan of injecting more money into infrastructure. “This is how we are differentiating ourselves,” she said, citing the Conservatives and New Democrats for not making new investments. “The big piece is our transportation, it’s important for our riding,” she said noting the dependence the distribution industry has on better roads and rail.

“All our transportation corridors and links have to be in good shape,” she said pointing to Highway 138 as an example. But Lauzon said various tax cuts by his government since 2005 have created wealth by creating 1.3 million net jobs.

“People don’t realize that,” he said, claiming federal taxes are at its lowest in 50 years. He said economic wealth, in turn, generates tax revenue for government services. Kennedy is also in favour of infrastructure investments, but with an eye on increasing efficiencies. New Democrat candidate Patrick Burger did not attend.

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