EDITOR’S NOTE: During The Manitoulin Expositor’s All-Manitoulin Candidates’ Night on October 1, two people approached the microphone during the ‘questions from the floor’ segment of the evening with specific questions geared to Conservative candidate André Robichaud, who was not present and directed them to the empty chair reserved for the absent politician. The Expositor posed these questions to Mr. Robichaud and his responses follow here.
Barry Epstein of Kagawong posed this question to Mr. Robichaud: “It was incredibly disrespectful for the Conservative candidate not to show up and this question was to be for him. Eligibility for the Old Age Security (OAS) was pushed from 65 to 67 without any consultation from the provinces. Experts say the change is not necessary. The average pensioner will be deprived of over $6,700 per year, and, for a couple, a $27,000 drop in income over two years. It should be the objective of the government to let seniors retire with dignity. Why, Mr. Robichaud, does the Harper regime want to impose this penalty on seniors?”
Response from Mr. Robichaud: “No disrespect was intended in my absence on Thursday evening last week. As you know, the great riding of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing is very large with the population geographically distributed over thousands of kilometres. During this election campaign, my primary intent has been to meet as many constituents as possible and to listen to their individual issues and concerns. This is best accomplished through door-to-door canvassing. My schedule was arranged to accommodate canvassing, and it meant that unfortunately I could not attend all of the all candidates’ debates that were held.
“The key to a secure retirement for seniors is a strong economy. Managing the economy well–as the Conservative government has done–means making adjustments in the best interests of all Canadians. The change in OAS eligibility age is one such adjustment.
“Instead, the Conservative government has put in place many measures to strengthen retirement funding for seniors.
“The Conservative government has relaxed the rules on Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs). The rules allow delivery of a dependable annual source of income to retirees. It also helps reduce the risk of outliving one’s savings.
“Seniors benefit from measures such as the introduction of Tax Free Savings Accounts in 2009 and recently doubling contributions to TFSAs. TFSAs provide seniors with a flexible savings option that protects their money from being eroded by taxes.
“The Conservative government introduced pension splitting in 2007. This can be a huge tax saving measure for seniors.
“The Conservative government also introduced a new Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and persons with disabilities. This measure allows seniors to receive a tax credit of up to $1,500 for improvements to allow them to become safer and more mobile within their homes.
“In 2008, the Conservative government established Registered Disability Savings Plans. This is another savings vehicle that assists Canadians with disabilities–including seniors.
“We are confident in our long-term plan. Only Prime Minister Stephen Harper has the experience today to keep our $1.9 trillion economy growing in an unstable global economy. The Conservative government has been proving this since the global economic downturn of 2008: Canada had the best record for weathering the storm. And this is important for all Canadians–including seniors.
“A prosperous economy benefits all Canadians. The best way to help seniors prosper is to remain on-track and continue with Prime Minister Harper’s low-tax, balanced budget plan for the economy.
“As your representative in government, and with my proven record as an economic development officer, I will work for seniors–and for all the people of Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing.”
Perry Anglin of Lake Manitou addressed the empty chair as well, stating: “I am grateful to the Manitoulin Expositor for hosting this all candidates debate. My question is for Mr. Robichaud, who is not here but with the experienced, distinguished reporters present, I hope the question gets to him.
“It is about rights and freedoms. I’m not excessively concerned about the government telling a woman how she must dress in citizenship court, or removing citizenship from criminals without judicial review. Or even about the worrisome parts of Bill C-51.
“Why not? Because Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms will ensure that these measures will be thrown out by the Supreme Court.
“What is most disturbing is that Mr. Harper is using this abuse of power shamefully to deny rights in the middle of an election campaign. There are other reports he ignores such as the right to information from a long form census and from government scientists.
“We also have a right to free and fair elections which he is spoiling by self-serving changes to votes to expatriates and people lacking photo identification.
“He has especially manipulated the election period to suit his wealthy party and to order Conservative candidates not to give interviews or attend all candidate debates like this one.
“It is reported that all Conservative candidates must deposit $1,000 with the Conservative Party which they lose if they break his rules.
Mr. Robichaud isn’t here but has attended other debates. Maybe he hopes he will only lose half of his deposit. In any case, he needn’t expect appointment to a Harper cabinet.”
Response from Mr. Robichaud: “The comments from Mr. Anglin touch upon many subjects.
“Canadians continue to have the right to peaceful advocacy, protest, dissent or artistic expression and continue to have the right to free speech, just as they did before Bill C-51. The provisions of this legislation apply only to those who are suspected of promoting or planning violent activity including acts of terrorism.
“It is false that Bill C-51 gives government spy agencies massive new unnecessary powers. The updated law provides agencies with the additional tools they need to help prevent terrorist attacks and save Canadian lives. Bill C-51 provides for security agencies to share information required to prevent terrorist attacks. This extends to modern technology that is at the core of how terror groups network and operate.
“Bill C-51 also allows authorities to remove websites and other online propaganda used to recruit and encourage terrorist attacks against Canadians. Several developed countries have similar provisions in place, including the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway.
“Bill C-51 includes independent, expert, non-partisan oversight of our national security agencies which is a better and more objective model than politicians interested in their own agendas overseeing the system. Further, this legislation is subject to judicial review and judicial authorization.
“Freedom and security go hand in hand. A government’s priority must be keeping its citizens safe and secure precisely so their freedoms can be maintained and enjoyed.
“Thomas Mulcair and the NDP have never taken the threat of terrorism seriously. Thomas Mulcair even said he believed it was not a terrorist act when a terrorist shot and killed a Canadian Forces Member on the steps of a memorial, then stormed into Parliament in an act of war against our nation’s democracy.
“Bill C-51 is supported by organizations representing new Canadians, organizations representing victims of terrorism, prominent lawyers, and a former Supreme Court Justice, among others.
“The Fair Elections Act in fact makes Canadian elections even more fair–and our election process is respected worldwide. Finally, I am pleased that the Conservative Party is one with an open and fair nomination process.”