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ELECTION 2011: Debates, debates, debates

Day 20

FRENCH-LANGUAGE DEBATE: The Montreal Gazette reports, “Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe told Canadians Wednesday that he did them a favour by preventing the Conservatives from obtaining a majority government over the last five years. ‘There is only one party that can beat the Conservatives and prevent a Conservative majority and we’ve already proven it,’ the separatist leader said. ‘And Canada should thank us for it. We did them a service.’ …Duceppe, who holds 47 of Quebec’s 75 seats, spent most his time attacking Conservative leader Stephen Harper, saying he lied to Canadians, refused to sit down with the opposition parties and gave autoworkers in Ontario billions of dollars, instead of helping unemployed workers in Quebec.”

A COUNCIL OF CANADIANS NATIONAL LEADERS DEBATE? National Post columnist Chris Selley writes, “The simplest and most appealing solution would be simply to have more debates and to free them from Canada’s centralizing, speech-controlling instincts. We could have 10 of them, easily, organized by anyone who was interested — the Fraser Institute, the Council of Canadians, the National Post, whoever — and involving as many or as few candidates as the organizers and participants agreed to. For that to happen, of course, the party leaders would have to decide they wanted to talk more. There’s no indication they’re so inclined.”

OTTAWA-CENTRE ENVIRONMENT DEBATE: The themes covered will be: the green economy, climate change and water. The questions will be asked by four Ottawa-based groups: Ecology Ottawa, Council of Canadians (water campaigner Emma Lui), Citizens for Public Justice and the Polaris Institute. Some time will be reserved for questions from the audience at the end. The debate takes place on Wednesday April 20 at 7:30 pm at the Centretown United Church.

COMOX VALLEY DEBATE: Comox Valley chapter activist Gwyn Frayne reports, “At our (Vancouver Island North) all-candidates’ meeting (yesterday afternoon) we had a standing-room-only crowd in our College theatre. The NDP, Green and Liberal candidates all came and we had an empty chair with the incumbent Conservative MP’s name. Right after the meeting two of our members went to the Conservative party office to ask where the MP was. They were told that their policy is NOT to attend any meeting sponsored by the Council of Canadians! We’ll have some letters to the editors about that…”

REFUSING TO DEBATE? According to the Globe and Mail, Conservative candidates refusing to participate in all-candidates debates include Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East), Diane Ablonczy (Calgary-Nose Hill), Julian Fantino (Vaughn), Bryan Hayes (Sault Ste. Marie), Ed Holder (London West), and Damian Konstantinakos (Ottawa Centre). And now we hear about John Duncan (Vancouver Island North). Are there candidates in your riding refusing to attend debates? Let us know!

UPCOMING DEBATES: Council of Canadians chapters are organizing all-candidates debates in Kamloops (tomorrow night), Brockville (collecting questions for a debate on April 18), Calgary Centre-North (April 19), Prince Albert (April 20), and Red Deer (April 28). The Council of Canadians is offering $250 to chapters to help cover the costs of organizing all-candidates debates. Chapter-organized debates have already happened in Comox Valley/ Vancouver Island North (April 13).

PETERBOROUGH SOAPBOX CAMPAIGN: The Peterborough Examiner reports, “A series of one-hour outdoor public meetings to debate issues is being organized by a coalition of community groups led by the Council of Canadians. The Soapbox Campaign will begin Thursday outside Peterborough Square and continue every weekday, except for holidays, from 5 to 6 p.m. for two weeks. Volunteers will provide brief comments on the topic then the public will be invited to comment and ask questions. Thursday’s topic will be the F-35 fighter jets purchase, Friday’s is democracy in decline and Monday’s is getting election information.”

HURON-BRUCE: This riding includes the Bruce Power nuclear plant. The Times-Advocate reports, “As of (this past) Monday, five candidates were confirmed for the Huron-Bruce riding, according to Elections Canada: Charlie Bagnato of the Liberal Party, incumbent Ben Lobb of the Conservative Party, Grant Robertson of the New Democratic Party, Eric Shelley of the Green Party and Independent Dennis Valenta. Four of the five candidates are election veterans, while Shelley, a 23 year old from Tiverton, is a newcomer. Huron-Bruce voters will have the chance to meet their candidates and learn about where they stand on the issues at an all-candidates meeting April 19 at 8 p.m. at the Goderich Township Hall in Holmesville.”

BRUCE-GREY- OWEN SOUND: This riding — which includes the launching point for the Bruce Power nuclear waste shipments on the Great Lakes — is represented by Conservative MP Larry Miller. He faces NDP candidate Karen Gventer, Liberal Kimberley Love, and Green Emma Hogbin.

IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE POLICY: Maytree writes, “Are issues around immigration, refugee and family reunification important to you? We’ve compiled some information and links to federal party platforms that speak to immigration issues. We recognize that the interests of our diverse Canadian population extend well beyond the specific area of immigration and refugee platforms. This post seeks to provide brief insights into issue areas that impact and are impacted by our work in the area of immigration and refugee policy in Canada.” To see the party platforms, go to

ETOBICOKE-CENTRE: The Toronto Star reports that Conservative candidate Ted Opitz’s office sent an email promoting an event tonight with the Prime Minister saying, “The opportunity is to have up to 20 people in national folklore costumes which represent their ethnic backgrounds. These people will sit in front row behind the PM — great TV photo op. We are seeking representation from the Arab community. Do you have any cultural groups that would like to participate by having someone at the event in an ethnic costume?” The article notes, “Opitz told the Star in an email that the message was sent by a campaign staffer without his knowledge. A spokesman for the Conservative Party of Canada characterized the email as a ‘mistake’.”

VAUGHN: The Toronto Star reports, “Two Vaughan Conservatives have quit their riding association over a $10 million federal grant given to a health care project spearheaded by MP Julian Fantino’s former fundraisers. …The federal government announced in March it would give $10 million to the Vaughan Health Campus of Care, a private non-profit group founded in 2007 with the intention of bringing a hospital to the city. Despite its population of 300,000, Vaughan doesn’t have a hospital. …The grant money itself won’t go toward constructing a hospital, which is a provincial task. Instead, it’s earmarked to help develop a site for health-related facilities to complement a hospital planned for a 35-hectare lot. (One of those who quit) is uncomfortable with $10 million in public funds going to a private company he claims has yet to publicly release a business plan.”

BURNABY-DOUGLAS: The Toronto Star reports, “Burnaby has been an NDP stronghold since God invented politics. The flamboyant Svend Robinson held it handily for 25 years… His assistant, Bill Siksay, took over in 2004 and won three more elections before deciding to step down this year. But now the riding of Burnaby-Douglas is in play. Newcomers, particularly more conservative-minded Chinese immigrants, are moving in. Old loyalties are fraying. In the 2008 election, Siksay squeaked by with a 798-vote margin over his Conservative competitor Ronald Leung. Leung is back, facing off against Siksay’s successor Kennedy Stewart and Liberal Ken Low. If the soundings I took this week are any indication, things do not bode well for the NDP.”

FLEETWOOD-PORT KELLS: CBC reports, “A Green Party candidate in British Columbia has resigned after concerns were raised about him posting a comment about rape on his Facebook page. Alan Saldanha, who was running in the riding of Fleetwood—Port Kells, resigned Wednesday afternoon after it was revealed he posted, “If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it!” on his Facebook profile. The comment has since been taken down. The Green Party’s communications director told CBC News Saldanha said the comment was a quote from someone else. In a written statement, the party said it would accept his resignation.”

CETA IS MEASLY: Globe and Mail columnist Neil Reynolds writes, “In its ‘draft final report’ on the social, environmental and economic consequences of a free-trade agreement with Canada, a European Union-commissioned panel of trade experts has calculated that the economic gains would be only half as large as economists imagined when negotiations began in 2008. This abrupt correction induced the Council of Canadians to accuse Prime Minister Stephen Harper of selling out the Canadian economy – in the midst of a federal election – ‘for a measly $6-billion’, half the previously anticipated gain in GDP.

WHERE THE LEADERS ARE TODAY: The Winnipeg Free Press reports, “All four major-party leaders at least start their day today in La Belle Province before both Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff head to Ontario while NDP Leader Jack Layton and the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe remain in Quebec. …Harper starts the day in Beaupre, Que., before heading to the Toronto-area riding of Etobicoke for an evening rally. Ignatieff is in Gatineau, Que., early before attending a barbecue in St. Isadore, Ont. Layton is in Montreal all day, concluding it by watching tonight’s Montreal-Boston playoff game at a sports bar. Duceppe is in Gatineau, while Green Leader Elizabeth May stays close to home in British Columbia.”

TODAY’S POLL: The Ottawa Citizen reports, “A poll, conducted by Ipsos Reid for Global National in the half-hour immediately following the debate, found that 42 per cent of viewers thought Harper won, followed by 25 per cent who thought Layton won. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was victorious in the eyes of 23 per cent of viewers, while only two per cent of viewers thought Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe won.” 3.85 million viewers watched the debate on Tuesday, reportedly up 26 per cent from the 2008 English-language leaders debate.