While their leaders were duking it out 200 kilometres away in a televised debate, candidates for the Queens-Shelburne riding took to the stage in Shelburne on Wednesday night to argue why they deserved people’s votes.
The three candidates, Bruce Inglis, PC, Sterling Belliveau NDP, and Benson Frail, Liberal answered questions on everything from jobs and power rates to doctor shortages in the two-and-a-half hour debate at the community centre.
Doug Drane, who moderated the event for the Shelburne Chamber of Commerce, apologized for the oversight that Green Party Candidate for Queens-Shelburne, Madeline Taylor, had not been invited to the debate.
Drane kept the mostly tame discussion on track throughout the night, cutting off candidates who overshot their time allotments, while allowing several rebuttals to each panelist on the various topics.
The only sparks of the night were a few exchanges between Belliveau and Frail, one at the beginning of the debate on the issue of the electoral boundaries review that split the Shelburne constituency in half.
Frail questioned how people could trust the NDP government after they ignored Belliveau’s opposition to the boundary split.
“You stood up for people …or you said you did. You went to Halifax and your boss didn’t listen,’ said Frail.
Belliveau retorted that the boundary commission had only considered splitting the riding after a suggestion made by Sheldon Brannen, who had been a contender for the Queens-Shelburne Liberal nomination.
“That’s a was comment that Sheldon made it’s on the record and then after the fact Sheldon and I had the candidate race …and no disrespect to Sheldon but the outcome of the nomination is that I’m here,” argued Frail.
Inglis pointed out that the Liberal Party was not in power during the electoral boundaries debate and had no real power to affect a change.
The PC candidate lightened the mood on several occasions during the debate, joking that the candidates had been getting to know each other well noting that he’s seen more of his political opponents in recent days than his wife and family.
Much of the debate centered on the economy and jobs with Frail noting that many people from the South Shore, including himself, had to move out west to find opportunities.
Belliveau argued that the NDP had been fighting to create and keep jobs in the area through the decentralization of departments and through investments in companies like Shelburne Ship Repair.
“My Liberal candidate to my left talks about his experience out west and I quoted him as saying he’s taken some people out west …while my intent is to keep people in this community,” said Belliveau.
Frail emphatically defended himself.
“I take them out west because there’s opportunity,” he said. “I’m not going to sit and watch them suffer wondering where their next meal is coming from. For four years they’ve waited for the NDP’s rural jobs …for that carrot dangling in front of them …they’re leaving. Wake up and pull your head out of the sand and take a look around before you miss the boat.”
Inglis spoke about the importance of education in fixing the economy and said that the system was failing many of its students.
“Right here in Shelburne one math class has 39 students in a subject that kids on the South Shore can’t at their top meet the national average,” he said. “It’s unacceptable.”
While noting the government was dealing with falling enrolments, Belliveau questioned how the other parties would deal with the situation.
“The last Liberal government tried to balance the budget by freezing wages and firing over 1,400 teachers,” he said. “And they also brought in P-3 schools …which we are still paying for today.”
The provincial election will be held on Oct. 8.