The Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch, in partnership with the Munk School of Global Affairs, hosted an all-candidates debate on October 5th for the University-Rosedale riding. The candidates in attendance were Chrystia Freeland of the Liberal Party of Canada, Jennifer Hollett of the New Democratic Party of Canada, Karim Jivraj of the Conservative Party of Canada, Jesse Waslowski of the Libertarian Party of Canada, Steve Rutchinski of the Marxist-Lenininst Party of Canada, Nick Wright of the Green Party of Canada and Drew Garvie of the Communist Party of Canada. Stephen Toope, Director at the Munk School of Global Affairs, moderated the debate and presented each candidate with a critical question for his or her party platform.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, Isreali-Palestinian conflict, Arctic sovereignty, climate change, the war on terror and women’s rights were hot button issues covered in this global affairs’ debate. All candidates, except Jivraj, were aligned in attacking the federal government for participating in military strikes in Iraq and Syria, vowing to retreat from the conflict areas in the event of their party being elected. Jivraj aggressively defended Canada’s participation in the war on terror, stating, “The fight against ISIS is the most defining political event of our age.” Nick Wright, Green Party, commented, “Canada should be a force for peace.” Chrystia Freeland argued that Canada must focus on areas where it can have a measurable impact, stating that “the war on terror has metastasized into a refugee crisis,” and Canada can play a significant role in addressing this crisis due to our expertise in aiding refugees. Jennifer Hollett, New Democratic Party, criticized the federal government for promoting a climate of fear and pledged to “stop the flow of arms, funds, foreign fighters and focus on repealing Bill C-51.” Jivraj was not short of enthusiasm and bravado, asserting that “[Canada] should stand up for human rights by committing to air strikes against the Islamic State.” Jivraj continued by championing for international trade agreements, and in response to negative feedback from the audience, he transitioned to the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women. Jivraj framed the issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women as a crime and punishment issue, declaring that, “the time for inquiries is over!” Hollett then commented on Jivraj’s absence from a previous debate, “It’s a shame the Conservative candidate couldn’t join us,” to much applause from the audience, “because the top issue I hear at the door is that it’s time for Harper to go!”
Chrystia Freeland and Karim Jivraj supported the position of Israel while Jennifer Hollett took the position of mutual resolution between states. Jesse Waslowski of the Libertarian Party, Steve Rutchinski of the Marxist-Lenininst Party and Drew Garvie of the Communist Party all supported the position of Palestine. Nick Wright, Green Party, had an advantage in tackling questions posed on climate change and the environment, stating that “the Green party is the only party that says no to tar sands and pipelines,” he added that Canada must transition to a green sustainable economy and stop mortgaging it’s future. Jivraj asserted that “[Canada] must balance environmental concerns with economic interests.” Freeland countered, “One of the most disgraceful things of the Harper decade is the total inaction on climate change,” thanking the churches for framing the issue as one of climate justice and vowing that the Liberals would build on the work that the provinces had already done. Hollett commented, “I don’t think we talk about climate change enough,” arguing that climate change, social justice and economic equity must all be seen as pieces of the same puzzle. Hollett suggested that Canada take a strong position at the United Nations (UN) conference on climate change this December in Paris. Hollett added that the NDP would address the refugee crisis by meeting the targets set by the UN for admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees immediately and 9,000 per year thereafter. Freeland countered Hollett’s commitment to the refugee crisis by pledging “[the Liberals] would welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees and contribute $100 million to help refugees on the ground,” Freeland added that because her mother was born in a Displaced Persons camp, the refugee crisis is very personal to her. Wright concluded, with strong support from the audience, “We have to stop pursuing wars of aggression which will eliminate the refugee crisis altogether!”
The audience was filled with enthusiasm while watching the spirited back and forth between Jivraj and Hollett with Freeland’s occasional interjection on behalf of the Liberal party platform. Generally, the audience was aligned with the views of Hollett, NDP, and Nick Wright of the Green Party due to majority support for disarmament in the Middle East, environmental sustainability and justice for missing and murdered Aboriginal women. There was consistent negative feedback towards the Conservative comments made by Jivraj with neutral support for Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland. Although the audience was generally negative towards the mention of the Conservatives, Jivraj played the best politics at the table. He kept the debate interesting, playing both politician and statesman.
CIC – Toronto Social Media Correspondent