TPP trade deal dominates Avonmore all-candidates debate

The federal election candidates in SDSG prepare their notes ahead of an all-candidates meeting Oct. 1, 2015 in Avonmore, Ont. Pictured, from left, are Liberal Bernadette Clement, Conservative Guy Lauzon, New Democrat Patrick Burger and Green Elaine Kennedy. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

AVONMORE – A global trade deal being brokered in Atlanta this week drew a lot of questions from the agriculture community during Thursday night’s all-candidates meeting.

Around 80 people were at the North Stormont Center in Avonmore for the meeting, hosted by the Stormont and Dundas Federations of Agriculture.

Conservative Guy Lauzon said the 34 trade deals the Conservatives have brokered have been the “best thing that’s every happened to agriculture” and his party has protected supply management. “PM Harper is the only prime minister ever in the history of Canada to support supply management, making a speech on the floor in the House of Commons,” Lauzon said.

As for the TPP, Lauzon said only agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Prime Minister Stephen Harper are privy to the contents of the deal. But Lauzon also assured the audience the Trans-Pacific Partnership would protect supply management.

Lauzon said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would open Canadian farmers to a $27 trillion, 800 million person market.

Liberal Bernadette Clement said Canada has to have trade deals but believes the unknowns of the TPP are worrisome. “We don’t know what’s on behind closed doors,” she said.

Clement stated her party would not support any trade deal that includes concessions on supply management and “puts the livelihood of our daily farmers at risk.” She suggested a 10 per cent concession could lead to a $2 billion hit to the sector.

NDP candidate Patrick Burger said confidentially shouldn’t be a concern with the TPP trade deal and wondered openly why diary farmer representation wasn’t at the table. He indicated the government is already showing signs it will betray supply management at the talks.

Green candidate Elaine Kennedy said her party opposes the TPP and any trade deals that interfere with rebuilding local economies. “There are so many questions that need to be answered before signing,” Kennedy said.

Topics also covered during the night included the agriculture stabilization fund, the Canadian Wheat Board and free trade.

The candidates will meet again next week when the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce hosts a debate on Oct. 6. The Cornwall Chamber of Commerce will have a debate the next night, Oct. 7, at the Cornwall Civic Complex.

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