Vets issues, terrorism dominate Martintown all-candidates forum

Listening to a question from the audience during the Martintown all-candidates town hall on Sept. 30, 2015 are, from left, Green Party candidate Elaine Kennedy, NDP candidate Patrick Burger, Liberal candidate Bernadette Clement and Conservative incumbent Guy Lauzon. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

MARTINTOWN – Terrorism and veterans issues dominated a question-and-answer session during a federal all-candidates meeting here Wednesday night.

Roughly 50 people were at the Martintown Community Center for the town hall meeting, hosted by the Martintown Goodtimers.

Topics from the public included commitments to the military and veterans, the environment, health care, the Cornwall Regional Airport, the anti-terrorism Bill C-51 and the Energy East pipeline.

The night was punctuated with passionate statements from Conservative Guy Lauzon and Liberal Bernadette Clement on whether dual-citizenship holders should be able to keep their Canadian citizenship if they’re convicted of terrorism.

The question was posed by Williamstown resident Colin Munro.

“When people break the law, they go to jail. And that’s what we do in our criminal justice system,” a soft-spoken Liberal Bernadette Clement said.

“We punish people. That’s our system. Punishment is set up in our criminal justice system and doesn’t include the stripping away of citizenship….it does not allow for a politician to make a political decision to strip somebody of their citizenship,” the lawyer said.

Conservative Guy Lauzon didn’t mince words. “A terrorist is a terrorist,” he said, “and a terrorist that comes in this country and conceivably kills five, five-hundred or five-thousand people, should be deported back to his country if he has dual-citizenship,” an adrenalized Lauzon stated. “If you can kill and rape and pillage Canadians, that’s an act of war. That’s not a crime, that’s an act of war! And we should treat it as an act of war, an react accordingly,” the incumbent said.

NDP candidate Patrick Burger said stripping citizenship is “not an unreasonable thing to do” but warned the government could expand the definition of a terrorist under Bill C-51.

Green Party candidate Elaine Kennedy admitted she knew nothing of the issue. “I don’t have anything to say but I will definitely admit…maybe I’m missing something in all the emails I get from headquarters but I haven’t heard anything about this,” Kennedy said.

The crowd at the Martintown Community Center for a federal all-candidates town hall on Sept. 30, 2015. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)
The crowd at the Martintown Community Center for a federal all-candidates town hall on Sept. 30, 2015. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Throughout the night, Clement continually took jabs at Lauzon’s government, painting the Conservatives as a party that doesn’t work well nor consults with the Canadian provinces.

Lauzon stuck to his personal and his government’s record of bringing a number of economic investments to the region, including improvements to Cooper Marsh, the local legion and a number of highways in the area.

On veterans’ issues, a former solider from Cornwall asked about Canada’s commitment to the military.

Conservative Lauzon told her the government is spending more on veterans services and, by closing some offices, has streamlined service and made it more accessible. Liberal Clement said there is a “sacred obligation” to the military and promised lots in new spending, including reversing all the Conservative cuts and adding 400 new delivery staff because “PTSD is rampant” in the Armed Forces. NDP Burger said the vets have been treated shamefully and the Canadian military needs to be “fighting more intelligently.”

Members of the Cornwall-area group Friends of Vets were in the audience focused on Lauzon, heckling the Conservative at times during his responses.

The candidates meet again tonight (Thursday) in Avonmore for an all-candidates meeting on agricultural and rural issues.

The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at North Stormont Place on Fairview Drive.

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