Virtual All Candidates Forum may be among the most successful ever
Tim Brody - Editor
Election Day, September 20, is right around the corner. To better inform voters in the Sioux Lookout area and help them decide which Kenora riding candidate to support, two Sioux Lookout residents, Anne Saltel and Dick MacKenzie, stepped up to the plate and organized an All Candidates Forum on Sept. 10 via Zoom, which was attended by all five candidates vying for your vote.
Kenora riding candidates are David Bruno - Liberal Party of Canada, Remi Rheault - Green Party of Canada, Craig Martin - People’s Party of Canada, Incumbent Eric Melillo - Conservative Party of Canada, and Janine Seymour - New Democratic Party.
MacKenzie, who moderated the forum, gave candidates three minutes to make opening and three minutes to make closing remarks. Community members had been given an opportunity to send in questions in advance, which MacKenzie posed to candidates, or, if the questioner was online, they presented their question. The order for opening remarks, answering of questions, and closing remarks was determined randomly and each candidate had an opportunity to respond, even if the question was directed at one candidate.
Candidates were not privy to any of the questions ahead of the forum.
Questions included how parties would close the gap between graduation rates of Indigenous high school students and other high school students across Canada, how people could trust candidates to make hard decision for their constituents and not vote along party lines, the opinions of candidates on the proposed nuclear waste repository in Ignace, how candidates would work to make the September 30 National Day of Truth and Reconciliation a statutory holiday across all provinces and jurisdictions, what their plans might be to address and support holistic treatment and chronic substance abuse issues and homelessness in our area and what their party plans to put into action that will effectively reduce violent crime.
Candidates responses can be viewed at https://youtu.be/bwHeEWhx-y8.
Questions are posed at timecodes: 18:30, 30, 41:47, 51:55, 103:17, 112:40, 123, 125:30, and 131:42.
Conservative Party of Canada candidate, Incumbent Eric Melillo, said he hoped to be re-elected to work to secure an economic recovery for Northwestern Ontario.
“I believe this election is about who we trust to guide our post-pandemic recovery and a Conservative Government will provide support to hard hit sectors like tourism and hospitality and support the forestry and mining industries that are so important to Northwestern Ontario.
“We’ll make historic investments in addictions and mental health treatments, create more housing units to help solve the affordable housing crisis and work with all Indigenous communities to advance reconciliation, including a commitment to ending all long-term drinking water advisories. We will also support the rights of law-abiding firearms owners that have been demonized by the Liberal government and replace the arbitrary ban on certain firearms with a rigorous, transparent review of firearms classification that takes the politics out of the issue and ensures that we are making decisions based on facts, not political talking points. I’m also proud that a Conservative Government will deliver high speed Internet to every household in the country by 2025, or otherwise by the end of a Conservative majority mandate and we will double health transfers to the provinces from three to six per cent, adding over $60 billion to the healthcare system.”
Green Party of Canada candidate Remi Rheault said he was here to represent constituents.
“I’m here to share what your issues are – we already know the majority of them, and it’s time for real change in how we do politics. It’s time for real change in how government is run. Green Parties are very, very strong. They’re bold, they’re aggressive towards climate change. We need to save the planet for the next seven generations. We need to leave a legacy behind that is going to be worthwhile for people to actually want to progress and be prosperous. There’s things that can be done. There’s mental health issues, and that all comes back to we are all connected by one common element; Mother Earth connects us all. Every issue, everything we do, we always end up with a reaction, or we end up with positive feelings. We don’t need any more consequences in our life, we need to simplify it and we need to get back to basics on how humanity needs to join together and live as one. Let’s get connected to Mother Earth, let’s tackle these issues head on. Yes, it will take funding, yes it will create jobs, yes it will turn around and make a better living environment for everyone, yes better relationships between the First Peoples of Turtle Island and the government, go back to our original governance of clans and tribal systems, and having to work side by side with the government. We need to listen to our Elders and our knowledge keepers. They have the secrets to everything. It has been passed down from generation to generation to generation. Now it’s time for letting them teach and for us to learn.”
New Democratic Party candidate Janine Seymour shared, “What’s on the line here is we’ve been in this for 150 years with two main parties and with the pandemic forcing everybody to stop in their tracks and evaluate a lot of things with their life, I think that we are emerging with a new burning desire for change and I’m excited to be part of that. I’m a lawyer here in Kenora. I was born and raised in Rat Portage, that’s a reserve just out of the town limits here. And that experience and a lot of the stuff that happened as I was growing up really impacted me in my life. And so my journey to become a lawyer wasn’t linear, I went a long way and dropped out of high school and was serving, waitressing and supporting myself and it was quite the trek, but I have a wealth of experience from that and I wouldn’t change any track of my life for the world and I’m so fortunate because that’s led me to have the really unique skillset and tools to do the job here. And it’s a big job because what we’re doing is we’re trying to come together and why we’re trying to come together is what Remi is talking about when he’s speaking in our traditional ways. We all want a healthy economy, ecosystem, everything, and how that relates to one another.”
Liberal Party of Canada candidate David Bruno shared, “I was born here and I love it here. It’s sacred lands and as Janine mentioned, its spirits as well and I recognize that we are on traditional ceremonial land of Treaties 3, 5 and 9. I’m proud to have been born here in the northwest and I’m proud of my own family heritage as well…one of the people that most inspired me in my life has been my own mother and who is herself a force of nature. What I’ve learned from her is respect for women, their voices and what they bring to the table of course. Her charitable work over the years has inspired me as well and I want to give back to the community in the same way she has.
“I believe I have much expertise and skillsets to bring to the table. To give you a little bit more of a background, I have academic degrees from both Canada and Europe. I served in the Canadian military as a young officer. I’m fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian and I’m currently learning more of our Indigenous language as well. As an expert in cyber-security, which is my career, I’ve been involved with the federal government now for many years acting as a policy consultant and I have ongoing relationships with many cabinet ministers…So I have a lot of great ideas also on how we can improve this riding, so let’s start with healthcare. I want to bring needed resources our way. Although I know this is primarily a provincial matter, it will be my objective to bring federal funds to help our local issues of mental health, seniors care, and to bring us more doctors and healthcare workers. Another issue that’s close to my heart of course is climate change. I don’t have to reiterate to you the devastation we’ve experienced this year alone. So, I want to help in this battle. For example, I want to make sure that we get many of the new…firefighters as promised by the Prime Minister. To the Indigenous people of our region, I also want your communities to administer strong self-governance as well. I’ve already added my voice in support of the possible creation of a new and direct national Indigenous administration.”
People’s Party of Canada candidate Craig Martin shared, “It’s a Canada-wide party. We’re running in 312 ridings. We’re made up of people from all across Canada from different walks of life, business owners, business professionals, engineers, mothers, church goers, and represent the country from the people that live in this country. We’re being over governed by the corporations with lobbyists and special interests taking up a great deal of the resources of this country. Our party is going to go to Ottawa and we are going to put the money back in the people’s hands. We’re going to cut spending, we’ll cut corporate welfare, we’ll cut donations that go overseas and get wasted to billionaires’ corporations along the way. We are for freedom for our firearms and we’ll repeal recent legislation as soon as we get into power and allow people who have purchased firearms legally to own them legally and responsibly to maintain their firearms. Up in the north we take gun ownership very seriously. We are careful with our guns. Crime in Canada that is committed with guns is committed by criminals. People who are registered firearms owners tend not to commit firearms offences. We are also going to take care of the old and the elderly. We’re going to up social security by 10 per cent to take care of the rampant inflation that’s been caused over the last year. It has hit 17 per cent. I know their estimates are lower but it’s a simple mathematical equation that can only lead to 17 per cent and we can see it in the grocery shelves, we can see it when we gas up, and it’s certainly well above 17 per cent if you need to buy any lumber. First and foremost, our party is for the restoration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We want to restore that as soon as possible.”
Saltel shared after the forum, “I organize these forums because I am curious how the candidates perform under pressure. Questions are posed from the audience and the candidates need to respond on a variety of issues without seeing then first. It is always nice to hear and see how a potential MP responds when put on the spot.”
She said approximately 40 people took in the forum as it happened, adding that there were too many questions submitted to have them all answered in the allotted two-hour timeframe.
“People sent us messages that they were happy to attend,” she said.
McKenzie shared, “At one time service clubs and business associations jumped at the chance to host campaign forums but for some reason they stopped doing that and Sioux Lookouters were left looking at elections through the eyes of other communities. One year when our town was facing another dry election run Nadine Arpin asked if there was any reason she and I couldn’t organize and host a forum? There was no reason not to, so we just went ahead and did it. In the years since, Anne Saltel and I have collaborated to organize and host numerous forums... municipal, provincial, and federal. This year we tried using Zoom for the forum, because of Covid restrictions. It was a brand new effort for both of us and for a lot of the audience, but it may be among the most successful ever by the time our recorded video of the session gets onto YouTube and is viewed by those who weren’t included on the original call in.”
Speaking to the number of questions sent to him and Saltel to pose to the candidates, MacKenzie said, “As always, we were swamped with questions for the candidates and didn’t have time to use all of them.”
He added, “Almost all the feedback is positive. Many people ask why we do it and I always think of Susan Hochstedler’s answer to herself when she asked why somebody didn’t clean up the trash and litter on our town streets. Looking herself in the eye she exclaimed, “I’m a somebody.” And ever since she and Bill have spent a few hours every week faithfully cleaning up clutter on our streets. Anne and I wait at each election for somebody to step forward to organize a candidates forum. When it doesn’t
happen we shrug and say to ourselves, “We’re somebodies.”