WELCOME! Tonight I'll be covering FIGHT NIGHT: Ottawa-Centre's All Candidates Debate at Carleton University. The program tonight is expected to feature all candidates in the Ottawa-Centre riding, including incumbent NDP Paul Dewar, Liberal Catherine McKenna, Conservative Damian Konstantinakos and Tom Milroy of the Green Party.The debate is also expected to feature two distinct underdogs: Dean T. Harris of the Libertarian party and Stuart Ryan of the Communist party. According to most recent polls, NDP Dewar is seen as a heavy favourite in the riding, but Liberal McKenna is gaining ground.
Just spoke with Catherine McKenna. After a brief debate, we've decided tonight's OFFICIAL Twitter hashtag will be #FightNight. The technological revolution is here, people.
Moderator David Akin of Sun Media introduces the debate. Each candidate will now present their opening statements.
Stuart Ryan (Communist party) is the first candidate to give an opening statement. Due to other commitments, he'll only be sticking around for the opening statements.
Ryan outlined his party's platform. Biggest concerns are finding full time work for youth, and eliminating student debt and tuition. Dean T. Harris (Libertarian) up next.
Harris says he wants to crack down on unjust crime laws and repeal Bill C-51. Due to the debate's format, he won't be able to take part in discussions.
All main candidates (right to left) Dewar, McKenna, Milroy, Konstantinakos talk about their past and outline their party platform. All say they are looking to the future and stress that students and youth alike must take part by voting in the upcoming election.
First question comes from a student asking about finding work. Dewar stresses his belief in "cracking down" on unpaid internships and raising minimum wage to $15 per hour. Konstantinakos, next to speak, wants to invest in technology and create a "job friendly market" by doing so. McKenna says she wants to invest in creating jobs, especially for youth: "we need to invest now. We need to invest in jobs for young people." Milroy, last to speak, agrees with NDP's crackdown on unpaid internships. He also wants to start creating jobs in "clean industry." Now let's get to some open discussion...
"I know how much I paid for my tuition. I paid $1,200," says Dewar. Dead silence throughout the room. Pretty sure I just heard a few jaws hitting the floor.
"Right now we need to invest in you guys... we need to do it now, not five years down the road," says McKenna. She receives a warm applause from the crowd which, from the looks of it, is packed with students.
There's lots of debate and disagreement already in this first round. It's clear that this contest for the riding carries lots and lots of heat. Each candidate's responses have been met by warm applause from the crowd.
Next question is regarding the homeless. "It boggles the mind that the federal government is decreasing money for social housing," says Milroy.
McKenna says she wants to improve both affordable housing and housing for the homeless by investing in new infrastructure and homes. Konstantinakos: "We don't need a national bureaucracy to solve housing problems... we've spent $600 billion so far to improve housing. He wants to focus more on jobs and the economy. "We have here in Canada 10,000 people on the waiting list for affordable housing... and it's getting worse," says Dewar. "We're the only G7 country that doesn't have a plan for housing." Milroy nods in agreement.
"The fact that we don't have a national plan for housing... is a disgrace," Dewar concludes. Met with a round of applause from spectators.
McKenna, Dewar and Milroy all agree that Canada needs a housing problem. Konstantinakos seems to be an exception here. McKenna brings conversation back to the budget.
DING DING DING! Fight Night has officially begun. Big exchange between McKenna and Dewar. McKenna: "Will you balance the budget? Yes or no?" Dewar: "I don't answer yes or no questions." Crowd is getting loud and loving the battle. "It's clear we're getting nowhere here," says Akin, ending the one-on-one debate.
Next question is about balancing the protection of the environment while still keeping a strong economy.
Dewar says his party wants to "make the polluter pay." He wants to invest in green jobs to strengthen the economy and end subsidies for gas and oil. Again, Milroy nods in agreement. While there's lots of debate and disagreement tonight, there's also a fair amount of agreement between some of the candidates.
"The difference between our [environment] plan and the NDP's plan is we want to do this with the provinces," says McKenna.
"These guys have done nothing to help the environment," says Milroy, pointing towards Konstantinakos. Konstantinakos disagrees, says his party has been strengthening the economy while lowering emissions. "We're not in it for the photo-op," he says.
Tonight's crowd has been supporting all the candidates quite equally so far. However, it's pretty clear these spectators care about the environment. Candidates looking to make changes to further protect Canada's environment have been met with the loudest applause yet.
Time for the final question. This one is about how the candidates will encourage more female representation in politics.
"It is still an old boys club," says Milroy, regarding federal politics. "I'm very concerned about that aspect." His remarks are met by lots of applause and cheers.
"It's also about diversity... we need all kinds of diversity in politics," says McKenna.
"I'm proud of the women in politics and in the Conservative party... but it's never been enough," says Konstantinakos.
"Partisanship should be set aside when it comes to having women in politics," Konstantinakos adds.
Wow. It looks like all four candidates are finally going to agree on the same issue. General sentiment: Canada needs more women in politics as soon as possible. I'm pretty sure everyone in the room would be shocked if a candidate disagreed. Looks like this topic is going to lead the debate to a nice, happy ending... Will they all conclude with a hug?
Akin asks a question regarding the riding: how will the candidates make Ottawa-Centre the pride of Ottawa and the pride of Canada?
Dewar says he wants to reform the NCC to create better local representation. He wants representatives from both Gatineau and Ottawa, and wants to open discussions with the general public.
Konstantinakos not convinced that's the right approach and wants to work with MPs around the area of Ottawa-Centre to ensure all of Ottawa becomes a strong voice in Parliament.
McKenna wants to get involved with public library and wants to open it up to more historical archives and documents for people. Also argues NCC isn't as transparent as it should be, met with visible disagreement from Konstantinakos. Maybe this won't be a happy ending after all...
Milroy agreeing with McKenna's point regarding the NCC. Wants to see agreement between all three levels of government: "Will our current government facilitate that? Probably not."
"Everything is so partisan, and it's at the expense of Ottawa," says McKenna. She says the current government doesn't support Ottawa as a city.
"I don't think the current government talks to all three layers of government... they don't talk to the mayors, they don't talk to the provinces... and I'm damn mad," says Milroy. Huge applause.
Time's up! Debates are now finished for the night. It's time for the closing remarks from each of the candidates, including Dean T. Harris of the Libertarian Party.
"Is there anyone in this room now thinking of changing their vote?" asks Akin. Lots of hands in the crowd shoot to the sky.
"I do think you have a clear choice," says McKenna. There's one consistent theme in every candidate's closing remark: vote. vote. vote. "You matter... bring your friends out to these things and get them involved," says Konstantinakos.
It's all over! After an entertaining two hours, the debate has now come to a close. All candidates leave for a photo-op and, of course, the snacks and refreshments waiting for them outside the room.