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Polite discourse, few jabs at candidates’ debate

Nickel Belt candidates Aino Laamanen, Casey Lalonde, Mikko Paavola, Steph  Paquette and Marc Serré answered questions at a debate in Sturgeon Falls Oct. 9.

by Isabel Mosseler

With voters across the country heading to the polls on Monday, Oct. 21, residents of Nickel Belt got the opportunity to compare their five federal election candidates during a debate in Sturgeon Falls on Oct. 9. The evening, at the Marcel  Noël hall, was organized by the WN Chamber of Commerce and attracted an audience of around 130 people.

The local candidates displayed far more decorum than their leaders did during either the English or French televised debates. Aside from a few swipes between leading contenders Steph Paquette (NDP) and incumbent Marc Serré (Liberal), mostly directed at the Liberal leadership, the evening was characterised by strong but polite responses on the part of all candidates, and only a few audience members made it apparent who they were supporting with loud clapping. Marc Lavigne acted as MC for the 2-hour session, and answers were timed to give every candidate an equal opportunity to speak.

Serré and Paquette were joined by Aino Laamanen (Conservative Party of Canada), Casey Lalonde (Green Party) and Mikko Paavola (People’s Party), taking 8 questions prepared by the Chamber and four questions from the floor, with opportunity to debate after each question. Questions touched on a vast range of subjects, including the West Nipissing economy, jobs and business opportunities and tax challenges; fostering collaboration with First Nations; climate change; challenges facing young families; immigration; seniors and healthcare; and helping veterans transition from uniform to civilian life.

While most of the party platforms are readily available and some of the candidates did have their binders and electronic devices turned to their party platforms for quick referral, all appeared very comfortable in reciting the party lines, with a few surprises in terms of personal positions. Aino Laamanen, who also ran in the 2015 election, told the audience her party (CPC) would scrap the carbon tax and take the GST off home heating costs. She also presented herself as a business owner who was also an environmentalist, involved in organic farming and pro-immigration, her own family having come from Finland with 10 children.

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