Questions on housing, youth engagement, water conservation at forum hosted by Young Voters of P.E.I.
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —
Young Voters of P.E.I. took the reins on the first all-candidates forum of the federal election season in Charlottetown Wednesday night.
Four of the five Charlottetown candidates attended the debate, held in an informal setting at Bar1911. The event drew New Democrat candidate Joe Byrne, Liberal incumbent Sean Casey, Green candidate Darcie Lanthier and Christian Heritage Party candidate Fred MacLeod. Conservative candidate Robert Campbell did not attend.
Young Voters of P.E.I. organized the event to encourage youth political engagement.
In contrast to the heavily personal tone of the national election, the Charlottetown all-candidates debate was largely civil and focused on snapshots of policy ideas from the four candidates.
Topics ranged from the climate crisis to the missing and murdered indigenous women’s inquiry and food sovereignty.
The debate began with the question of what each candidate would do to address housing shortages in Charlottetown.
MacLeod said decision makers need to look at where foreign investment and short-term rentals are focused.
"There is different regulations and they're getting around loopholes. They're cutting out the housing for short-term housing," MacLeod said.
Casey brought up the federal Liberal National Housing Strategy, a $40-billion plan introduced earlier this year.
"Fifty million dollars has already been expended in Prince Edward Island, about 14 (million) of it in a project just up the street here, across from the French school," Casey said.
Lanthier said housing that exists is inadequate, and more co-op housing is necessary. But she criticized the new affordable housing development cited by Casey, which is currently being built on Acadian Drive.
"I love the new project. Don't like the location. Nineteen minute-walk from the nearest bus stop for 15 accessible units. No shopping, no pharmacies, no groceries," Lanthier said
Byrne said new housing needs to be publicly-owned.
"This idea that the private sector is going to build sufficient housing to address the crisis is not going to work. There is a role for the private sector, but it's not going to provide enough affordable, accessible housing over the long term," Byrne said.
- Stu Neatby
Questions then focused on how federal leaders should engage more youth.
Casey said politicians need to reach more youth through social media platforms and brought up the creation of Justin Trudeau’s Prime Minister’s Youth Council. Lanthier said Greens tend to inspire youth and added the party’s electoral victories have been because of increased youth voter turnout.
Byrne said most youth understand the unfairness of the current economic system and are attracted to the NDP’s focus on social inequality. MacLeod said youth willing to listen could count on a “great story” from the CHP.
On the issue of regulations of water usage by industry, Lanthier said large operators such as Cavendish Farms could employ closed-loop water processes at their plants. Similarly, Byrne said controls should be put on deep water well usage by corporations like Cavendish Farms.
MacLeod said he was concerned about water usage and emphasized the need to take care of fresh water resources. Casey said legislation around water usage was also provincial jurisdiction and was too complex to answer briefly. But he said he was proud the Miltonvale water supply was opened up, which lessened pressure on the Winter River watershed.
Young Voters of P.E.I. had been on “hiatus,” prior to the event because some organizers had moved off-Island. Taya Nabuurs, who moderated Wednesday’s debate, said the group had restarted in time for the federal election.
Millenial voter turn-out rose substantially in the 2015 election, Nabuurs said.
"What's really interesting about this election is that young demographic, the 18-38s, are the largest voting bloc in the country,” Nabuurs said.
“Just by virtue of our sheer size, we can have a monumental impact on the election."
The Guardian and the UPEI Student Union will be hosting another Charlottetown all-candidates on Tuesday, Oct. 1, at the W.A. Murphy Student Centre. The event begins at 6:30 p.m.