On Sept. 10, the first all-candidates debate of the 2015 federal election for the Halifax riding took place. Gathered in front of a crowd of hundreds at Citadel High School’s Spatz Theatre, candidates discussed a variety of topics relating to women’s rights, from housing to murdered and missing Aboriginal women.
A notable absentee was Conservative candidate Irvine Carvery, who was attending a meeting of the Africville Genealogical Society.
For those who couldn’t make it to the event, we have created a summary of points made by each of the candidates over the course of the 120-minute debate.
Megan Leslie, New Democratic Party (NDP): @MeganLeslieHFX
Dr. Thomas Trappenberg, Green Party: @ttrappenberg
Andy Fillmore, Liberal Party of Canada: @AndyFillmoreHFX
Allan Bezanson, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada
1) How would your party act on the recommendations of the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Native Women’s Association of Canada to address the high, increasing numbers of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in Canada?
- The biggest issues for Aboriginal women are violence and poverty, so solutions must be found in order to enable growth, health and safety for Aboriginal women
- The Liberal government will immediately launch a public inquiry into murdered and mission Aboriginal women
- The Liberals will invest $515 million in annual funding into First Nations education
- $2.6 billion will be allotted over four years for First Nations investment
- The Marxist-Leninist party would support a full public inquiry into murdered and missing Aboriginal women
- The party stands for the defence of Aboriginal rights, treaty rights and equal relations between the Aboriginal communities and the rest of the Canadian people
- Within the first 100 days in office, the NDP will establish an inquiry for murdered and missing Aboriginal women
- They will also push for action supporting indigenous people and Aboriginal rights
- The situation of murdered and missing Aboriginal women is a disgrace for Canada
- Recommendations made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission must be listened to
2) How do you and your party intend to address the ongoing violence and harassment experienced by women? What will your party do to ensure that the prevention of sexual and domestic violence is a priority and that all girls and women are kept safe?
- “This rotten society that we live in of the man-eating capitalist system engenders this over and over and over again. This violence against women must end, but it’s not unrelated to all the other things that must end. Defeat Harper.”
- Violence against women is often viewed as a provincial problem that needs to be dealt with at that level, but should instead be looked at from a federal perspective
- The NDP has committed $40 million to building women’s shelters
- Dalhousie and other universities have had issues regarding how young women are treated by men, showing a deep disrespect of how women are treated
- Particular cities need much more money than others, if the federal government wants to do something then it needs to do more for specific communities
- Root causes such as poverty and education must be addressed
- “On their own, a government cannot solve this problem – it takes every person in a community to help to end violence against women.”
- The Liberal party will start a 10-year, $20 billion program in social welfare which will include funding for things such as shelters and other social services
3) What steps will your party take to address the high level and risk of poverty amongst women, particularly in Aboriginal and racialized communities? Will your party act to strengthen income security programs in order to ensure poverty is reduced for women?
- The NDP is advocating for national, $15/day childcare
- For every $1 invested in childcare, $1.70 is invested into the economy
- Issues like childcare and housing need to have a federal role, with initiatives such as a $15/hour minimum wage that would help lift women out of poverty
- “It is time that we are looking for guaranteed, liveable income. Everyone in this country should be able to live in dignity – you can still work to make it better, but it’s a basic right to be able to live in dignity.”
- A Liberal government would invest $20 billion into social infrastructure over the next ten years in programs such as the National Housing Program
- More money would be given to families raising children through the Child Benefit Program, which will provide $532 per child per month, tax-free.
- “$15/day daycare proposed by the NDP is a mirage that would not actually come into place for eight years if the provinces are willing to provide 40 percent of the cost”
- The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that 10 years ago, Canada ranked first amongst nations for measures of gender equality. As of 2014, Canada was in 19th
4) As a representative for Halifax, how do you intend to ensure that the youth of this region can be free from student debt, find higher-paid, sustainable work and be more financially secure so that they can stay in Nova Scotia? What strategies would you use to ensure equal economic opportunities for young women?
- The Green Party plans to abolish tuition fees for colleges and universities
- To create conditions for today’s youth to succeed, the Liberal government will invest in programs that will help young Canadians obtain and sustain viable employment
- The average student now graduates with a debt of between $40,000-50,000
- An increase in recreation facilities for youth is also necessary, in order to promote their well being
- The NDP has been a strong proponent for a Post-Secondary Education Act in the House of Commons, which would give money to the provinces for making post-secondary education accessible, in the form of tuition
5) What does your party plan to do to close the gender wage gap, improve employment conditions for women and ensure all women and families have access to affordable, regulated childcare?
- Justin Trudeau has committed that 50 per cent of his cabinet will be women
- Help for senior women is vitally important, as well, and the Trudeau government will maintain the age of benefit at 65, invest in social infrastructure for seniors and will keep income splitting for seniors
- In past years, the Marxist-Leninist party has had a higher percentage of women candidates than any other party in Canada, which shows the importance of women’s voices being heard
- The NDP has committed to increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement by $400 million in the first year
- It is things like housing and childcare that allow people to make ends meet
- The NDP does not need to make new efforts for gender equality in the caucus, because 40 per cent of the caucus is already women
- The Green Party would pass pay equity legislation as recommended by a Pay Equity Task Force
6) What is your party prepared to do to address women’s housing in rural and urban areas?
- “We need a national housing strategy; we need to increase the numbers of adequate housing and of shelters as well. No woman should have to stay in an abusive relationship because of reasons of economic insecurity. “
- The NDP has proposed to renew the cooperative housing agreements that are set to expire, and has committed to building 10,000 new units immediately
- “I believe housing is a right, but it is not a right in Canada, it’s not in our charter. Our bill for an affordable housing strategy, right now called Bill C400, says in black and white that Canadians have a right to housing. “
- The Green Party wants to introduce a general housing strategy. A shift is necessary in the general governmental distribution of our taxes, which comes from a time where most people lived in rural areas, while now most people live in cities
- Women can be placed in precarious housing situations for numerous reasons, such as job loss, ill health, poverty, and escaping violence
- In order to solve these problems, the Liberal Party will renew existing co-op agreements and inventory all existing federal lands and buildings to see what could be re-purposed for affordable housing
During the debate, volunteers gathered over 70 questions from the audience. While most of these questions could not be answered, the collection of questions will be emailed to the winning candidate.
A similar debate regarding women’s issues had been proposed for the federal leaders, but was cancelled after Conservative party leader Stephen Harper refused to attend. NDP leader Tom Mulcair followed suit, saying that he would not participate in any debate in which Harper is absent.
You may watch a full video of the debate at this URL: ustream.tv/recorded/72950049