This post is more than one year old and may no longer be relevant. Please view this content with its age in mind.
It was standing room only at the Port Sydney/Utterson & Area Chamber of Commerce AGM on Tuesday evening as the Chamber said its farewell to retiring president Gord Haig, swore in its new board and president and honoured area businesses.
Incoming president Karen MacInnes has lived in the Port Sydney area for most of her life. She’s been with the Chamber as secretary for seven years. She worked for the Ministry of Natural Resources for 12 years as well as the Victoria Order of Nurses. She has moved to Huntsville with her husband to be closer to health care, but remains steadfast in her support for the Chamber.
“I am looking forward to it,” said MacInnes of becoming president. “I’ll be able to carry on with what Gord has done.”
The Chamber’s business of the year award was presented to Moore Propane.
“They’ve been members since 2006 and they’ve always provided good service… I think they were really deserving of it,” said MacInnes.
The new business award went to Jeff Pearson HVAC Services.
“We also like to recognize new businesses in the area,” noted MacInnes of the new business award.
The meeting, held at the North Granite Ridge Golf Club also included a generous flow of wine and special guests. Candidates running for the upcoming Federal election in Parry Sound – Muskoka, spoke briefly to the crowd gathered.
The candidates speak, Clement is up first.
Candidates were asked to pick numbers to see who would be up first to the podium – PC Tony Clement got first.
He spoke of the importance of small businesses and told those present that before becoming elected he had a small business in the Information Technology sector.
“So I know a little bit about the joys of being a small business owner and some of the trials and tribulations,” said Clement. “I was very delighted when the Prime Minister gave me the responsibility four years ago to help small businesses by cutting red tape.”
He noted that that bureaucratic red tape costs small businesses $3 billion per year and credited his government and himself, as Treasury Board President, with easing that burden, He said it saved Canadian small businesses over “200,000 hours of time that they would’ve spent filling out forms, so that they can actually use that time to grow their businesses, to hire people and to be successful in their goods and services business.”
For his efforts, Clement said he was nominated with the Golden Scissors Award by the Federation of Independent Business. “So I’m kind of proud of that.”
Clement also said his government would reduce taxes to small businesses by two per cent.
“When I look at the help we have given to MBRP or Crofters Organic of Parry Sound or to our amazing craft brewing industry – five craft brewers right here in Parry Sound – Muskoka. Those are just a few examples, Muskoka Roaster and Muskoka Rocks… it means more jobs, more opportunity, more growth and more success here locally as well,” said Clement.
He said one of the things he promised four years ago is that he was going to concentrate on helping small businesses grow in Parry Sound – Muskoka.
“Is there more to do? Yes there is, but I believe that I’ve made a very positive impact over the last four years and I want to continue to do that.”
Canadian Action’s Gordie Merton.
In a surprising course of events, yet another candidate stepped forward to the podium. Gordie Merton, who ran for mayor of the Town of Bracebridge, is now running federally for the Canadian Action Party.
Merton said he wants to re-instate the Bank of Canada so that government can borrow money interest free.
“Presently when we borrow, the government borrows money from the private sector, which is added on to with compounded interest, which means we pay ten times the amount of principle. We want to eliminate that so that we don’t have as much debt.”
His party would also eliminate income tax gradually. “We have many other taxes that our government can make money from. We don’t need to tax hard working people.”
Merton said his party wishes to create a “direct democratic process” in this riding and involve constituents by holding public forums when it comes to “big bills in the House of Commons that would affect our riding, along with many others.”
His party would fight for an inquiry into the missing First Nations women and work together with First Nations communities in the riding and across the nation to rebuild trust in government.
“We want to uphold the treaties and respect the First Nations on this land and we want to progress in a very good manner not in the manner that this government has been doing.”
Merton said he and his party want to eliminate poverty by supporting Canada’s agriculture sector through funding and research into more efficient and eco-friendly ways to farm. He called on more research into chemicals used for Genetically Modified Organisms, mandatory labelling of GMO products and “no hidden names or fancy names to cover it up.”
He said his party would also eliminate tuition, provide greater support for the childcare sector and more tax breaks for families earning less than $20,000 a year, and raise funding for seniors or people with disabilities to “get them above the poverty line.”
“All these projects will require money and we can use our National Bank of Canada to fund these programs, and so much more, with zero interest, this will help set our economy to a course of action.”
NDP’s Matt McCarthy
NDP candidate Matt McCarthy said he looks forward to putting his communication skills to work on behalf for the riding in Ottawa. He said this election is about change.
“I think after 10 years of Conservative government people are still waiting for change on many important issues in our area,” he said, adding that not enough has been done to create good, year-round jobs, the provision of proper health care in all communities and the protection of the environment.
“I don’t think I need to convince anyone in this room that we do not have to choose between the environment and the economy. Protecting our lakes and rivers is something that will help all of us. For everyone here our livelihoods depend either directly or indirectly on protecting our environment. ”
McCarthy then turned to the topic of small businesses and said he understands the value that goes into building one.
“I’ve had to work hard myself, putting myself through two university degrees and after graduating from political science at the University of Ottawa, I went right to work, working for a small business serving international clients… and I understand that Parry Sound-Muskoka needs change.”
McCarthy said his government would also decrease taxes by two percent but said Clement, when the tax break for small businesses was first proposed, voted against it because it was an NDP proposal.
He also spoke of proper health care as a way of attracting “good workers to your community.”
McCarthy said communities should not fight one another over who is going to have a proper hospital.
“We are in a situation of choosing which town is going to have a hospital directly because the Federal government has not pulled its weight on health care transfers. The provincial governments are shouldering 80 per cent of the health care costs right now – when healthcare is supposed to be a Federal-provincial partnership.”
He said the Federal government needs to step up and provide leadership so that small communities don’t have to make those very difficult choices.
“They just shouldn’t have to choose which community is going to get local healthcare,” said McCarthy.
Liberal’s Trish Cowie.
Trish Cowie, Liberal candidate followed.
A lawyer with a practice in Bala, a mother, and member of a First Nations community Cowie said she strongly believes in working together and her parents taught her that honesty, integrity and respect are integral to building relationships with people.
“Those are basic values of mine that I carry with me every day.” She said she believes she can bring greater diversity to Ottawa and offer an alternative to what Stephen Harper has to offer.
She said her heritage is very different from that of Stephen Harper’s, and described the way Harper’s government has treated First Nations communities as abysmal.
“And he should not continuously be ignoring the ideas of significant persons in this country and that includes veterans, Aboriginals, youth, the LGBTQ community. This has to stop. Open and transparent government is not a forgotten election promise and leadership should not be about nasty and divisive approaches,” she said.
Cowie said her priorities include the creation of local jobs and building the local economy, while ensuring people become part of that growth.
“Justin Trudeau has unveiled a plan to bring fairness to the middle class, to invest in this country by spending billions of dollars on infrastructure that is desperately needed right now.”
She said the Liberal plan is to focus spending in key sectors: Green infrastructure, local transportation infrastructure and social infrastructure. That, she said, would have a significant impact in a riding such as Parry Sound – Muskoka.
She also said the protection of the environment is a key priority for the Liberals. “That is the key link to building our local economy here.”
She said the upcoming election is about replacing Stephen Harper and his government.
“Harper and his government have the wrong priorities and rather than favour elite groups we need to focus on a plan that is fair to the majority of people,” she said. “At the end of the day, I believe that I can be a strong representative as your Member of Parliament in bringing the voices of Parry Sound-Muskoka to Ottawa and not the voice of Ottawa to Parry Sound – Muskoka.”
Green’s Glen Hodgson.
Last but not least, Green Party candidate Glen Hodgson took to the front of the room.
He thanked everyone for gathering indoors on a warm evening and listening to a bunch of politicians. He also said that normally he’d ask people not to look at their phone during his speech, but noted that since the Blue Jays were playing, he’d be okay with somebody flashing him the score during his speech.
“I’d like to point out that Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader, is the only Federal party leader who has not caused the Toronto Blue Jays to lose a game, he quipped to applause. “You should know that if you want the Jays to win the World Series, you have to vote Green.”
Hodgson said despite being a busy father, educator and volunteer, he chose to run for Parry Sound – Muskoka because he sees the Greens as very different from the old line parties “and we are desperately in need of change.”
He said there are many things that make the Greens different, but what he is most proud of is that the Greens want to reinvigorate democracy in this country.
“Greens made a pledge that we will not heckle in the House of Commons, that we will work together with the other parties and with provincial, municipal and First Nations, Metis, Inuit governments and organization in order to represent and create policies and ideas that are best for this country and for this riding,” said Hodgson.
He also said the Greens would not take a partisan approach. “We will work together because our job isn’t to promote partisan policies and get elected; our job is to represent all of you. That includes people that don’t vote for us, and we take that very seriously.”
Hodgson said the Greens are the only party whose MPs would vote on behalf of their riding rather than their leader.
“I will never be told by Elizabeth May or my party how to vote. I will vote the way Muskoka – Parry Sound wants me to vote.”
Hodgson also said that his party believes in proportional representation and would push for electoral reform “so we don’t get into a situation where there’s false democracies. We believe that every vote should count.”
He said while the other parties have also said that they believe in democracy, there is a great injustice that is about to occur.
“On Thursday (September 17 between 8 – 10 p.m.) there is going to be a televised debate. My leader, the democratically elected leader of a major party, who represents millions of voters across this country, is not going to be allowed to participate and I cannot believe that in a democracy we’re going to prevent that voice from being there,” he said, noting that anyone who watched the first debate knows that the Greens bring an important voice to that debate.
“I invite you all to join me in demanding that she has that opportunity, the same way you have provided me with this opportunity,” he said.
He also noted that the other issue of major importance to him is climate change.
“This discussion needed to have started several elections ago and the Greens have been talking about it for years.” He said the world is waiting for action and so are Canadians, which is why the Greens are gaining support.
“The time is now to really take heart of this issue and if we do it now, we can make a transition to a greener economy in a painless way that’s actually good for us in Parry Sound – Muskoka, in Ontario and in Canada,” said Hodgson.