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Essex candidates weigh in on Line 5, health care and protecting migrant workers

With the Sept. 20 federal election just days away, CBC Windsor is checking in with those vying for your vote about the topics that matter to you.

CBC Windsor ran an informal online survey asking the community about its priorities

We took some of your top concerns to candidates in the Essex riding. Here's what they had to say. (Elections Canada)

Local candidates are weighing in on the topics that matter to you in this election.

Ahead of the Sept. 20 federal vote, CBC Windsor asked participating candidates in Essex their views on three different topics: protecting migrant workers, pipeline policy and health care.

These questions come from your concerns. In the lead-up to the election, CBC Windsor ran an informal online survey asking the community about its top priorities.

NOTE: For this project, CBC Windsor extended invites to candidates from parties that received five per cent of the vote or more in the last federal election. The incumbent Conservative candidate for Essex, Chris Lewis, declined to participate.

Not an Essex resident? Check out our interviews with Windsor West candidates, and stay tuned for Windsor-Tecumseh coverage.

Here's what the participating candidates had to say in response to the questions: 

A voter in your riding says more needs to be done to protect migrant workers and ensure better living conditions.  If you are elected, how would you improve the safety for migrant workers in Essex, not just amid this pandemic, but overall? 

Essex candidates answer a question about migrant workers

3 months ago
Duration 2:21
A voter in your riding says more needs to be done to protect migrant workers and ensure better living conditions. If you are elected, how would you improve the safety for migrant workers in Essex, not just amid this pandemic, but overall? 2:21

Liberal candidate Audrey Festeryga said the workers and the work they do are very important and much has been done to improve their housing situation. She said she has spoken with farmers and they've highlighted the importance of vaccines and ensuring the workers are able to do their jobs.

"I am prepared as MP to work with our local municipalities, the province, the agri-food industry, to ensure that supports are in place to make sure that the workers can get here, so that they can do the job, so that they can help with putting food on the table for Canadians — and across the world, actually — in safe working conditions," she said.

NDP candidate Tracey Ramsey said she delivered food and helped raise more than $40,000 in personal protective equipment for the workers. During her term as MP for Essex — which ended with an unsuccessful re-election bid in 2019 — there was a federal study on migrant worker issues but its recommendations weren't adopted, she said. 

"We know the path to treating migrant workers fairly in our country. We need a government with the will and with the ability to put those regulations into place to protect workers," she said. "It's something I'm committed to, both when I was elected and not elected, and I will certainly continue to champion them and their rights in Ottawa."

Voter Larry says he wants to see a responsible energy policy.  If you're elected, what is your position on Line 5 and how do you support it in Parliament? 

Essex candidates answer a questions about pipelines

3 months ago
Duration 1:59
Voter Larry says he wants to see a responsible energy policy. If you're elected, what is your position on Line 5 and how do you support it in Parliament? 1:59

Festeryga touted the Liberal climate plan, which has been endorsed by an academic. She said transporting oil by pipeline is safer than transporting it by rail.  

"We need to work with our counterparts in the United States. We need to move forward to make sure that our energy does get to where it needs to go," she said.

Ramsey said the NDP supports Line 5, and she called the NDP's climate plan "very ambitious."

"We know that we're in this transition, we can't leave workers behind," she said. "We need to make sure that they're protected and of course, we need to work together in Canada and globally with our partners to make sure that we're reaching climate targets," she said.

Voter Joan says she wants to see improvements to health care. She says services are limited — including mental health and addictions care. What's one thing you can do to improve mental health and addictions services in rural areas of your riding? 

Essex candidates answer a question about health care

3 months ago
Duration 2:25
Voter Joan says she wants to see improvements to health care. She says services are limited — including mental health and addictions care. What's one thing you can do to improve mental health and addictions services in rural areas of your riding? 2:25

Ramsey said that rural communities need mental health and addiction supports and people shouldn't have to travel to cities to receive these services.

"We need to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency," she said. "Look what we've been able to do throughout COVID. Look at all the services we've been able to provide people. We know that when there is an emergency that's happening, like the opioid epidemic, it needs the same attention."

Festeryga said her party acknowledges that rural areas are under-serviced. She said the Liberals would work to strengthen rural development agencies as well as add 7,500 doctors to help with the backlog that's grown over the course of the pandemic.

"What a re-elected Liberal government will do is expand the number of family doctors," she said. "We'll give rural communities greater access to the full suite of health-care services including addictions workers, psychologists, teachers. We're going to help them set up new practices with financial supports, because we know that the rural communities are short-changed and need help."

A look at Essex

The following candidates are running in Essex in the 2021 election:

  • Conservative: Chris Lewis (incumbent)
  • NDP: Tracey Ramsey
  • Liberal: Audrey Festeryga
  • Green Party: Nancy Pancheshan
  • People's Party of Canada: Beth Charron-Rowberry
  • Christian Heritage Party of Canada: Jeremy Palko
  • Independent: Andrew George

Essex has a population of 125,442, as of the 2016 census, and there are 102,796 registered voters.

Conservative Chris Lewis defeated Ramsey to claim this seat in the last election. Festeryga also ran in 2019 and came in third place.

Prior to Ramsey's election in 2015, the riding was represented by Conservative MP Jeff Watson. He was first elected in 2004.

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