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Central Nova candidates offer ideas

Betsy MacDonald (NDP), Sean Fraser (Liberal), George Canyon (Conservative) and Barry Randle (Green) participated in a candidates' forum hosted by the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce. Aaron Beswick
Betsy MacDonald (NDP), Sean Fraser (Liberal), George Canyon (Conservative) and Barry Randle (Green) participated in a candidates' forum hosted by the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce. Aaron Beswick - Corey LeBlanc

Antigonish Chamber of Commerce hosts breakfast forum

ANTIGONISH, N.S. —

Abortion, Northern Pulp and rural broadband access – Sept. 25’s candidates’ forum for Central Nova hosted by the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce didn’t skirt the issues.  

Incumbent Liberal Sean Fraser and Conservative George Canyon, according to polling, are in a neck-and-neck race for the historically blue riding.                

In their introductory statements the four participating candidates – Fraser, Canyon, Betsy MacDonald (NDP) and Barry Randle (Green) – all played the part one would expect in front of an  audience of small business owners.                

Fraser championed his government’s record of lowering the small business tax rate from 11 to nine per cent, investing in the twinning of Highway 104 from Sutherland’s River to Antigonish and local institutions like the Farmers Market.

Canyon, a Pictou County native and popular country musician, introduced himself to the crowd as a fellow small business person who had worked hard while raising a family and knew their struggles.                

Randle, who owns the Stone Soup Café with his wife Denise Davidson, warned that climate change needs urgent action and pointed to his party’s plans to reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by 60 per cent over the next 11 years and to net zero by 2050.                

MacDonald shared Randle’s concerns about the climate crisis and added the need to encourage more small scale farming and increase the purchasing power of low income people so they can better participate in the local economy.                

It was in the questions selected from the gallery that the hot button topics were addressed.                

Asked their position on abortion, the Green, Liberal and NDP candidates all agreed that the government should not limit access to it.                

Canyon was the only person to offer any hesitation in his response.                

“At the end of the day my personal opinions are not the issue,” said Canyon.                

“The issue is what are the opinions of the residents of Central Nova.”                

Asked his personal opinion after the forum, Canyon said he didn’t agree with abortion being used as a form of birth control.                

However, he added, that he shared leader Andrew Scheer’s position that Canada’s abortion laws are not something a Conservative government would seek to change.                

The candidates diverged further when asked what the impact of closing Northern Pulp would be.                

The Pictou County kraft pulp mill will shut on Jan. 31, 2020, unless the province provides it an extension to use the existing effluent treatment facility at Boat Harbour.                

“I’m against running a pipe into the strait and I’m against extending the Boat Harbour deadline,” said MacDonald.                

“Northern Pulp has had time to find a solution and that time is running out.”                

Randle added to that the need for an apology and compensation to be paid to the Pictou Landing First Nation, which were tricked by provincial officials a half century ago into accepting the effluent treatment facility beside their community.                

“What’s going on now is just posturing for the lawsuits that will follow,” said Randle.                

Canyon and Fraser, meanwhile, continue to refuse to take a position on whether the province should extend the Boat Harbour Act to allow the mill to continue operating while it builds a proposed replacement for the existing effluent treatment facility.                

“The job of a leader is to hear all sides,” said Canyon, noting he has met with fishermen, Northern Pulp pensioners, Pictou Landing Chief Andrea Paul and mill workers.                

“… The extension of Boat Harbour is in the premier’s hands right now.”                

For his part Fraser said his “priority is to ensure the marine environment is not put in the path of irreparable harm.”                

While the federal environment minister has sought a second opinion from the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada on whether to require a longer federal review of the proposed project, Fraser said it was unlikely a decision would be made on that before the Oct. 21 election.                

Not participating in the forum were People’s Party candidate Al Muir and Communist Party Candidate Chris Frazer, a history professor at St. Francis Xavier University.                

“It’s clear they wanted the candidates they presume have actually a chance of winning the election,” said Frazer, who was not yet a registered candidate when the forum was being organized.                

“I get it. But there’s ideas I could have brought that would have had interest.”

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