Mario Rimbao, Dennis Trudeau and Anthony Housefather at the TMR candidates debate. Missing from photo is Robert Libman who refused to participate.
Mount Royal candidates Anthony Housefather (Liberal Party of Canada) and Mario Rimbao (NDP) debated before a full house at City Hall in the Town of Mount Royal last night. Conservative candidate Robert Libman refused to attend, advising the moderator by way of a written statement minutes before the scheduled debate that he would not participate.
Housefather was invited to the debate by Philippe Roy, Mayor of TMR. The debate was organized by the TMR municipal citizens association. Unfortunately Robert Libman, the Conservative candidate, did not attend the debate and put out a statement stating his refusal to attend was linked to support for the BDS movement by the President of the municipal association. Anthony pointed out at the debate that both he and the Liberal Party strongly oppose BDS but that this opposition was even more of a reason for Anthony to participate in the debate and forcefully make that point.
“This debate, the only one in TMR, a very important part of the riding centered on local TMR issues and environmental, domestic and international issues,” Housefather said.
When receiving questions on Israel Anthony made the same forceful defence of Israel that he has made in front of Jewish audiences. “It is easy for a candidate to defend Israel in front of a largely Jewish audience but the real test of a candidate is being able to make the same statements in front of people who may disagree with you,” he said. The debate was expertly handled by the municipal association which remained strictly neutral and Dennis Trudeau the moderator.
Listen to Dennis Trudeau reading Libman’s statement:
Housefather, alluding to Libman’s refusal to participate, began his remarks stating it’s very easy to only debate before a friendly crowd where everyone agrees with you. “But I’m not afraid to come to come to TMR and make a statement (in support of Israel) where some people don’t agree with me.”
Listen to Anthony Housefather’s opening remarks:
The two participating candidates debated everything from airplane noise to climate change, mail delivery to foreign policy, military investment to job creation.
Moderator Dennis Trudeau kept the event moving along allowing for many questions from the crowd, many of whom were annoyed that the Conservative candidate chose to ignore TMR residents.
Speaking on the issue of Canada Post home mail delivery Housefather said, “Under the Harper government plan we would be the only country in the western world to end home delivery. This is blatantly unfair to seniors and the disabled. And not consulting with local representatives is completely unacceptable. A Liberal government would end this right away.”
“Anthony and I are on the same page. Stephen Harper made the biggest mistake,” Rimbao said.
- Anthony Housefather debates Mario Rimbao with moderator Dennis Trudeau
Housefather said he has a proven track-record on environmental issues citing his achievements as mayor. “I lead my city to become tops on green issues. We were the first in the region to begin composting, we are big into waste diversion and recycling. We began an urban agriculture movement and we’re on the verge of finally saving Meadowbrook,” he said. “Harper leads the only government that withdrew from the Kyoto Accords,” adding that a Liberal government will provide real leadership in climate change and environmental issues.
On the issue of security and Bill C-51, “Harper wants you to think there’s a terrorist around every corner. We need to balance security with freedom. You need to be pragmatic and reach consensus. Harper could easily have achieved consensus in Parliament. He could have created an oversight committee as requested by the Liberals,” Housefather said.
“How would your government support the refugees flooding into Europe?” asked the moderator.
“We need to help. Bringing people is part of the solution but doesn’t solve for millions being displaced,” Housefather said. “We need to send much more relief to those leaving their countries. Canada has been an expert in this for many years. But we need to solve larger problems in the region and help people where they are, over there.”
Rimbao agreed with Housefather. “This should not be a divisive political issue. As Canadians we should be proud to support people in need.”
Further, on the foreign policy theme Housefather said, “A reformed United Nations is the best route to fix some of the evils in the most challenging parts of the world. The U.N. has lost our respect in many areas, citing the preposterous example of Saudi Arabia presiding over the Human Rights Council. “What’s wrong is that Harper doesn’t work with world leaders to convince them of his principled foreign policy. If he doesn’t agree, he shuts the door, just like his local candidate who didn’t show up to debate tonight. Harper should show up on the world stage and dialogue and try to convince people of Canada’s position, not stay away from the table,” he said to loud applause.
Housefather stated that the Liberals have the exact same position on Israel as the conservatives with one exception. “We do not believe that Israel should be a political wedge issue,” he said, again to the delight of the audience. “Support for Israel started not under Harper but with former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Justin Trudeau has been very clear on his intention to continue strong, principled support of the Jewish State.
On the issue of airplane noise the NDP would put penalties if noise is not reduced and change flight paths. The Liberal candidate said that the airport authority should have municipal representation, make sure curfew is respected. “I’d work with all mayors on the island to deal with this problem,” Housefather said.
“Improve safety and move pipelines out of major urban centres. The Liberal Party is committed to solutions. The Conservatives have not moved fast enough in redesigning oil tanker train cars,” Housefather stated referring to the riding being home to the second largest rail yard in eastern Canada.
Rimbao said, “You need strong safety procedures. The Harper government cut funding to scientists and research. How can we improve the situation if we do not carry out proper research?”
The first questioner criticized Libman for staying away saying that we don’t all agree with each other’s beliefs but as candidates it’s incumbent to show up and to state their opinions, to say what they agree or disagree with.
Asked what he would do specifically for the riding Housefather said he would lobby for funding for priorities, citing railway safety, the Cavendish extension, congestion and exppansion around the 15 and 40. “I would hold public information meetings throughout the riding on a regular basis,” Housefather added.
Another resident took to the microphone and thanked Housefather and Rimbao for showing up rather than the one candidate (Libman) who stayed away. The questioner asked if they were for or against reopening the Canadian embassy in Iran. Housefather responded, “We would not reinstate until security concerns are cleared. Our issues aren’t with the Iranian people. It’s with their regime. We should have embassies to represent Canadian interests, to protect Canadians citizens to support Canadian business people and to speak out against those regimes that we do not agree with. There’s no reason to close an embassy because we don’t agree with their regime,” Housefather said. “Harper hasn’t closed the Venezuelan embassy, yet Chavez is completely anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Yes, we need to ensure the security of our embassy staff and represent our interests everywhere.”
The third questioner also said it was too bad that Libman was not there. “Strange way to support Israel by staying away,” he chimed in.
Yet another questioner decried the irony that Harper’s commendable position on foreign policy is not backed up with investment in the military. “They study and study but they haven’t delivered the goods.”
Housefather remarked, “Harper hasn’t planned to replace fighter jets or ice breakers. We need to properly equip our armed services to protect Canadians. While Harper talks about it he doesn’t do it.”
A TMR resident asked about Trudeau’s position on Israel. “The Liberals have the exact same position on Israel as the Conservatives with one exception. We do not believe that Israel should be a political wedge issue,” Housefather stated. “Support for Israel started, not under Harper, but with former Prime Minister Martin. Justin,” he said. “Justin Trudeau has been very clear on this issue.”
Housefather gave an impassioned closing to the audience. “I have proven my dedication serving the public for 21 years. I also bring my business experience as a lawyer in a multinational corporation. On October 19, I ask you to vote for the best candidate to support you in Mount Royal riding.”