The first all candidates meeting in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing riding for the Sept. 20 general election took three hours to complete on Wednesday night.
The session was held virtually via Zoom and livestreamed to people who registered on the website of the Manitoulin Expositor newspaper, which organized the virtual event.
All six registered candidates including New Democrat incumbent MP Carol Hughes were present virtually.
Liberal candidate Duke Peltier had internet issues during his opening statement and said it demonstrated the inadequacies of present internet technology service in the riding.
"I bring with me this wealth of experience, not only from a political perspective, but also from a legal perspective." Peltier also said. "What's really critical in this whole process is to hear from a candidate who is living, raising a family and working within the realities of this riding."
Green candidate Stephen Zimmermann said Canada needs to embrace green energy systems and practices while it phases out the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible.
"Per capita, Canada is a world leader in emitting greenhouse gases," Zimmerman said. "Our governments talk about taking action and then do nothing. Canada's greenhouse gas emissions have not decreased in the past 20 years."
People's Party of Canada (PPC) rep Harry Jaaskelainen tried to debunk the claims of climate change science.
He said it'll be another 50 years before Canada needs to give up fossil fuels.
Jaaskelainen also complained about COVID protocols which have forced businesses to restrict access and operations.
"We've seen 250,000 small business lost under COVID restrictions that are totally unscientific, totally bogus," Jaaskelainen said. "People are suffering."
He also said the PPC will encourage investment in the oil and gas sector.
"We are going to repeal free speech laws and bills such as C-10, C-36. Canadians have been under severe restrictions. We still don't hear conservative voices in the media," Jaaskelainen concluded.
Conservative Party (CPC) candidate John Sagman called for more federal support for environmental initiatives.
"I've done a lot of environmental engineering at other sites and some in Northern Ontario," Sagman said. "We need that support from Ottawa and we need somebody who is going to go and get it."
"We want to pay 25 per cent of the employee's salaries when they come back to work. We want to help small business with interest free loans," Sagman added.
Clarence Baarta of the Christian Heritage Party (CHP) said a CHP government would protect human life from conception to natural death.
He also asked, "Why are more than 50 per cent of First Nations children in foster care, while they're only a small fraction of the total population?
"We need to be respectful and listen to the wisdom of First Nations People. They value life and the earth we live in. Learn from them. They were here first," Baarda added.
Hughes also noted Canadians questioning the need for an election at this point.
"Today Canadians are struggling to understand why we are in election. We are facing two defining crises in our time, fourth wave of the pandemic and threat of climate change," Hughes said.
She said people can't understand why Prime Minister Trudeau should be rewarded (with a majority governmment), "When households are more squeezed than ever with the cost of everything, housing and education to internet and cell service going up."
"There's no reason (Conservative leader) Erin O'Toole is suddenly the answer. Pretend to be anybody you want to get your vote," Hughes continued.
In response, Sagman said, "It's disappointing to hear this rhetoric about the Liberals and the Conservatives having the same objectives.
"The NDP and the Liberals have had a coalition. Everybody knows that.
"It's gotten this country nowhere since they've both been in power and both supported each other and it's just been a disaster," he continued.
"We're not getting the support we need in Ottawa. We need a technical person in Ottawa that can go after this stuff," the CPC candidate concluded.
Head-to-head debate and candidate statements were followed by a lengthy question period when candidates provided their responses to queries on a number of topics.
The questions were submitted to the newspaper office prior to the debate.
They ranged from the opioid crisis, senior's programs, pensions, better health care, uranium mine environmental after-care, support for northern related needs and aspirations, tourism, transportation, Indigenous rights and reconciliation, long term care reforms, effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, pros and cons of coalition governments, and supports for Canadian agriculture.