Questions regarding racism, Islamophobia and mental health were at the top of the agenda at the all-candidates debate for the Nepean constituency at South Nepean Muslim Community mosque on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The candidates Chandra Arya (Liberal), Brian St. Louis (Conservative) Zaff Ansari (NDP), Jean-Luc Cooke (Green) and Azim Hooda (PPC) were all allowed to respond to questions from the community.
To kick off the debate, Arya began by expressing that it is embarrassing that a country built on multiculturalism is dealing with the issue of racism and religious intolerance. He assured community members that the Liberal government would not condone any form of discrimination, racism or Islamophobia in Canada.
“Unfortunately, over the last four years, there’s been a rise in intolerance, and we will not stand for it,” said Arya.
All candidates shared Arya’s view that all forms of discrimination should not be allowed in Canada.
“I will be part of a government that will treat every Canadian like a Canadian,” said St. Louis.
The candidates were asked if they would support funding for more security at places of worship. To which, they all expressed that they are in support of creating a fund to enable these establishments to have access to more security.
“We should provide support and funding to all religious institutions so that they can feel secure,” said Ansari.
Some issues discussed that might be of concern to students are job creation and mental health.
On job creation, the PPC candidate expressed that one of his mandates is to create a Nepean “tech corridor” to foster the creation of technology-related jobs in the constituency.
Cooke expressed that as a small business owner, he is dedicated to investing in small businesses in Nepean. He believes that small businesses keep the economy running.
During the question and answer session from the audience, a member of the community asked a question on mental health. This question caused members of the audience to clap in support with a few shouting, “I second that!”
The question asked to the candidates was, what are their parties’ take on removing GST and HST from the cost of mental healthcare.
In response, St. Louis stated that his party was open to having conversations on how to make mental healthcare more affordable either through a medical tax credit or removing HST and GST.
“There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done with mental health, and we are going to get that done,” said St. Louis.
Arya said the liberal government has always supported mental healthcare and is working on increasing the child disability benefit by about $2,800.
“We are committed to helping parents and families with mental illness children,” said Arya.
Green party candidate Cooke said he believes that mental health services should be covered as part of our health care program as it affects too many of us.
“It affects our ability to go to work and be active members of the society,” said Cooke.
After the debate, Emily Jones, a community member in attendance, was content with the evening’s event.
“The debate was insightful, and hopefully people know what way to vote,” said Jones.