McGill, News

Meet the federal election candidates

Lianna Canton Cusmano, Green Party of Canada

For Cusmano, a spoken word poet, writer, and arts educator, the Green Party isn’t running on a one-issue platform. While the Greens’ focus on the environment is important to them, Cusmano was primarily motivated to run because of the experiences they have had living within Montreal. 

“I think [the Greens] have the most ambitious and comprehensive plan to achieve the change that we need,” Cusmano said in an interview to The McGill Tribune. “The climate crisis has been building for a really long time. The other thing is that I’m an underemployed university graduate, who is a feminized, trans, non-binary person living in the gig economy, who lost their job [and] their apartment. So all of these issues affect me personally. And I’m one of the more privileged ones.”

For example, Cusmano finds the Greens’ emphasis on housing an important key to reducing the high number of Inuit people affected by homelessness. In Montreal, Inuit peoples represent 10 per cent of the Indigenous population, but close to 45 per cent of the city’s Indigenous homeless population.

“When you look in this riding in particular, we’re [seeing] places [becoming] gentrified,” Cusmano said. “So in terms of policy, the Green Party will appoint a Minister of Housing to strengthen the National Housing strategy and make [housing] a legally protected, fundamental human right. [We will also commit to] regional increased housing investment, rent assistance, eliminating first-time home buyer grants, and finding nonprofit housing cooperatives and organizations, which [are] especially helpful for vulnerable communities like students and seniors.”

None of this comes at the expense of the Green Party’s environmental platform, which Cusmano believes is one of the most important issues of the campaign.

“I think the first [goal is] stricter targets,” Cusmano said. “We’ve seen other parties that target and promise [….] and fail to hit targets, and what the Green Party is proposing is to set a target of a 60 per cent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 so that we reach net zero emissions by 2050. And you accomplish this by setting [lower] legal emission limits for industries [and] by setting carbon fees, [while] making sure that everybody at the municipal, provincial, and federal level is doing everything that they can do reduce emissions, so that we don’t put profit ahead of the environment in our future.”

Marc Miller, Liberal Party of Canada

The Liberal Party has faced plenty of blowback for their decision to purchase the Trans Mountain Pipeline in May 2018, but for Liberal incumbent Marc Miller this doesn’t negate their environmental priorities going into the 2019 federal election. 

“So the Trans Mountain Pipeline [included] a flawed process that, namely, did not take into account proper consultation with Indigenous [communities],” Miller said. “And so we revamped the process by which these projects are approved. And we were at a point where we had to make a decision as to whether to purchase it or not. But when you take a step back, Canada is one of the largest net [exporters of] petroleum products in the world, [so] the responsible decision was to purchase that pipeline, knowing that those petroleum products would get to market through other means, including rail cars, which [are] much more dangerous.”

To mitigate some of the environmental damages, Miller said that proceeds from the pipeline, if the government decides to sell it, will be reinvested into green initiatives.

He also spoke to the benefits of diversity in relation to driving economic development, which he said will benefit economies suffering from labour shortages, like that of Quebec. 

“[Immigration is] a cornerstone [of] our economy, and our diversity makes our country better,” Miller said. “Because it’s a split jurisdiction, we are currently trying to encourage our partners in the [Quebec] government to be more generous. So this is [of] a particular concern [not only] to the diversity of the country, but it’s also a concern in the job market, because there is [an] over [one] hundred thousand person labor shortage in Quebec.”

With four years in Parliament under his belt, Miller remains inspired by individual Member of Parliament’s ability to make a difference.

“It has been a comforting revelation to me [that when you’re part of] an ambitious government that is forward-looking and cares about the people they represent, you can make [a difference] individually as a Member of Parliament,” Miller said. “We [made a] number of lofty promises in 2015 and you’ll see a number of others come out in our platform [this year]. And I think there’s a lot more work to do.”

Sophie Thiébaut, NDP

Having represented Saint-Henri-Est–Petite-Bourgogne–Pointe-Saint-Charles–Griffintown as a City Councillor for the past 10 years, Thiébaut is no stranger to Montreal or its people. She was initially drawn to the NDP because of their ambitious environmental platform, and said that the final straw was when the Liberal government purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline. For the NDP, this begins with recognizing the science behind climate change and acting accordingly.

“We want to be carbon-neutral [and] to reduce our greenhouse gases completely by 2060 in a situation [so we can] keep the temperature rise under 1.5 degrees,” Thiébaut said. “We don’t want to put any more money in the fossil fuel industry. We want to put money in the for these workers to go into training [for] new industries, [such as] construction.”

Another promise that was attractive to Thiébaut was their attitude to racial discrimination and hate speech. 

“I think that, in Canada, we have the chance to have a beautiful society with a beautiful diversity and the NDP wants to show that everybody has a place in this society and everybody can do what they want,” Thiébaut said.

The NDP has proposed a national strategy for protecting communities against online abuse.

“We want to speak about the reality of racism [in Canada, and we] would like to fight against that,” Thiébaut said. “We would like to have a [law regarding] what you can [say] on the internet, because [right] now, anyone can say anything and there is no recommendation to impose that [would make someone take] responsibility. [We would like]to remove these kinds of bad words. It’s impossible to accept that in our society, so we will work on that.”

Michael Forian (Conservative Party of Canada)

Given that Forian is currently finishing up his Bachelor’s degree and on the verge of beginning a Master’s, he can relate to many of the issues that students in Montreal face. For example, he plans to advocate for homeowners and renters who are currently facing a rising cost of living by eliminating the financial burden that energy bills pose.

“What we can do as a government [….] is to remove the GST [….] off [of] home heating bills and home energy costs,” Forian said. “This will immediately […] alleviate the blow [to] homeowners and renters once we’re in power. So by eliminating the GST, I feel confident that [we] can help families, students, individuals be able to have more money in their pocket. And I think that’s a better thing at the end of the day, because we have individuals [who are] are able to spend your money better than the government can.”

Forian also believes in the Conservative’s plan for health care. By gradually increasing the Canadian Health Transfer (CHT) and Canada Social Transfer (CST), he said that Canadians will be able to rely on steady health services.

“So if we look at the numbers, the two transfers are providing $55 billion to provinces and territories for health and social programs. So under our Conservative government, Canadians will be able to count on us being able to ensure that there is stable and increased [funding for] health and social programs.”

One of Forian’s main priorities is to bring a young, conservative voice to Ottawa.

“I’m somebody [who has] worked in government previously, but on the provincial level, [so] I know the riding very well,” Forian said “I know the people [who] are the major stakeholders, I’ve met with the student leadership before, and also I feel that it’s important to have a voice that has these connections and is able to ensure that those those stakeholders are heard.”

Students who are eligible to vote in this year’s election should have received a voter information card, which indicates their assigned polling station. Electors that did not receive a card should check their registration status at; no matter their registration status, all voters are required to present identification before casting their ballot.

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