June 19th, 2024

Federal candidates stick to party lines in local forum

By Herald on September 16, 2021.

Lethbridge riding candidates, including CHP’s Geoffrey Capp, left, independent Kim Siever, Liberal Devon Hargreaves, PPC’s Kimmie Hovan, Conservative Rachael Harder and NDP’s Elaine Perez take part in a forum hosted by the Lethbridge Chamber Thursday at the downtown Multicultural Centre. Herald photo

Tim Kalinowski  – Lethbridge Herald

While there was some spirited exchange on certain issues, the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce federal candidates’ forum likely did not change the minds of many voters as candidates stuck closely to their party’s positions and largely avoided any major gaffes.

Incumbent Rachael Harder of the Conservative Party of Canada did face some uncomfortable questions: One about her party leader Erin O’Toole’s seeming flip on carbon taxes, and another about her party’s silence on the Government of Alberta’s unpopular coalmining policies, but other candidates failed to take advantage in the moment.

Harder only faced one real quandary on the evening when she was asked by a viewer about O’Toole’s position in favour of banning certain assault rifles given her past advocacy for gun owners’ rights and her party’s platform on the issue.

“Can you tell us where you stand,” asked the viewer, “is it with the party policy or with the party leader on this question?”

“When it comes to firearms,” Harder responded, “I think there is something really important for every Canadian to understand first and foremost. That is we have robust legislation that’s already in existence in this country. And when an individual looks to acquire and use a firearm, they are put through a training course, they are put through a test with the use of that firearm. And they are vetted in terms of their background, in terms of reference checks, in terms of their mental health, in terms of their criminal record, and then they are finally granted a licence, and they are only able to acquire a firearm when they produce that licence. We have great laws in this country, and so I am proud to be the individual who sponsored the petition that asked for the repeal of Bill C-71. And I stand by that petition calling for the repeal of Bill C-71, and I believe our responsible firearms’ owners should be held in high accord. They are law-abiding citizens. Let’s go after the gangs. Let’s go after the criminals. Let’s go after those who are acquiring their firearms illegally across the border.”

Harder also defended her decision to vote against Bill C-6, a federal ban on the practice of conversion therapy, when asked.

“Originally I voted in favour of it,” she said. “I did so because, of course, I am in favour of the spirit of the bill which is to do away with any harmful practice toward an individual who looks to change their sexual orientation or identity. Every individual deserves to be treated with utmost respect and honour.”

Harder, however, pointed a finger squarely at the Liberals who put together “weak legislation” in this instance.

“The definition of ‘conversion therapy’ is extremely vague,” she stated. “As a result experts from across the country recommended amendments be made. Those amendments were ignored, and not only ignored, but actually refused by the Liberal government. It is actually as if the Liberal government purposefully wanted the legislation to be muddy, which is sad.”

Liberal candidate Devon Hargreaves, who co-sponsored the national petition which put conversion therapy on the federal government’s radar, strongly disagreed with Harder’s assertions.

“I think most of the amendments being referred to were intended to water that bill down to the point where it would be essentially irrelevant,” he rebutted. “It shames me that the representative for the riding that petition came out of did not consult on it. I would have been happy to talk if she had reached out, and it is a priority for our government. If re-elected, we will get this passed in the first 100 days.”

Harder reminded Hargreaves the Trudeau government had chosen to call an election before making sure the bill passed in this legislative term, surmising the Liberals wished to use the issue as a “political football to cause division” in the election.  She also rejected Hargreaves credentials to speak about the legislation the Liberal government brought forward.

“He is not the one to be consulted,” she said, motioning toward Hargreaves. “He is not the expert. There are others to be consulted, and those were the teachers, the doctors, and the clinical practitioners, the counsellors, the youth workers, the parents, and the faith leaders across this county that were brought to the table.”

Christian Heritage Party candidate Geoff Capp also spoke up on the issue, rebutting both Hargreaves and Harder. Capp said no one could support any harsh or barbaric treatment of anyone based on their sexual orientation, but felt parents should have the ultimate right to decide what is best for their own children– not the “experts.”

“There is no reason at all parents should not have the full right to raise their children according to the dictates of the conscience,” he stated. “That is what the CHP stands for: parents in charge of their own children. They know them the best, and they love them. And they want to prepare them to be grownups. Definitely parents should have a higher priority over the lives of their children than counsellors, teachers and others.”

Harder was also asked about the prospect of vote-splitting on the right between her party and the People’s Party of Canada in battleground ridings across the country. Harder said the PPC only knows what it stands against, and has no unifying vision for the country like the Conservative Party of Canada does.

“I certainly believe this election is the most important in a generation,” she said. “Our country is going down a really dangerous path in terms of debt and deficits, and in terms of infringement on people’s choices and freedoms. I think that needs to be quelled, and this is our opportunity. And those on the right, I do believe we need to unite.”

People’s Party of Canada candidate Kimmie Hovan rejected Harder’s call to unity.

“Voting is your democratic right,” she responded. “You vote your conscience. Everybody’s voice matters. So why should I tell you, you have to vote this way … Vote-splitting is not a thing. We’re Canadians. Vote your conscience. Vote your values. Vote your beliefs. Because your voice matters. Vote-splitting is not even a debate.”

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