Halton Hills and North Halton newspapers
Election candidates square off
Independent & Free Press (Georgetown, ON), 11 Jan 2006, p. 1, 3

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No sparks flew between the Wellington Halton Hills federal election candidates at a debate focusing on agriculture Monday night. The five federal election candidates didn't take any real shots at each other and politely answered the mostly agricultural-themed questions from the audience at the meeting hosted by the Halton Federation of Agriculture at Hume's Auction Farm. Participating were Brent Bouteiller (Green Party), Michael Chong (Conservative), Noel Duignan (NDP), Rod Finnie (Liberal), and Mike Wisniewski (independent). Carolann Krusky of the Christian Heritage Party wasn't there.

Despite the televised leaders' debate that evening, the local meeting drew approximately 140 interested audience members. Norval area farmer Harry Brander of the Halton Federation of Agriculture asked the candidates if they would support and provide 60 per cent share of funding required by the federal government for the new business risk management plan developed by farmers to replace the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS). Wisniewski called the plan "very reasonable," and said he couldn't see a problem in trying to sell the notion to the public."I fully support the program and I would work with the farmer's organization to make sure it does go ahead," said Duignan, who added a long-term plan is needed. Chong said he has heard more negatives than positives about CAIS, and the Conservatives plan to scrap the program and replace it with two separate programs for disaster relief and income stabilization. "My commitment is to work with you... and see if there is something we can do to accommodate the grain and oilseeds group," said Chong. Finnie said CAIS was developed with various farm groups and that's how he sees it continuing to happen. "We have to find some way of income stabilization for the next couple of years, then we have to look at the future," said Finnie. "We have to find a variety of ways to make things better for farmers." Bouteiller said he wasn't familiar with Brander's plan, but the Green Party supports "that kind of thing in the short-term." "Farmers need to have a fair share of consumer dollars on a continual basis," said Bouteiller. Lorna Wilson asked how the candidates would get the 97 per cent of Canadians who aren't farmers to "buy in" to the fact that farming is important? Chong said he's tried hard over the past 18 months to raise awareness of farming. He said that "food security is vital" to Canadians in the long run. "You can rest assured our deep roots in this party are in rural Canada and we won't forget that if we form the government," said Chong. "If 97 per cent of the population aren't farmers I don't understand why they would have grounds to oppose anything the farming sector (is proposing," said Wisniewski, who added he wasn't well versed in agriculture issues. Duignan said he believes an approach similar to the one used to teach school children about recycling should be used to educate youth about the importance of farming. "We want people to understand the value of what they're eating," said Bouteiller. "So it's part of our policy to put more money into the educating of all people to understand the basics of where their food is coming from." "One hundred per cent of us eat," said Finnie. "We (need to) start to stress the importance of eating food grown right here rather than shipping them from the (United) States. We start to extol the benefits of eating products that are produced under an environmental regime that we know and we can trust." Halton Hills farmer Bill Allison said farmers have been disappointed by politicians in the past who said they would help them, but haven't. He said CAIS is not addressing the trade injury farmers are facing because of subsidies farmers receive in other countries. He asked the candidates if they understood the need for a targeted price support for grains and oilseed producers to meet the trade injury they are experiencing. Finnie said he couldn't make agricultural policy. "I can't guarantee what's going to happen in the future. I can say I do listen to what people tell me and I will do my utmost for you," said Finnie. Chong said the Conservatives will honour their promises. "Our party has made a certain number of commitments and we will deliver on them," said Chong. Halton Hills resident Sandy Grant asked the candidates how they would make Canadians more patriotic. Bouteiller said the Green Party's carbon tax will make products that come a further distance more expensive, making local products more attractive because they should cost less. Duignan said the solution has to start at the top. He said if the federal government is promoting flag pins, they should ensure they're made in Canada. "I always make a point to buy local produce when I can," said Duignan. Halton Hills farmer Robert McClure asked the candidates once the government stabilizes farm income, what their outlook on research and development in the long-term was. "We need to look at a new agricultural policy in the long-term," said Chong. "Secondary production is great, but it is no use to farmers if there isn't some form of farmer ownership of these facilities because the commodities prices will still be compressed." Duignan said he firmly believes in the importance of research and development. He said his son is studying biotech science and most of the job offers he's had are out of the country. "We're training people here so we should have jobs here. We need to invest more in these young people," said Duignan. Wisniewski said he wants to educate himself on the options but he would "like to think the (Minister of Agriculture's) first two priorities would be the shortterm band-aid solution you speak of, and at the same time we are committed to the long-term," said Wisniewski. "We want to ship government supported research away from the bio-tech industry and away from the energy intensive type of farming and towards organic production farming," said Bouteiller. Finnie stressed the importance of research and development. "I would agree that research and development is the smart way to move forward into the future to preserve long-term income for farmers in Ontario," said Finnie. At the meeting the candidates were also asked what they would do about the problems at the Canadian border and for their views on free votes, the notwithstanding clause and proportional representation.

Tallyn, Lisa
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11 Jan 2006
Personal Name(s):
Bouteiller, Brent ; Chong, Michael ; Duignan, Noel ; Finnie, Rod ; Wisniewski, Mike ; Krusky, Carolann ; Brander, Harry ; Wilson, Lorna ; Allison, Bill
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Halton Federation of Agriculture ; Hume's Auction Farm
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Election candidates square off