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Social issues focus of candidates' debate

BY JASON THOMPSON jason@northernlife.

Jobs, youth out-migration and the separation of church and state were a few of the issues debated Thursday night as a crowd of about 60 people gathered at the Cambrian Foundation to listen to the Sudbury riding candidates' views on social policy.

Less than a week before the election, candidates were also trying to sway voters who still may be unsure of who to support on Jan. 23.

The debate was organized by the Social Planning Council and the Sudbury and District Labour Council.

Although the crowd was vocal at times, they didn't seem to prefer any one candidate or party to another. During a discussion on the separation of church and state, Marxist-Leninist candidate Dave Starbuck's comment that religion has no place in politics garnered just as much, if not more applause than Conservative candidate Kevin Serviss's view that faith should indeed play a role in public office. Serviss was alone in his non-secular views.

During the debate, the Conservative presented himself as a man of the people, a Sudbury boy who became a police officer, a pastor at Glad Tidings Tabernacle and an essential cog in the creation of the Elgin St. Mission.

Serviss also rapped the social nail on the head a few times on the topic of homelessness and child poverty, and was applauded when he talked about a Conservative Party plan to offer a credit of approximately $150 a year to help people subsidize public transportation fees.

New Democrat Gerry McIntaggart spent his time slamming the Liberals for their waste and corruption, saying many of Canada's social issues, such as child poverty, could have been eliminated if not for the 12-year Liberal reign.

McIntaggart also introduced the idea of building a steel plant in Sudbury, as a way to create jobs and sustainable economic development.

"We're the nickel capital of the world, why not become the stainless steel nickel plating capital of the world as well," McIntaggart said.

In addition to defending the criticisms from other candidates, Liberal incumbent Diane Marleau defended her government's record, hoping to hook audience members on her lengthy public service record and years of experience.

When Communist candidate Sam Hammond called for a minimum hourly wage of $12 across the country to help those struggling to pay their bills, Marleau responded by saying that jobs and housing were only part of the problem and that the real issue is much larger.

We have to look at issues of drug addiction and mental have to get off drugs to hold a job, she said.

"We need to have more harm reduction programs for people, to help them cope with an addiction. I really feel that harm reduction programs would answer a huge demand out there."

Progressive Canadian candidate Steven Butcher played on the youth out-migration issue, saying that with three major post-secondary institutions in town, the brain drain should be cured.

"Five thousand jobs left this city last year, and I don't understand why," Butcher said. "Why are we exporting people? Why is Inco having its best year in many years and still downsizing in Sudbury...In my opinion, they owe us."

With his son in Toronto and daughter in Guelph, Butcher wanted jobs brought to Sudbury.

Green Party representative Joey Methe was not in attendance for the debate, neither was Independent candidate David Popescu.


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