Candidates vying to become the next MP for London-Fanshawe stepped into the spotlight on Thursday during Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s second of four local election debates.
Since 2006, the riding has been held by the NDP’s Irene Mathyssen, who is not seeking re-election.
READ MORE: Canada election — London-Fanshawe
Five rookie candidates are looking to take her place. One of the more familiar names is NDP candidate Lindsay Mathyssen, Irene’s daughter.
Londoners may also recognize Ward 1 Coun. Michael van Holst, who is on unpaid leave from city council to campaign for the Conservatives.
Mohamed Hammoud looks to restore Liberal power in a riding that was held by the Grits for nearly a decade under former Liberal MP Pat O’Brien. O’Brien spent his final year in office representing the riding as an Independent.
A new face for the Green Party is Tom Cull, London’s former poet laureate. Bela Kosoian is the candidate for the newly formed People’s Party of Canada.
During Thursday morning’s debate, the candidates squared off on economics, health care and climate change, among other issues.
Mathyssen was quick to jump in when Hammoud said more time is needed in order to bring down systemic barriers that have led to high child poverty rates.
“The systemic barriers that we’ve created in our communities …” he began before Mathyssen cut him off, saying: “You’ve had four years.”
“We need at least another four,” Hammoud responded.
Mathyssen replied: “You had 12 before the Conservatives had 10. This is a back and forth where governments haven’t actually addressed this crisis. They haven’t put the money into housing.”
Meanwhile, Cull took aim at van Holst’s reiteration of the Conservative plan to cut carbon pricing.
“Get rid of this carbon tax, which is going to make everything more expensive and make things more and more expensive,” van Holst said.
“And make it a liveable planet for our children,” Cull countered.
Mathyssen also moved fast on the PPC candidate’s view of Canadian economics.
“Supply-side economics is all about reducing taxes for everybody, not just rich people,” Kosoian said.
“You’re talking about trickle-down economics, and they’ve never worked,” Mathyssen replied.
“If we cut taxes, we are going to have more jobs,” Kosoian said.
Another major topic was the controversial $15-billion arms deal Canada has with Saudi Arabia. London’s General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) manufactures the light armoured vehicles ordered by Saudi Arabia and is also one of London’s largest employers. Opponents of the deal have cited human rights issues regarding Saudi Arabia, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen.
Cull said the Green Party would cancel the deal, but he says it would be his responsibility to make sure cancelling the contract doesn’t cost anyone a job.
“We also want to ban the use of oil from Saudi Arabia and use our own oil,” he said.
“At the same time, I don’t say this lightly when I say that those jobs have to be saved in some way, because I know there are people out there who are listening right now who are saying: ‘That’s easy for him to say, I have to put my kids through school.’ And I understand that.”
Hammoud said that while Canada has to hold trading partners accountable, his primary commitment is to Londoners. He also cited a recent $3-billion contract between the federal government and GDLS.
Mathyssen echoed Cull’s sentiments, stressing that Canada has an obligation to ensure the arms it sends abroad aren’t used to violate human rights.
She said the NDP has committed that no jobs will be lost “whether we have to buy those LAVs and provide them for our own forces — who will be using them continually and more often in terms of climate change emergencies that we’ve seen across Canada — or we would sell them to other jurisdictions where they would not violate our fundamental obligations to respect and uphold human rights everywhere.”
Van Holst agreed that London jobs need to be saved but “not at tremendous cost to Canadians.” He also cited the Conservatives’ plan for energy self-sufficiency, arguing that Canada needs to wean itself off Saudi oil.
Kosoian said it’s a complex question and agreed that jobs need to be protected.
— With files from Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Natalie Lovie