Recap: NDG–Westmount Federal Candidates Debate at Loyola

A debate has possibly never been so cordial.

Concordia students, faculty and local residents gathered in the CJ building on Monday to hear four federal candidates discuss their parties’ platforms on affordable housing, feminism and youth employment.

The panel consisted of Conservative candidate Richard Sagala and NDP candidate James Hughes, both running in the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce–Westmount riding. David Cox stood in for NDG-Westmount Green Party candidate Melissa Kate Wheeler and Liberal Party candidate Anthony Housefather from the Mount-Royal riding was present instead of Liberal MP Marc Garneau.

Candidates spoke for over an hour about contentious issues and politics discussed during the extended campaign—all the while complimenting each other.

Video by Sarah Dimmock

Below are summaries of what each candidate said.

Anthony Housefather—Liberal (Mount-Royal)

Housefather contested popular assertions that Justin Trudeau is too young and inexperienced for the job of Prime Minister of Canada.

“The idea that age makes somebody not ready is simply appalling. He has a vision and he has a resolutely positive message and I think that’s what we need in Canada” he said.

Housefather has served as the Mayor of Côte-Saint-Luc since 2005 and has an MBA from Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.

Housefather announced the Liberals’ plan to increase infrastructure and social housing spending from $65 billion to $125 billion.

“We have a growing senior population. We have a growing population of working poor. We need to increase the social housing units,” he said. “The Liberal Party is absolutely committed to doing that.”

On the issue of niqabs, Housefather considered them a distraction from the “important Canadian issues at hand.” He accused the Conservatives of “shutting these women out” of the Canadian citizenship process by not allowing them to wear a niqab when taking the oath of citizenship.

“In my view as an attorney, this is a violation of our Charter of Rights,” he said.

Housefather announced his party’s plan to create 120,000 jobs through the Liberals’ infrastructure program and by “investing $2.8 billion in youth.” As an individual candidate, he plans to create jobs by investing in job banks and “getting private employers together.”

Richard Sagala—Conservatives (NDG-Westmount)

”A national election is not a popularity contest,” he began. “Our management is sound, our social programs have been preserved, and we have lowered taxes for hard working Canadians and delivered significant new benefits directly to Canadian families.”

Sagala is a businessman and founder of École In Vino Veritas, which specializes in wine trade.

Sagala addressed the issue of niqabs and defended the Conservative Party’s position on women having to remove the niqab when swearing into Canadian citizenship.

“We said it in the first 100 days. If elected we will pass a law making it mandatory to uncover yourself taking the oath (of Canadian citizenship),” he said.

When asked about his party’s intention on creating jobs for the youth, Sagala stated the importance of entrepreneurship. He believed that it is not the government’s role to create jobs, but to provide services to help citizens develop their own businesses and encourage independence in the youth.

“Entrepreneurship empowers you,” he said.

Sagala also expressed his belief in empowering women through entrepreneurship.

James Hughes—NDP (NDG-Westmount)

Hughes explained the country’s need for repair by referencing issues with the Conservative anti-terrorism law Bill C-51 and Bill C-24, which gives the government the right to revoke Canadian citizenship of dual-citizens convicted of terrorism. He explained the need to “re-regulate our environment” and “return the country to a sense of self.”

The candidate says the federal government needs to renew payments to social housing, which has been wiped out over the years. Hughes is the former head of Quebec’s largest homeless shelter, the Old Brewery Mission and deputy minister of Social Development in New Brunswick.

The NDP hopes to renew social housing agreements with the provinces and stabilise the social housing stocks that they currently possess. Hughes said that the next step would be to build new and affordable social housing units across the country.

Hughes explained the NDP’s plan to tackle youth unemployment, saying 13 per cent of young people in Canada are struggling to find work.

“Ultimately, the NDP believes that this is a big issue. It is a personal passion of mine. We have a really exciting set of programs to help young people.”

The NDP hopes to create 40,000 thousand opportunities in the job market including internships and apprenticeships.

In regards to women’s rights, Hughes pointed out that nearly 50 per cent of NDP candidates are women. The party also intends, if elected, to launch an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, and reinstate funding to women’s shelters across the country.

David Cox —Green Party (La Pointe-de-l’Île)

Cox, an environmentalist, introduces his party as one that allows him to “do something for [his] children’s future.”

“Right now, at this point in history, there are so many generations that could work together to make a better future,” he said. “Led by the youth and the wisdom of the elders that we have in our society, we can advance in a proper way.”

He explained Canada’s need for “not a change but a shift.” He outlined the necessary participation of youth in this election and their jobs as watchmen to improve the state of the country.
Cox highlighted that the Green Party was not a “one issue party.”

“We want to build an economy as well, just one that doesn’t rely on polluting the earth,” he said.

In regards to social housing, the Green Party focuses more on creating a livable minimum wage.

“It’s a big idea and an expensive idea, but diverting funds from old technology and old fossil fuel resources and giving it back to the people is what we’re all about,” he said.

Cox criticised the Conservatives’ Venture Capital Pilot Program which allows foreign investors to buy up condos and increase prices to what he called “ridiculous” levels.

Cox addressed the importance of banning unpaid internships calling then “unfair” to youth and outlined the prevalence of “youth poverty.”

“Those who are suffering need support and that’s what the federal government is for,” he said.