About to start live blogging the Ottawa Centre all candidates meeting at Carleton University. First one in this riding that has featured six candidates. Stuart Ryan (Communist party), Damian Konstantinakos (Conservative party), Tom Milroy (Green party), Catherine McKenna (Liberal party), Dean T. Harris (Libertarian party) and Paul Dewar (NDP) all in attendance. Moderator is Canadian author and journalist Lawrence Martin.
First Question is to incumbent Paul Dewar about tuition expenses. His mic cuts out, good thing he can project his voice. "Everyone has to chip in. We have to raise corporate taxes from 15 to 17 percent for better schools and lower tuition. it's about providing a future for young people. We have to invest in long-term permanent employment for young people in the public service."
Moderator asks who wants to jump in and here comes Catherine McKenna, echoing Dewar's thoughts about education and supplying students with decent jobs and combating underemployment, before turning on both major opposition parties: "The Conservatives are quite happy with the status quo and the NDP aren't investing enough."
Conservative Damian Konstantinakos takes the other stand, arguing that there's no need to tax corporations, as that will just hurt employers and lessen jobs. He does, however, admit that we need lower tuition. He takes shots at Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty and their records.
Communist candidate Stuart Ryan, who works at Carleton, fights for the elimination of loans with grants talking their place. He blames the other parties for the hikes in tuition. Konstantinakos shakes his head at every word. Expect that trend to continue.
Green candidate Tom Milroy pledges free tuition that "may take a few years" and reduced student debt.
Libertarian Dean T.Harris wants to see "basic personal exemption increased by 50 percent." This is his first debate in the riding and his vulnerability is both apparent and cute.
Konstantinakos is an engineer and when he's asked a question about research and development in schools, he runs with it, noting his party's record for increasing technology education. He insists balancing the books is key. Dewar counters with "This government's strategy on research and development is an absolute disaster." Yeah, this should get interesting very quickly. Konstantinakos gets a chance to respond after McKenna and Milroy follow Dewar's lead and rake him over the coals. He once again takes a shot at Ontario's provincial green jobs record and talks up the rewards of a safe economy.
How do you stop violence against women?
"Change attitudes," says McKenna. "I went to Catholic school and in the Catholic Church, it was difficult to have that discussion. I don't want to lay this at the door of the Catholic Church, but attitudes really matter. There aren't enough resources for women who are abused and that has to change."
"I have a ten-month old daughter and when I look at her I want her to stay safe forever," Konstantinakos points out that it's nice to have a topic on which everyone on the stand can agree with when asked about violence against women. He toes the Conservative line on being tough in crime but it works with the urgency that he has in his voice. His leader could learn something in the way Konstantinakos humanizes himself.
Dewar believes that we only talk about sexual assault issues after they happen, and it's far too late. McKenna agrees, taking on the issues that today's women face on university campuses: "We need to have a serious discussion on what consent means. I have two girls, I don't want to have this conversation when they're in university."
The question moves to Aboriginal rights and Milroy goes after the Conservatives, but does it politely: "With all due respect to Damian, the Conservative party has done absolutely nothing to assist First Nations. What better way to reintroduce them than to take up the recommendations made by the reconciliation committee?"
"I know my colleagues on the far left will come after me for this, but it's a myth that we've done nothing for First Nations," replies Konstantinakos. "This is something that has been critically important to us." No one is buying it on the stand and he only gets small smatters of applause from the crowd.
"I will say that Damian says things with such passion, you'd almost think they are true," responds McKenna. "The Conservatives haven't put in one, ONE reconciliation for First Nations. You blew it, you BLEW it." She outlines four key initiatives the Liberals would go after: holding an inquiry into missing women, education for aboriginals, aboriginal housing and universities requiring all students to take a course on aboriginal issues. Big middle-of-speech clap.
Carleton alumnus and Marijuana party candidate John Andrew Akpata gets the first audience question. "How many plants can I grow?"
Harris: "I'm sure John and I aren't the only ones here who have inhaled." Milroy chuckles heavily.
Damian joins: "You're by far the best debater in this riding and I wish you were up here. But, it stinks, and I don't want to smell it when I'm walking around with my kids." He talks about the increase in deaths in Colorado to small children by accidental dosage. "You're getting every ounce you want, John, come on."
Everyone's waiting for McKenna's stance and she doesn't back down, assuring the crowd that she was proud of Justin Trudeau's early stance on marijuana and that he was the first major party leader to talk that stance. She wants to take the drug out of the hands of criminals and take the danger away from it. Konstantinakos badgers her, eliciting a heavy response from McKenna: "You can't keep talking about these dangerous criminals, they aren't the ones doing the drug."
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is brought up. Dewar and the NDP support Palestine's status as an observer of the UN. Konstantinakos speaks sternly about the people of Israel facing extinction. He gets booed. McKenna jumps in and calls for an independent Palestine, but moves away from the issue by assaulting the Conservatives and their foreign policy. This is an issue that could have potentially pulled candidates (especially McKenna), away from the party line, but they don't take the bait.
Caroline, a high school student moves the discussion back to helping women against violence while pushing the Conservatives against their tough-on-crime policy, implying that it only hurts education on the issue. "If the monster who had killed those three women last week was kept in jail, he wouldn't have been able to commit the crime," says Konstantinakos. "If you commit these crimes, you will stay in jail as long as we can keep you there."
Someone from the crowd yells "MANSPLAINING"
There's one more question from the crowd, and the long line waiting is disappointed. The question is a two-word answer from every candidate asking who their second choice would be. Milroy is trotted out first and says "Well, I know who my third choice would be, it'd be me. My second choice would be Mr.Paul Dewar."
Konstantinakos: "Only because it would be exciting to watch him in parliament, John Akpata. You got one, man."
Ryan: "With the NDP going so far right-wing, I'd still vote for Paul Dewar second.
Dewar talks about McKenna's fantastic work abroad but takes the chance to talk about democratic reform and says he's split between McKenna and Milroy.
Harris goes for John, giving him two votes.
McKenna has the final say and she "makes her votes based on policy." She lends her second vote to the Green party.
Closing statements finish the meeting off. Stuart Ryan says they'll be with anyone who votes Communist and will be contacting them afterwards.
Konstantinakos talks about a government that will get out of people's way. In this riding, it just doesn't seem like that message is going to stick. It's one of the most politically-educated ridings in the country.
"Green is an attitude," says Tom Milroy. "It means looking at the longer view. it's 'How will it effect us 20-30-40 years down the road." Milroy thinks we're doing the same thing and our commitment to a fossil fuel economy will bury Canada. He seeks to bring dignity and discussion back to Parliament.
"For everyone who believes like me that we desperately need to have a change in government, there's a real choice." She tries to broaden the gap between the Liberals and the NDP. In a debate that has seen McKenna fire on every chance she's had, the aggressive approach was a good call in a key demographic that won't be voting for the Tories but could be split between her and the NDP.
Dean Harris: "You own your life, no one else can tell you how to live. Other parties believe it's their right to tax you whatever they want. I think most of us live like Libertarians in their personal lives." Harris has passion and the crowd gives him applause.
Dewar closes it out. He mentions C-51 and gets a massive cheer for being the only official party that has set their sights on cancelling it. He talks about corporate tax hikes and wants to kickstart the economy immediately with affordable housing. "We're going to go to Paris with a real plan to fight climate change, you can count on it," he bellows to an appreciative crowd.
Martin wishes all parties the best of luck and everyone makes a beeline for the stage to further pepper the candidates.