Political Perspectives is produced by the students and faculty of Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication, Canada's oldest journalism school.


Green shift doubts in Ottawa South

Posted by cwaddell under Election 2008, Election 2008 Student articles

Kristen Cucan

With only 20 days to go until Canadians head to the polls, the four candidates running in Ottawa South squared off yesterday morning in the riding’s first all-candidates debate on issues that included health care, immigration, the environment and youth crime. 

Dozens of people showed up at the Jim Durrell Complex on Walkley Road for the lively, yet civil meeting, where many residents were eager to pose their questions to the candidates. 

Before the debate Elie Salibi, the Conservative candidate, and Liberal incumbent David McGuinty shook hands, but it was clear the two candidates had little in common.

“There really are two fundamental choices here,” said McGuinty in an interview after the event. “The Liberal and Conservative approach is profoundly different and I think people are now beginning to pay much more close attention.”

The Liberals have won the Ottawa South riding in every election since 1988 and McGuinty has held the seat since 2004. In the 2006 election, he beat the Conservative runner-up by more than 4,000 votes, or by about six percentage points.

Salibi, who works at a high-tech firm, said a six per cent lead is “almost nothing” when also considering the “name recognition” factor that McGuinty has as the brother of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“We have a strong record that we’re running on,” Salibi said. “This is something our residents will see and then they will choose which party will govern.”

NDP candidate Hijal De Sarkar and Green Party candidate Qais Ghanem also sought to highlight their party’s policies on issues residents raised, ranging from jobs for immigrants to the Afghanistan mission to electoral reform.

Garth McElree, an Ottawa South resident and a retired public servant, has already decided who will get his vote, but he said he wanted to attend the debate to see how the candidates would perform. He said he was particularly impressed by the “enthusiasm and commitment” of the 24-year-old NDP candidate, who is also a third-year political science student at Carleton University.

McElree said one question he didn’t get to ask was about the Liberal’s Green Shift carbon tax program, which wasn’t directly raised in the debate. He has worries about how much the plan would raise energy prices before Canadians actually start reducing their consumption of fossil fuels, he said.

“What’s that going to do to our economy, especially now?” McElree said. 

The Liberal Party, including David McGuinty, who was the environment critic in the last session of Parliament, has also done a poor job of explaining the plan to voters, he said.

“They’ve had all summer to get the message out and the party just didn’t do it.” 

McGuinty said he has received “very strong” voter support for the Green Shift. Constituents really want to know why Prime Minister Stephen Harper is only focusing on attacking the policy, he said, instead of talking to Canadians about his plan for the environment.

“So what we’re really seeing is not that Canadians cannot understand the Green Shift, what we’re seeing is Mr. Harper is running away and trying to censor the debate as he always has done in so many areas,” McGuinty said. 

Salibi said, however, that his government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020. The Conservatives also plan to cut air pollution by 50 per cent by 2015.

“Those are measurable goals that we have set up and which we’re working towards,” he said.

Kristen Cucan is a fourth year student in the Bachelor of Journalism program at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.