As expected, last Sunday’s candidates’ debate provided its audience with more than a few clues as to who will eventually lead the nation following next October’s election. As usual, the debate was one of the Westmount’s Municipal Association’s signature events during which members and volunteers had to set up more chairs in order to accommodate the after-dinner crowd that showed up for the debate in Westmount’s venerable Victoria Hall. Moderated by Suburban editor Beryl Wajsman, the candidates were given a two-minute window to introduce themselves after which they were all given the chance to answer the WMA’s four initial questions before the evening’s much-anticipated Q&A session. When asked about what they considered to be both their personal as well as party ‘brands’, the Green Party’s Robert Green earned some easy laughs when he used both his name and his party’s name to his advantage. Other candidates used the opportunity as a chance to set the tone for the rest of the evening as Conservative Party candidate Neil Drabkin and Franklin Gertler, the NDP’s candidate, began to attack both the Liberal government’s record and its leader – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While Gertler stressed that the NDP was the party “...for the people, not the corporations,” Drabkin’s sharp attack quickly made the shift to the political as he began to denounce Prime Minister Trudeau as both a “...hypocrite and a fraud.”
As he is already known to be one of the more competent ministers in the Liberal cabinet, Transport Minister Marc Garneau inferred that he wasn’t much worried about Drabkin’s attacks as he began to cite what the Trudeau administration has already done over the past four years. Aside from his own experience as a cabinet minister, Garneau said that “...Justin Trudeau is the most progressive Prime Minister Canada ever had.” A further question about tax rates opened up a new discussion that did a lot to outline what the candidates thought about the nation’s economy. As the PPC’s (People’s Party of Canada) candidate, Andre Valiquette proposed a classic libertarian’s view of the economy as he cited a number of budget proposals – mostly budget reductions.While Garneau spoke about the delicate balance between a healthy economy and a sustainable environment, Drabkin hammered away at the pipeline issue that’s forcing the entire nation to make a multi-billion dollar decision about the future of the nation’s energy sector and the pipelines required to ship its product to market.
“That’s how we raise the revenue to pay for schools, hospitals and other services,” he said.
As questions about the environment began to dominate the debate, Green came into his own when he demonstrated that he was one of the party’s rare candidates who could discuss public policy beyond the usual ‘feel good’ sentiment that tends to define the environment debate. Aside from taking a few free-wheeling swipes at the Liberals for their long-standing arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Green went on to speak about the need for a ‘transition’ economy that would eventually free the nation from its dependence upon fossil fuel for its energy.