Lawrence MacAulay's role in free trade agreement targeted in candidates' debate

Federal election candidates in P.E.I.'s Cardigan riding fielded questions about climate change, veterans affairs and trade Tuesday night at a forum in Stratford.

Cardigan candidates met to take questions from voters in Stratford

From left, Liberal candidate Lawrence MacAulay, NDP candidate Lynne Thiele, Green candidate Glen Beaton and Conservative candidate Wayne Phelan were at Tuesday's debate. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Federal election candidates in P.E.I.'s Cardigan riding fielded questions about climate change, veterans affairs and trade Tuesday night at a forum in Stratford.

Every candidate had a minute to respond to questions posed by voters. The format was for questions to be addressed to all candidates.

However several voters aimed their questions directly at Liberal candidate Lawrence MacAulay.


The first question of the night was from a voter asking MacAulay about his role, while serving as minister of agriculture, in the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement or CUSMA.

It grants U.S. milk producers access to 3.6 per cent of the Canadian domestic market, something dairy farmers across the country have protested since Canada signed the deal.

One voter asked Lawrence MacAulay about the quota allowed for U.S. dairy farmers in the CUSMA. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

"Most people understand it was very difficult negotiations at that time," MacAulay said, adding that the deal may not seem favourable to farmers but was in the best interest of Canadian trade.

"We cannot afford to have not had a trade agreement with the United States."

New Democratic Party candidate Lynne Thiele said her party does not support the free trade model currently in place.

"We believe in fair trade and it has to it has to allow the supply management to keep going without any dent in it," she said.

"The dairy farmers need their quota. That's how they finance their farms. That's how we retire. That's how they pass their farms on to their families," said Conservative candidate Wayne Phelan, who was cut off by the bell before he could finish his answer. 

Green Party candidate Glen Beaton said it is critical for farmers that supply management be protected as much as possible, and questioned whether it was the right time to sign a deal.

"I'm not sure we should proceed on this particular item until we know we have somebody more realistic in the U.S. to deal with," he said.

The Carbon Tax

The most common topic for questions was the environment, and in particular each party's approach to climate change and their position on the carbon tax.

Thiele said the tax is not enough.

"The carbon tax is one tool," she said.

"It's like if there's something wrong with your body, you can't just have one pill and think that that's supposed to cure everything."

Several voters asked about the candidates' policies on climate change and the carbon tax. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Thiele said big polluters should be paying more tax.

Phelan said the environment is a priority, but like the national Conservative Party, sees no benefit in a carbon tax. Instead, he said Canada needs to have a bigger role in stopping international polluters.

"If we are the advanced country, like the Liberals are saying, then we got to take our technology and our information overseas and tell them stop pushing garbage into the river," Phelan said. 

Beaton said there needs to be more investment in public transit.

"We need to put into place a transit system across this country that allows transportation by light rail or by CNCP rail, [so] that we are not burning as much carbon fuels," Beaton said.

"We need to really reduce that drastically in the next five to 10 years."

MacAulay, whose party implemented the carbon tax, said putting a price on pollution was recommended by scientists. He also spoke of the Liberal's promise of $40K interest-free loans to make homes energy efficient.

"The fact is, not only are you saving money and protecting the environment for our children but you're also creating a new innovation which is vitally important to you," MacAulay said.

Veterans affairs

One of the last questions of the night asked candidates how they would advocate for veterans' health care if elected. 

Phelan said while he's been campaigning, he's met several veterans, including at least one who served in the Vietnam War.

"He has never gotten a pension," Phelan told the crowd.

"He was pulled out of the woods by an American and treated in an American hospital, forgot to ask for his paperwork. There's a lot of common sense missing in the process."

One of the last questions of the evening focused on care for veterans. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

Beaton said he wants to see specific health care support for veterans in hospitals, and he would like to see those benefits extended to some others.

"We should look after our vets, our firefighters and those other people that go out there every day and do those things for the country as a whole," he said.

Thiele said the government needs to take full responsibility for the injuries suffered by veterans.

"They don't need to pay anything," she said.

"The bill has to come back to us. We sent them there. We got them hurt. We have to pay whatever it takes."

MacAulay, who is currently the minister for veterans affairs, said the government has already invested billions into veterans services, and his party has committed to continue to invest in those services.

"I can assure you as minister of veterans affairs that I will make sure that veterans receive the best treatment in the world, because they deserve the best treatment in the world," he said.

Christene Squires for the Christian Heritage Party was the only candidate not at the forum. Squires said she was not feeling well.

More P.E.I. news 


Nicole Williams is a journalist for CBC News based in Ottawa. She has also worked in P.E.I. and Toronto. She is part of the team that won a 2021 Canadian Association of Journalists national award for investigative journalism. Write in confidence to


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