Leading up to the Brandon-Souris federal byelection, the Brandon Sun will pose a weekly question to all five candidates. The goal is to address issues facing the Brandon-Souris constituency, and allow readers to get to know their candidates so they can make an informed decision when they cast their vote for the next member of Parliament on Nov. 25.
Question 1: What are some local issues in the Brandon-Souris riding that need to be brought to Ottawa?
• Rolf Dinsdale, Liberal
In the coffee shops, at hockey games and going door to door I hear the same thing; the residents of Brandon-Souris want an MP who will focus on their priorities: jobs and the economy, better access in rural communities to broadband, a strong health-care system throughout the riding, infrastructure and a vital agricultural sector. These are the real priorities for families here.
What people are realizing right now is that for too long, Brandon-Souris has been represented by a government backbencher who was not allowed to have much of a voice in Ottawa — and instead was told to be Ottawa’s voice sent back here.
Westman residents want their voice heard in Parliament instead of having someone who will just help the current prime minister explain away his scandals. They want to be heard on their real priorities and it is my pledge to be a real voice for Brandon-Souris in Ottawa.
• Frank Godon, Libertarian
One main issue brought to Ottawa and one of the biggest in my mind is the closure of our Veterans Affairs office and the way our veterans are being treated, both elderly (Second World War) and recent. These Second World War veterans have earned the dignity not to have to wait in line at a Services Canada location to speak with someone not qualified about their problems with Veterans Affairs, and what good is a website or iPhone app going to do for these veterans when you consider the average age is in the mid-80s.
It’s also a shame how recent veterans are being treated under the new veterans law. If they were good enough to serve they are good enough to be 100 per cent taken care of. As a marine, I feel anger knowing that these men and women are just cannon fodder to this corporatist government to fight corporate wars to prop up these corporations’ bottom line.
• Larry Maguire, Conservative
As the member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris, the following issues will be priorities for me:
1. The need for continued federal investments in local infrastructure such as roads, bridges and other critical utilities. I believe the federal government has a role to play in co-ordinating infrastructure projects with municipal and provincial governments.
2. Support for skills and job training in high-demand industries, such as construction and our natural resource sector so that our young people can find opportunities for work right here in southwestern Manitoba.
3. The need for financial and other support for Assiniboine Community College and Brandon University so that more of our young people can get obtain job training right here in Brandon. Small post-secondary institutions can often be overlooked by federal and provincial policymakers, and we cannot let this continue to happen.
4. Building on the success of Canada’s European free trade agreement by continuing to open new markets for our local agricultural producers.
5. Working with my parliamentary colleagues and provincial legislators to find a way to either fix or scrap the Senate.
6. Bringing the concerns of local seniors and veterans to Ottawa to make sure they are being provided with access to adequate financial assistance and provided with information about the many government services and programs available to them.
7. Standing up for the many unique challenges facing rural Canadians, making sure these concerns are not drowned out by the interests of larger vote-rich cities.
• David Neufeld, Green Party
Our economy is relatively strong but fragile. True economic strength is better measured by how well prepared we are for high energy costs. We’re less secure if we depend solely on fossil fuels, and we’re missing out on the biggest business opportunity of the century — shifting to a low-carbon economy. We have innovators, educators, municipal councils, small business people and youth ready to work. National leadership on energy strategy would be timely. We could use our income streams to wisely deepen our economy.
Parliament Hill is off the rails. Partisan bullying has to be curtailed and democratic processes respected so we’re encouraged to participate. Our MPs should be free to represent our riding’s best interests. The prime minister must be accountable to parliament. Our MPs and senators should be elected through a system that ensures every Canadian’s vote counts — through proportional representation. Senate reform should give provincial and municipal levels of government strong voice.
Nation to nation relations need to be honoured. Canada has legal obligations to aboriginal nations that need to be fulfilled — for everyone’s sake. Brandon-Souris could come together as neighbours to support Dakota and Métis efforts to realize justice, inclusion and respect for leadership given on the environment.
Municipalities deserve stable, predictable funding so they can invest in roads, bridges, parks, water systems, etc. — through greater allocations of the federal gasoline tax. A sustainability fund could be created that municipalities can access to improve public transit, recycling, local food production and to encourage conservation of resources.
• Cory Szczepanski, NDP
Brandon-Souris residents want an MP that will go to Ottawa and put their families first. For too long we have had Liberal and Conservative governments only looking out for their insider friends, plagued by scandals, and ignoring the real issues facing our families.
I believe we need to put more focus on creating good jobs and improving skills training for workers because we need these opportunities here at home. Affordable housing is a significant issue here, and Ottawa’s $500 million in cuts to affordable housing initiatives are making it worse. As MP, I would be available for the citizens of Westman, and I will work to make Ottawa a better partner in improving health care with the province so that everyone in rural and urban parts of the riding can get the services they need, when they need them.
We must be better prepared for the next flood, and I will fight to make sure Ottawa is doing everything it can to protect our communities and help with recovery when it is needed. With all the scandals in the Senate, the largest budget deficit and the biggest trade deficit in Canadian history, it’s clear that this is an old, tired government that is not focused on our families.
We can do better for Canadians, and our children deserve a fairer, cleaner, more prosperous economy. I have been an advocate for many years in Westman, and if it makes sense for Westman, I will do everything I can to make it happen.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 1, 2013