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Candidates speak to climate change, flooding and why they want to be your MP

Moderator Evan Nash and candidates listen as PEC Mayor Steve Ferguson asks what they will do to help fight extreme high water levels.

Among a dozen local and national issue questions posed by citizens attending the federal all-candidates’ debate Monday night in Wellington, one wanted to know why each candidate wanted to be the Bay of Quinte riding member of parliament.

Incumbent Neil Ellis, the Liberal party candidate, noted his first political duty was in high school as president at Centennial Secondary. His second was over two terms on Belleville City Council.

“I realized, as Mayor of Belleville, that our communities are hurting and whether it’s social housing, whether it’s infrastructure, the Canadian government handled it. So I ran for federal government to get more infrastructure dollars here to make this community better. The other things are health care and climate change which are definitely things I am interested in. I feel that change at the local level has to be in Ottawa.”

“My whole life I’ve liked helping people,” said Paul Bordonaro, running with the new People’s Party of Canada. “When I do see something wrong I do get it changed. I think I can make a major contribution to this community and for all Canadians. I’ve always felt government works way too slow and perhaps this may be time that we tweak our system a little bit to move things ahead a little faster – like housing in this community where people on ODSP are paying market rents. They don’t have any money left after they pay rent.”

Danny Celovsky, Green party candidate, said the last thing he wants to be doing at age 61 is running for parliament.

“I’ve got kids and we discussed it over the Christmas holidays. They’re scared for their futures. The point is we haven’t been aggressive. Decade after decade the facts have been put on the table and they haven’t been addressed. So enough is enough. We have to address it. This is science, these are the facts. Our kids’ futures are at stake. The only way that I can do anything for them is to do this,” he said making note of the thousands of people – including many children – who participated in climate change rallies over the weekend. They’re scared. They’re going through life with a black cloud over their heads. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why I’m running.”

Stephanie Bell, the riding’s only female candidate, said she’s running for the NDP  party for many of the same reasons when she tried to get a seat on municipal council in 2014.

“At the time I was struggling to get work; I was struggling to live here. I moved between 2016 and 2017, four times. I was living a lot of the struggle of being young here – trying to afford housing, trying to afford my bills, trying to make it work and stay here. So I knew I needed to step up and have a voice for people struggling more than I was… I want to make sure that I keep talking about poverty and affordability and affordable housing because it is a systemic problem and we can’t let people suffer. We need to take care of one another. It makes us a stronger society at large.”

Conservative candidate Tim Durkin had declined attendance at the meeting hosted by the Wellington Rotary due to a previous commitment. However, he did make it to the Highline Hall before the end of the evening. There were about 100 people in attendance.

The issue of climate change and its effects was frequently referenced both in questions, and responses.

PEC Mayor Steve Ferguson, fresh from a meeting last week with regional municipal heads of government to create a joint statement asking for help with extreme water levels, wanted to know what the candidates would do to combat the forecast for continued extreme levels in spring 2020.

Ellis thanked Ferguson and the local heads of government for getting together to create the joint statement, and begin change.

“Plan 2014 has to be reviewed, or scrapped,” he said, noting he has written letters to three ministries, the Prime Minister, and asked the Minister of Climate Change to visit the riding to look at the damage. He also asked the International Joint Commission to release maximum flows this winter. If re-elected he plans to start an all-party caucus with all MPs whose ridings are affected by the flooding to “implement change because we can’t take any more flooding.”

Bordonaro said it’s another example of the government working too slow.

“I’ve felt this since I was 16 years old. I’m 66 years old. I’ve waited 50 years and it hasn’t changed. We elect people to do these things for us. We’re retired and we want to take it easy, relax. We don’t want to worry about a shoreline. I’d bug people until they get things done.”

Celovsky requested the dates of the next meeting Ferguson will attend with local heads of municipal governments noting he would be happy to attend, and bring other loud voices. If that didn’t work, he suggested litigation.

“We either go out there with a voice; become parties at that table or we have to use the judicial system to get it done. It’s unacceptable, and an urgent problem. 2020 is just around the corner.”

Bell made a call for public consultation on the complex issue, suggesting town halls so people could get together, get informed and make sure people who were affected are compensated.

“If there are people who are benefiting from this action they need to be held accountable for their actions because they are affecting our wetlands,” she said noting the party’s national freshwater strategy.

A citizen, noting an article referencing 500 scientists, asked what if climate change meteorologists and models are false?

“You may have 500 scientists but I’m pretty sure there are 5,000 more that are going to tell you climate change is real and all you’re going to get from me is climate change is happening and we have to take action. Denying it any further is wrong,” stated Bell, to full applause from the audience.

“If we’re wrong, we have a clean planet. If we’re right, we save our planet,” said Ellis, to more applause.

“Maxime Bernier said to me, climate change is real. He did say that. He just doesn’t want to be an alarmist,” said Bordonaro adding, “If I was Greta’s father, I’d say, ‘Greta, you’ve done a great job, I’ve got to take you home for a while. She’s too uptight!” The audience booed his response.

“If you were living in the Bahamas, you would certainly be believing in climate change right now,” said Celovsky, or the Amazon forest, the South Pacific Islands or Canadians in BC who cannot breathe in wild fire season. … 77 per cent of Canadians believe in climate change right now.”

Having listened to numerous things the candidates would do, Monica Alyea asked the candidates to name two things they would stop spending tax dollars on.

Celovsky listed pipelines and all fossil fuel subsidies.

Bell listed fossil fuels and not giving away hard-earned dollars to wealthy people and corporations; |”stopping them from being able to take their taxes and money out of the country, a huge drain on our ability to afford things we need.”

Ellis listed ending corporate welfare subsidization of companies that are not green tech; and agrees with stopping fossil fuel subsidies with consideration for indigenous diesel fuel on reserves.

Bordonaro spoke to dropping foreign aid, except for humanitarian aid and corporate welfare.

The meeting was the final public gathering in the County. All-candidates meetings continue in Quinte West Oct. 1 and Belleville Oct. 2.

Click here for coverage of the all-candidates’ meeting in Picton

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