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article imageCanadian Trinity-Spadina debate heats up, crowd boos Conservative Special

By Andrew Moran     Apr 19, 2011 in Politics
Toronto - In a packed auditorium at the Harbourfront Community Centre in Toronto's waterfront, federal candidates debated for a seat representing the riding of Trinity-Spadina. New Democrat Member of Parliament Olivia Chow faced off against three opponents.
As New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton is campaigning nationally, his wife, Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, is defending her seat against tough competition in Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina riding.
The electoral district’s candidates include Liberal nominee Christine Innes, who was joined by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff last month in the city’s Chinatown area, Conservative federal candidate Gin Siow and Green Party contender Rachel Barney.
The debate was sponsored by the Bathurst Quay Neighbourhood Association (BQNA) and many of their questions had to do with the federal government’s involvement in the city of Toronto’s infrastructure spending, a national housing strategy, the federal government’s foreign policy and the future of the country’s healthcare system.
Infrastructure
Gin Siow began by stating that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the minority Conservative government’s Canada Economic Action Plan has benefited cities across the country and its residents because of low taxation, which, he noted, creates more jobs and strengthens economic growth.
He explained that if he becomes elected to represent Trinity-Spadina in the House of Commons then “your concern is my concern.”
The Liberal candidate immediately stated that no other party in the history of Canadian government has “delivered infrastructure spending more than the Liberals.” She added that the current infrastructure is “failing us.”
Innes said that transit riders have to wait for five streetcars to get to their point of destination. Instead of having a 25-year transit plan, Innes would work hard for a transit strategy and not just “shovels” and “photo-ops and signs.”
In the end, Innes said that she will be a “fierce advocate” for infrastructure spending in Trinity-Spadina and across the Greater Toronto Area.
The incumbent MP took a jab at both the current Conservative government and past Liberal governments by noting that public transit has been ignored for more than 20 years, including the city’s subway system, which is “not in good shape.”
Among the G8 and G20 nations, said Chow, Canada is the only one without a national public transit plan. The Toronto Transit Commission has been pushed by Chow to get five extra streetcars on King Street. She has also tabled a national transit strategy on the floor of the House of Commons.
The New Democratic Party’s initiative would include $240 million for infrastructure, which has been voted as the best plan among the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.
Rachel Barney discussed the city of Toronto’s fiscal imbalance “on needs and their own sources of revenues.” “It’s a systemic problem,” said the Green candidate. “We’re not a world class city without our own revenue.”
She added that the Green Party is encouraging drivers, cyclists and the rest of the city to take the lead when it comes to infrastructure. The federal government’s only involvement should be for its “deep pockets.”
Housing
In Friday’s Toronto Centre debates, a national housing programme was a huge issue for voters. On Tuesday, it was no different as the BQNA asked the candidates what their party would do to implement a national housing strategy and a federal co-op program.
Innes said that the Liberal Party has made key commitments to affordable housing, including money in the first year for approximately 500,000 houses. Furthermore, lack of affordable housing is a problem not only in Canada, but also in Trinity-Spadina.
“Prices are not affordable,” said Innes. “Different parts have different needs, but funds have to come back to this riding.”
Although the federal government should not be involved in a city’s infrastructure, Barney feels strongly that the federal government should get back into the issue of housing and create a partnership with municipalities.
Despite the paucity of political will, federal and city partnerships used to work successfully, noted Barney, and the Greens would put forth a superfund for houses.
The Conservative candidate claimed that the country has survived the recession due to the nation’s “strong banking industry.” The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, said Siow, was a key factor for the nation’s success.
However, Siow is concerned for the lack of accountability. If elected, Siow promised that he would make sure public organizations are held accountable and transparent for the taxpayers at hand.
The Harbourfront community is surrounded by numerous condominiums, two co-ops and Toronto Community Housing units, which has made the area beautiful “and it works,” said Chow.
One of the problems facing housing is the lack of co-ops currently being constructed. Chow claims this is due to the former Liberal government’s elimination of a national housing program. The New Democrat said that many seniors come up to her and say, “We are going to die waiting for affordable housing.”
Therefore, Chow pledges to bring back eco-energy initiatives and a national housing program in order to make Canada “known internationally for its mixed housing” accomplishments from the past and in the future.
Healthcare
The New Democratic Party was the first to introduce public healthcare in Canada so “healthcare is in the NDP’s DNA.” One promise made by the NDP is to train thousands of new doctors and nurses and add about 6,000 new training stations over five years.
Under the Liberal platform, said Chow, there are no plans to hire more doctors and not deliver healthcare services. If the NDP forms a minority government, they will implement their healthcare policies within 100 days, including a six percent increase investment in healthcare.
Once again, Chow said that healthcare is not in the Conservatives’ or Liberals’ platform, but it is talked about by the leaders and candidates. “We need to make sure that healthcare is public and prescription drugs are affordable,” said Chow. “If you can’t afford prescription medication, what good is it?”
Instead of entering the second phase of the Canada Economic Action Plan, said Siow – to a storm of boos due to his constant repetition of the same points – the NDP-Liberal-Bloc Quebecois coalition voted against the budget and opposed the “historic” investment in healthcare.
Although the Green Party has been identified with the environment in the past, the party has been attempting vehemently to be focused on the economy, healthcare and other important issues facing the nation.
“Harper is not involved in healthcare,” said Barney. “The Greens are committed to healthcare and to make sure that its basic principles are lived up to.”
Barney identified one of the key issues in Canada’s healthcare inefficiencies and that is we are facing a doctor and nurse shortage.
“We need a national pharmaceutical strategy – affordable for all Canadians.”
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow (L) and Liberal federal candidate Christine In...
New Democratic Party Member of Parliament Olivia Chow (L) and Liberal federal candidate Christine Innes.
Debate gets intense
It was reported in the Toronto Star last year that former Liberal Member of Parliament Tony Ianno, Innes’ husband, is facing allegations of illegal trading from the Ontario Securities Commission.
He was accused of manipulating the market for Covalon Technologies Ltd. – a medical biosystems company where he purchased 4 million common shares in 11 different accounts held at eight different brokerage firms.
An audience member asked Innes about this, who seemed quite perplexed by the question. The host of the event labeled the question as being a “personal attack,” but the questioner said it was all backed up by fact.
Despite being urged not to answer the question, Innes responded:
“First of all, I would like to get your name and address because I think you're making libelous allegations in there, but we'll deal with that afterwards,” said Innes. “This is a matter that is up to my husband and my husband alone. The defendant is my husband and my family too. My name is on the ballot, I have always been independent. I run on my reputation as a lawyer and a community advocate. I am appalled by the question; at least I know who is behind the anonymous tweets.”
Trinity-Spadina Riding
The federal electoral district runs from Dupont Street to Lake Shore Boulevard and from Dufferin Street to Yonge Street.
According to the latest census results, Trinity-Spadina has a population of 115,361. Most of the riding’s residents earn a modest middle income of $50,000. The riding has an unemployment rate of 6.7 percent.
Olivia Chow succeeded Liberal MP Tony Ianno in 2006, who served the district since 1993.
Be sure to continue following Digital Journal’s extensive Canada Election 2011 coverage.
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