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All-candidates meeting amicable affair UPDATED

An audience member makes a bit of a speech before asking her question at Thursday night's All Candidates meeting.

An audience member makes a bit of a speech before asking her question at Thursday night's All Candidates meeting.

The North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce All-Candidates meeting Thursday night was an amicable affair with great civility among the candidates and no knock-out punches delivered.

All five candidates—Dave Fluri, New Democratic Party; Ross Maclean, Canadian Action Party; Al McDonald, Conservative Party;Anthony Rota, Liberal Party; and Les Wilcox, the Green Party—participated in the event.

The meeting, attended by about 300 people, began with candidate speeches.

For-profit clinic
Fluri, speaking without a prepared text, alluded to the NDP’s “eight commitments” which include “creating opportunities and jobs in a green and prosperous economy, improving public health care with innovation – not privatization, and investing in cities and communities through clean water, housing and transit.”

McDonald said Prime Minister Paul Martin claims he will save health care.

“The same man who cut over $30 billion from health care and gets his health care from a private for-profit clinic,” McDonald said.

Gas prices
Wilcox said the Green Party has fielded candidates in every Canadian riding this election; is a “broad-based people’s party” which supports the Kyoto Accord, and believes in proportional representation.

Rota said the Liberals are in the final year of a five-year plan which will result in a total tax reduction of $100 billion, the largest tax cut in Canadian history. He also said the Conservative Party refuses to say how it will cut $50 billion more in taxes while increasing expenditures.

Maclean arrived late and missed the opening addresses.

The issue of high gas prices came up during the discussion.

Fluri said the NDP would work to reduce gas taxes as long as oil companies “can’t pocket that extra .05 per litre.

“The long-term solution is two-fold: reducing reliance on gasoline and find ways to improve and encourage the use of mass transit.”

McDonald said the Conservative Party would remove the GST that’s already placed on top of the federal excise tax on gas.

More with less
On the health care issue, Maclean, who works at the hospital, said health and safety violations are increasing in hospitals “because hospitals have to do more with less.”

Fluri was concerned about American health and medical organizations coming into Canada under the North American Free Trade Act.

“And once HMOs get in here we won’t be able to claw them back without paying huge penalties.”

Rota said he favours the current publicly owned system which helped cure him of cancer.

Maclean said he didn’t want to see Americanized-style health care in Canada where people need insurance to cover medical costs. He then relayed the tale of an American boy who swallowed a penny and whose family didn’t have the proper health care insurance.

“The bill for the treatment was $5,000 and it took the family four years to pay it off,” Maclean said.

Error rate
All the candidates were asked to state their views on abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment.

Fluri said he opposed capital punishment “because the error rate is too high.”

Wilcox said he was “torn” on the abortion issue, “But I wouldn’t want to see it as a thoughtless form of birth control.”

McDonald said marriage in his eyes “is between a man and a woman.”

Rota said his daughter is adopted “and I’m glad her mother did not have her aborted.”

On the other hand “I don’t think it’s right to go into a woman’s womb” and tell her what she can or cannot do.

Song and dance
At the end of the meeting all four candidates asked the audience to vote for them.

“If you vote for the Liberals or the Conservatives it’s irrelevant,” Maclean said.

“It will be the same old song and dance.”
Wilcox asked voters to vote for him rather than the major parties and spare themselves some pain.

“If you keep banging your head against the wall it will keep hurting,” Wilcox said.

Nice hair
Fluri said he was a “pit bull” who could best represent the average person.

“You will not go wrong voting for the NDP rather than for someone with nice hair or who is a nice guy.”

McDonald said he is “committed” to keeping his word, “and as I have demonstrated in the past, that is a promise I can make and keep.”

Rota gave three reasons why he believed he should be the voter’s choice June 28.

“I believe I have a great deal to offer, I have the ability to deliver on what we need, and most importantly I love this part of the world and I will do my best to make it prosper and grow so that our children will have the opportunity to stay and prosper.”