Election Fever: Candidates air their views

Meadow Lake NDP candidate Helen Ben responds to a question during an all-candidates meeting in the city Oct. 25.

Susan Merasty, Green Party candidate for Meadow Lake, speaks during an all-candidates meeting in Meadow Lake Oct. 25.

Sask Party candidate Jeremy Harrison speaks during an all-candidates meeting Oct. 25 in Meadow Lake.

By Mac Christie

Noella Mitsuing of Loon Lake, one of about 90 people who attended the all-candidates forum Oct. 25 in Meadow Lake, said although the debate was worthwhile, it didn’t change her vote.

“It touched on issues I cared about,” she said, referring to highways and healthcare.

All three candidates vying to be the MLA for Meadow Lake – incumbent Jeremy Harrison of the Saskatchewan Party, Helen Ben from the NDP, and Susan Merasty of the Green Party – were present at the event, which was held at the Seniors Activity Centre.

The event had each candidate answer five prepared questions, followed by a period of questions from the audience and dealt with issues such as voter turnout in a riding decided by 36 votes in the last election, as well as housing.

Harrison mostly drew from his record in government, answering questions with examples of government policy.

He discussed some of the funding he was responsible for as Minister of Infrastructure, including money for the second phase of the storm sewer project, as well as highway construction.

Ben discussed issues she’s found while campaigning, as well as the NDP platform, including rent control to make housing more affordable for families.

“It’s about putting a stop to out of control rent,” she argued. “It would make sure it’s affordable for families.”

However, Harrison argued rent control is not the answer.

“Everywhere it’s been tried, it’s failed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Merasty spoke more briefly than the other candidates, drawing mostly from the Green Party platform.

She said she recently returned to the area from Saskatoon, and isn’t all that familiar with the region’s issues, but noted highways still need improvement.

One question that showed the range in opinion dealt with the changing demographics in the province, including a young aboriginal population and aging Baby Boomers.

For Ben, the answer is creating jobs for the young areas of the population, but also making things affordable and accessible for the aging groups.

“We need to balance out and take care of people in Saskatchewan,” she said, “from the Baby Boomers to the young population.”

Harrison again discussed his record in government, arguing the Sask Party has pledged money to job training for young aboriginal people, as well as investing in a new long-term care facility in Meadow Lake.

Merasty noted the key to dealing with young people and unemployment is encouraging small business growth in the area.

Another question of note asked for the candidates’ stances about the transportation and storage of nuclear waste in the province’s North.

While noting the uranium industry is important for Saskatchewan, Harrison said the Sask Party has said it’s not interested in storing nuclear waste in the province.

For her part, Merasty said the Green Party would immediately legislate a ban on the storage and transportation of nuclear waste in Saskatchewan,

Meanwhile, Ben noted it’s important to have all the facts on the table in order to come to an educated decision about the issue. While she said she has serious concerns about the storage, she didn’t unequivocally rule out the possibility of storage.

In the questions from the audience portion of the event, candidates fielded questions ranging from victims’ rights in the criminal justice system to whether or not the Crown corporations are for sale, with several questions geared toward individual candidates.

One such question asked the NDP’s Helen Ben why she is asking the constituency to dump Harrison as MLA, when several prominent NDP members have said Brad Wall is going to win the election.

Ben responded that candidates need to provide a voice for all people within the riding.

“It’s up to the voters to decide who’s going to win,” she said. “I have a strong voice for the people.”

Voters will be able to make their choice at advance polls from today (Nov. 1) until Nov. 5.

On election day, Nov. 7, polls will be open from 9 am. to 8 p.m.

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