Cape Breton-Canso debate in Glace Bay mostly a civil affair
Liberal Mike Kelloway and Independent Michelle Dockrill had a couple of loud verbal exchanges
More than 200 people filed into the Glace Bay High School gym on Thursday night for a debate on the election issues and to see how the candidates in Cape Breton-Canso handle themselves.
Questions came from the audience and they ran the gamut, from doctor recruitment to child poverty, and from equalization payments to the economy.
The answers were mostly civil, but Liberal candidate Mike Kelloway and Independent candidate Michelle Dockrill got into a couple of brief shouting matches.
The riding has been Liberal over the last 40 years, except for one term in 1997, when Dockrill took it for the NDP.
"My independent slash NDP slash I'm not sure — I would like to tell you this," Kelloway said, until he was interrupted by Dockrill yelling: "Female. You leader doesn't like those though. He kicks them out."
Kelloway continued to speak, until Dockrill relented.
First question: transit
"May I finish? I've been very courteous to Michelle."
"Oh, go ahead Mike."
The first question was on transit, and all the candidates said they would go to Ottawa and press for better funding of municipalities and public transit.
The Conservative candidate, Alfie MacLeod, used the opportunity to take a shot at the Liberals on economic development, saying the region has been taken for granted.
He said the Liberals elected 32 MPs in Atlantic Canada in 2015, but named an MP from Ontario as minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Kelloway answered back, saying it was a Conservative government that eliminated Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.
Some of the loudest and lengthiest applause came when attendee Lakmal Siriwardana prefaced his question by announcing he only recently became a Canadian citizen and he planned to immerse himself in the election.
Then, Siriwardana asked the question many Cape Bretoners have been asking: What will the federal government do about equalization payments?
MacLeod said the first step is to find out how federal equalization payments have been distributed in Nova Scotia.
The NDP's Laurie Suitor said her party would not only work on fixing equalization, but it would also use federal transfers to stimulate the economy.
The People's Party candidate, Billy Joyce, said his party would phase out equalization payments in favour of measures to boost employment and economic activity.
On the economy, Alfie MacLeod said the Conservatives would build an energy corridor and use technology to protect the environment.
One of the questions was whether the candidates would always vote with their party's or their leader's wishes, or vote against those if it was better for Cape Breton.
Clive Doucet said members of the Green Party are not whipped, urging voters to look past the traditional parties.
The NDP's Laurie Suitor said voting is a matter of trust.
"For all the things we're saying tonight, if we're elected, will we keep our word? I will keep my word."
The People's Party candidate was the only one to get booed by the audience when he talked about his anti-abortion stance.
Joyce said his leader, Maxime Bernier, would not force members to toe the party line.
Darlene Lynn LeBlanc of the National Citizens Alliance did not take part in the debate, which was organized by CBC Cape Breton and moderated by Information Morning Cape Breton host Steve Sutherland.