Federal election 2015: Nickel Belt debate
In a riding that's flipped between the Liberals and NDP over the years, it wasn't surprising that the Nickel Belt candidates carrying those party banners ate up most of the time during a debate hosted by CBC Wednesday night.
Incumbent New Democrat Claude Gravelle and Liberal challenger Marc Serré sparred frequently over everything from doctor assisted suicide to the gun registry.
"Too often we replace Liberal corruption with Conservative corruption, Liberal debt with Conservative debt," Gravelle told the crowd of about 100 at Chelmsford's Club 50.
In particular, the two candidates clashed over their party's economic plans.
"How can you balance the books with the Harper government numbers and say you're going to invest?" asked Serré.
Gravelle responded by holding up a copy of the Liberal platform.
"Can you tell me on Page 8... $6.5 billion. Who are you going to cut? Doctors? Nurses?" he said.
A member of the audience asked about integrity, especially in light of the charges facing prominent local Liberal Gerry Lougheed after the provincial Sudbury byelection.
Gravelle proceeded to rhyme off a long list of Liberal scandals, going back to the Jean Chrétien era.
"When I googled Liberal party today, the second item to come up was Liberal scandal," he said.
But Serré urged him to get back to the issues that voters care about.
"For me that is not a factor here in Nickel Belt. And the people here in Nickel Belt realize that."
Conservative Aino Laamanen, who joined the race just a few weeks ago, admitted several times to not being up to speed on all the issues, but she also had concerns with the NDP as financial managers.
"Anyone who's lived in a province governed by the NDP knows how quickly an NDP government can cripple the economy," she said.
During an exchange on rail safety, she and Green Party candidate Stuart McCall agreed that transporting oil by train is not the best option, referencing the two fiery derailments that happened in this riding earlier this year near Gogama.
"I'm probably the greenest Conservative around," said Laamanen.
But the two disagreed on shipping oil by pipeline, which Laamanen supports and McCall does not. He called for an end to the oil industry altogether.
"We should just shove it in the ground, because that economy is dying," said McCall.