West Island candidates talk issues

Anthony Abbondanza
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Quebec Election 2014

With five days left until Quebeckers head to the polls, the political parties continue to campaign with the hope of garnering last-minute gains in unsuspecting ridings.

Although the Liberal Party (QLP) is headed for a clean sweep of the West Island ridings (Jacques-Cartier, Robert-Baldwin, Nelligan and Marquette) once again, the 25 candidates in the running keep knocking on doors, working for every vote.

Jacques-Cartier

Public Transportation

Not unlike other ridings, transportation has long been a headache for West Islanders.

A headache, said James Maynard of the Green Party, which needs an immediate relief. Running in Jacques-Cartier, Maynard wants to see the completion of the Train de l’Ouest project.

“I would advocate for the completion of this crucial project which would improve West Island public transit service through a dedicated track,” he said, noting the resulting impact of job creation.

Train de l’Ouest is project which calls for the establishment of a dedicated, passenger-only rail line from Vaudreuil to Downtown, Montreal.

Conservation of Green Spaces

The protection of natural green spaces in Quebec has long been a main pillar of the Green Party’s electoral platform in past and current elections.

It’s no different for the West Island where the party is targeting the protection of Angell Woods, Anse-a-l’Orme territory, and Senneville Woods.

“Currrently only eight per cent of our important ecological habitats are under provincial protection,” said Maynard. International standards prescribe an average of 17 per cent of a region's territory should be protected.”

As such, Maynard added: “our level of protection is inadequate, particularly in a region as ecologically important and diverse as the island of Montreal.”

Social services

The Parti Quebecois government recently proposed an increase in subsidized daycare from $7 per day to 9$, an increase that’s drawn the ire of all opposing parties.

Maynard is worried about the increase’s impact on “working parents,” advocating the need to retain the original cost.

The Liberals, too, have promised to keep the $7 a day daycare system.

Meanwhile, Quebec Solidaire promised to address accessibility to public services, like CLSCs. The party is proposing to open CLSCs 24/7.

“This measure will free up space in hospitals and will allow people to have access to better health care services,” said Jean-Francois Belley, QS candidate running in the riding.

Moreover, Belley expressed the need for social housing. He made note of the “low socioeconomic diversity” in the riding, which makes it “difficult for people with low incomes to live here.”

Health Care

According to the Conservative Party of Quebec (QCP), Quebec’s health care system is in need of an overhaul.

Running in Jacques-Cartier, Louis-Charles Fortier said his party promises to do just that. By incorporating both a private and public system, the QCP will changing how hospital’s receive funding, “simply by making the treatment a source of revenue” said Fortier.

Moreover, the introduction of private health care insurance, Fortier added, could reduce wait times.

The CAQ is taking a different approach. Denis Deguire said his party is promising to abolish school and health taxes, “giving $1000 back to the family.”

Deguire, the current Churchwarden at a Ste. Anne de Bellevue parish, is new to politics, yet is campaigning door-to-door with the hope of garnering renewed support for the CAQ.

Laurence Desroches (PQ) and Geoff Kelley (QLP) did not respond to The Chronicle's request for an interview.

Robert-Baldwin

Economy

Debate surrounding the current state of Quebec’s economy has already played a key role in the Liberal’s movement atop most polls. The issue is as important in this West Island riding.

Early in the election campaign, the Coalition Avenir du Quebec (CAQ) blamed the PQ and past Liberal governments for a crumbling economy. Running in the riding under the CAQ banner, Jamie Allen blames “corruption, inefficient bureaucracy, and uncontrolled spending.”

“It's time to ask more of our government, by asking it to reduce inefficiency, not spend beyond its means, and to finally put some more money back in the pockets of Quebecers via reducing taxes, instead of constantly increasing them,” said Allen.

Viviane Martinova-Croteau of Option Nationale mentioned the need to ensure “a healthy local economy” but did not divulge on the how her party would kick-start the economy.

Public Transportation

Like the other ridings, transportation is a key issue, given expected delays caused by the incoming Turcot Exchange replacement.

If elected, Mathieu Mireault (Green Party) promised to make public transportation a priority.

“Taking the bus shouldn’t be a chore, it just be easy, convenient and confortable. It’s the only way people of all incomes will embrace this form of transportation. In the long run, people will learn more about their neighbours, will be stuck in traffic for less time and have more time for themselves and their families,” said Mireault.

Immigration

Martinova-Croteau did, however, express the need to update immigration laws, proposing a fairer system to recognize foreign diplomas.

“Work is the first and most important issue for an immigrant. At this moment, they are often expected to start their whole [education] all over again, which is absurd considering we need their expertise so much,” said the Robert-Baldwin candidate.

Michael Comtois-Lussier (PQ), Ali Faour (QS), Carlos Leitao (QLP), and Patricia Popert did respond to The Chronicle's request for an interview.

Nelligan

Economy

All candidates have expressed the need to create innovative jobs for not just West Islanders, but all Quebeckers.

None more so than the CAQ, who’ve proposed the St. Lawrence Project as one in which can revive the province’s economy through the establishment of an ‘Innovation Valley’ – similar to that of Silicon Valley in California.

Running in Nelligan, Albert Bitton (CAQ) said the research and development plan will help establish over 100,000 jobs.

The CAQ’s plan also includes a $1000 tax reduction for middle class families and “reversing the planned Hydro increase from 4.4 per cent to 2.3 per cent and working with the Federal Government for a single tax return, to name just a few tax relief initiatives,” said Bitton.

Bitton criticized the Liberal’s lack of ingenuity to help a stagnating economy.

“The leadership appears to be plagued by many factors:  they have no real change, no new or sound plan to recover the economy, which continues to decline,” said the West Island native and political newcomer.

Also new to politics is Trevor Pinto, who’s running under the Conservative Party of Quebec banner (PCQ).

For Pinto, a long-time information technology (IT) expert, job creation begins with small and medium-sized businesses. He’s campaigning on the reduction of taxes to these companies as well as grants to select companies to reduce the amount of bureaucracy.

Health Care

According to Pinto, the health care system has approximately 200,000 bureaucrats – a number that needs to be decreased.

He suggested “to reduce the number of bureaucrats by the intelligent application of computing,” which would cut health care-related costs “while increasing front line health care service.”

Computing is the use of computer technology to complete a task.

The CAQ also wants to cut bureaucracy.

“The shortcomings in health care are not due to a lack of resources but rather their improper allocation, which necessitates their realignment to eliminate the costs of bureaucracy and provide better services by devoting more resources directly to the population,” said Bitton.

In addition, the party is proposing changes in the financing of hospitals, broaden the role of nurses, and ensuring every Quebecer has a family doctor.

Transportation

For Francois Landry of Option Nationale, West Islanders should focus on transportation.

The West Island is in real need of “better coverage, faster routes, new expresses,” said the Nelligan riding candidate.

“I’ve decided to stand up for ourselves, despite all adversity, willingly knowing I won’t be elected, reaching out to the citizens and see what we could all do together if we really wanted to,” he said.

Louis-David Benard (PQ), Charles Bourassa (Green Party), and Martin Coiteux (QLP) did not respond to The Chronicle's request for an interview.

Marquette

Referendum

The PQ have shied away from this hot topic throughout their campaign, with pundits suggesting its hurting their numbers.

According to Francois Ouimet, Liberal MNA for Marquette, “people don’t want a referendum.”

The CAQ, the Green Party, and the QCP also oppose a referendum.

The candidate said voters have been flocking to him in droves expressing their concern if the PQ were to form a majority.

Public Transportation

The Train de l’Ouest is more than just a pipe dream.

At least according to Ouimet, who cited Liberal leader Philippe Couillard’s intention to make a good on a decade-old promise of a dedicate, passenger-only rail service from Vaudreuil to Downtown, Montreal.

“It’s going to happen. It’s a priority,” he said.

The Green Party would like to see more done for public transit in Marquette.

The party’s John Symon said the goal is to get “as many commuters as possible onto public transit and bike paths” as this should reduce congestion for car and truck drivers.”

Quebec Solidaire has promised a greener, functional metropolitan transportation network, one which would not only reduce greenhouse emissions, but also create over 160,000 jobs within five years.

Marie-France Raymond-Dufour (QS) added that the electrification of public transportation within the next ten years is possible. The ultimate goal, however, she said, is render public transit free.

Economy

With the deplorable conditions east of 32nd Avenue in Lachine, Ouimet said changes are in order.

The expected closure Bluewater Seafoods, vanquishing 124 jobs,  on June 1 doesn't help either.

“We need to attract private investment in this area,” said Ouimet. “It’s good for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Symon said investments in education and in green technology are needed as opposed to Liberal’s plan “to invest billions of tax dollars to help create huge holes in the ground in northern Quebec” as part of the proposed Plan Nord project.

Symon said its time that voters stop voting against a certain party, but rather elect a government they truly want.

Health Care

With only one hospital and several CLSC's in the West Island, health care accessibility is an issue.

Quebec Solidaire has proposed the establishment of Pharma-Quebec, an agency that would be tasked with the purchase, production, and research of drugs.

According to Raymond-Dufour, the Pharma-Quebec can "amount to $2.3 billion savings."

In addition, the riding can take advantage of her party's promise to keep CLSC's open 24/7.

Marc Theriault (CAQ), Pierre Ennio Crespi (QCP), Thierry Bisaillon-Roy, and Maude Paquette (ON) did not respond to The Chronicle's request for an interview.

 

Organizations: The Green Party, QLP, Parti Quebecois CAQ QCP Liberal Party Conservative Party of Quebec The Chronicle Coalition Avenir Mathieu Mireault Federal Government Pharma-Quebec Charles Bourassa Bluewater Seafoods

Geographic location: West Island, California, Jacques-Cartier Marquette West Islanders Quebec Montreal Innovation Valley Silicon Valley 32nd Avenue Lachine Northern Quebec

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